Self-care is about looking after the most important person in your life – you!
Essential to life balance and overall health, self-care fuels our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Without self-care, our lives can feel harried, stressed and out of control. But so often we put our own needs on the back burner, feeling a sense of guilt if we carve out time for ourselves.
If you are feeling low in energy or stressed, lacking balance in some areas of your life, you can develop a regular self-care practice. Learn how to make time for ‘you’ in your busy life and discover why self-care is such an important step to better health.
Through self-care, you give yourself ‘permission’ to do what your body needs. Signals from our bodies tell us to slow down, take a nap or take time for that yoga class. However, we often ignore these signals, choosing to forge ahead and keep doing. Often we choose ‘busyness’ or productivity in lieu of taking a walk in the woods.
We live in an age where productivity is the new normal. From the time we wake up, we are in a rush: to get kids ready for school, to get to our jobs, to get home again, to do housework and errands. Then it’s homework, dinner, dishes, bath and bed. For many of us, life has become a treadmill from which we can’t slow down or escape.
This state of always ‘doing’ versus ‘being’ is not good for our health. It can make us feel worn out, stressed and run down. This is especially true for women, who are notorious for putting others first and themselves last, for always nurturing others, but never themselves. Often sacrificing their own needs, many women develop a martyr syndrome without even realizing it. The result can be stress, resentment and unhappiness.
Self-care is important for physical and mental health, as well as self-esteem. When you take care of yourself, you convey to others that your needs are important, too. It reminds people that you value yourself and they need to respect that. This is not being selfish. It is as essential as breathing. Only when we help ourselves can we effectively give our best to others.
Stress has become one of the greatest health risk factors. According to Statistics Canada, stress carries several negative health consequences, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, as well as immune and circulatory complications.
Exposure to stress can also contribute to behaviours such as smoking, over-consumption of alcohol, and less healthy eating habits. Statistics Canada reports that in 2013, 23% (6.6 million) of Canadians aged 15 and older reported that most days were ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’ stressful. Without a self-care routine, we are at risk of disease and unhealthy behaviours.
So how do we create a practice of self-care and slow down that treadmill? It’s well within our own power to do so. As a yoga instructor, I often teach my participants to permit themselves to be present during their practice, to let go of their ‘to do’ lists and allocate this time for themselves. This allows them to centre, to become more mindful, like pressing a reset button during their day – instead of mindlessly plodding through the daily routine.
If yoga isn’t for you, think instead about what makes you feel refreshed, energized or soothed. Take time to identify your own needs and take steps towards meeting them. What activities nurture you? How do you define self-care? Your definition should let you do whatever you want to do. Self-care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.
The good news is that there is no right answer as to what self-care looks like. It might be getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, eating healthy foods, having a massage, exercising regularly, meditating, or taking time to relax with friends. These examples of self-care may seem obvious, but they are essential elements of feeling happy, productive and fulfilled at work and at home.
Your needs encompass three important areas: mind, body and spirit, and all three need equal nurturing. Your physical body needs healthy food, sleep and exercise; your mind needs to pause from a demanding work or family life and continue learning; your spirit needs to be refreshed and renewed, perhaps by going for a walk or writing in a journal.
When developing your own self-care routine, remember to balance out activities for all three of these areas of your life.
How do you begin a self-care routine? Start by introducing 10 to 15 minutes a day of an activity that nurtures you, and once a week commit to an hour of self-care time. Instead of tuning them out, listen to those cues to slow down or take a nap. Self-care only works when you listen to your body and do what you want without resistance.
With practice you will hear that voice begging for some ‘me’ time and become more agreeable that you are very much worth it.
If you care enough about yourself to make room for what nourishes you, you will invite better health, happiness and joy into your life. Remember: self-care can only be provided for you, by you.
Tiffany Moffat is is a certified Personal Trainer Specialist, Fitness Instructor Specialist, Pre and Postnaatal Specialist (Canfitpro certified) and freelance writer who has worked in the fitness industry for 25 years. tiffanysbeyourbest.blogspot.com.