It's self care week….. And I've been thinking that I haven't blogged for a while.
In thinking about self care I thought about why I haven't blogged for a while. Running a small business, having to still work another job to pay the bills, building a relationship with my still relatively new husband…. Oh and I'd like a life too - it all takes its toll. Life gets busy, it gets stressful, it gets too much.
So what do we do when life gets busy or stressful or too much?
Well usually what happens is I decide I need to treat myself. I'll treat myself to dessert, cake, or a glass of wine of an evening. At the weekend, exhausted, I'll veg out in front of the TV watching anything mindless that doesn't require me to think. We all have our little 'treats' that help us cope with the pressure of every day life.
But is this really self care? And the hell does self care mean anyway?
So this morning I started thinking about how would my life really be like if looking after myself was the most important thing in world. What would I do?
For me self care, can be put into somewhat overused categories:
If I was truly caring for myself, I would be making time to give each of these what they need.
The body is the most fundamental. If we do not have the energy we need that life becomes difficult and taking care of our mind and soul impossible.
It's easy to forget when we are craving sugar and carbs because we are feeling stressed that this is actually going to make our energy levels worse. If we can take a step back and cook ourselves a nutritious meal, it will be far better in the long run. Healthy doesn't have to mean not tasty or not comforting either. It is possible to find some recipes that allow us to feel nurtured, yet include lots of vegetables. Swapping cake for a sugar free flapjack or trail mix (with cacao nibs if you're a chocoholic like me) can also be comforting.
Looking after our bodies isn't just about food though. Moving, doing exercise, has been shown to increase energy. If you can't face going to the gym, try a walk in the countryside or a park. Or put on an uplifting tune and dance like a wild creature for 3 minutes. Moving our bodies not only makes us feel alive but reduces the level of stress hormones, raises the level of endorphins that make us feel good. It's win win.
A good night's sleep is probably one the most important ways we can care for ourselves. It crosses over between body and mind, supporting both. It will give us energy, improve our ability to think and create. It even helps our body restore, replace and rebuild itself. Getting a good night's sleep is my go to for self care. So switch off the screen, and let's get ourselves a good bedtime routine.
Meditation is my other essential self care for the mind. The health benefits are immense - it reduces stress, lowers the risk of a range of serious health concerns and can even reduce chronic pain. But perhaps the most important benefit in this context is it brings us back to ourselves. It gives us the space to just be, allowing us to recognise what's important and build self-awareness so we can always know how to care for ourselves.
There are many fantastic resources out there for mediation and sleep improvement, so why not try a few and see what works?
Our souls are probably the most neglected element when it comes to self care. We often think of looking after our soul as being hokey. Yet, even if we are great at looking after our body and mind we can still find something is not quite right, something missing and it's often difficult to grasp what that is.
It's difficult to know what to do to look after our souls, it’s ungraspable somehow. Meditation can help in that it can allow us to connect with something deep inside but we can also do other things too.
One of my favourite ways to nurture my soul is to create - anything! Painting, writing, baking, knitting, any sort of craft, gardening. It doesn't matter what as long as it inspires you; as long as it allows you to absorb yourself in process. As human we love to create, it fills our souls with joy.
Another great way to care for our souls in to be the natural world. I am lucky enough to live in a rural area so I can walk for 10 minutes and be on an ancient ridge that has carried human souls for centuries. But even in the most urban of areas it's possible to find solace in nature - a park, noticing birds as they go about their business, or even just looking up at the sky and noticing what it's doing. Somehow doing this really connects us with what it means to be human.
Self care isn't always what we want to do when we are struggling with living. However, giving ourselves the care we do need can have long lasting and profound effects. Here's to self care!