Self Care….not just a holiday activity

It’s midsummer and there’s still plenty of time to plan a break from work and enjoy some well-deserved rest. While you’re at it, you might also take some time to think about ways you can maintain some of that relaxation and self-care in your everyday life even after you go back to your usual routine.

How often do you treat yourself and do something just for you? What things do you do for yourself to stay physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally fit?

Taking time to care for yourself is a mark of self-respect and an affirmation that you value and love yourself! Self-care routines and activities are the supporting framework within which you create and maintain balance in your life. When you take the time to relax, build and preserve your energy, you will find that you are more able to tend to the needs of your loved ones and dedicate effective time to all your various activities and challenges–whether social or emotional. So many factors––healthy self esteem, relationships, and enjoyment of your life––depend on how well you take care of yourself.

The time and space you devote to this self-care is a necessary period of selfishness, which in turn multiplies your ability to give back. Think of it: what kind of support can you offer your partner, kids, friends, or colleagues, if you are ill, fatigued, or depressed? Now think, if you take the time to nurture your health, take some time on your own and dedicate it to uplifting activities, won’t you be stronger and happier and have more resources to share with them?

Here are a few tips for how to take some of that summer holiday spirit and transform it into everyday habits of self-care:

Identify your needs

Ideally, self-care balances out the effects of daily stressors such as office politics, queues at the bank, disagreements with close ones, and the daily activities and obligations––childcare, work, housework, social interactions, etc.

As you go through your day, pay attention to how often you oscillate between states of tension and relaxation. Try to identify the things that make you feel

  • interested
  • engrossed
  • happy
  • calm
  • relaxed

Why not make a list? These do not have to be activities! It may be as simple as the color of your clothing or your bedroom wall, fresh-cut flowers in the living room, a piece of music, a moment of daydreaming by the window, the smell of essential oils. Looking at a drawing, the arrangement of furniture in the dining room, or colorful and shapely utensils in the kitchen. This exercise is about becoming aware of how your environment and activities engage all your senses.

Understand that self-care is not a chore

We all have an intrinsic need for enjoyment in the things we do for ourselves. Whether your self-care activity merely consists in brushing your teeth or deciding to forego sugar in your tea today, enjoy and appreciate that you are doing something healthy for yourself. Guilt and procrastination have no place here.

Start slow, one nurturing activity at a time

Maybe you have never spent much time or thought looking after your own physical and emotional health. The less time you have spent so far taking care of your body, health and mind, the more you have to do now!!!! For some people, self-care may involve nothing short of completely re-engineering your life!

New habits take 3 weeks to anchor and up to 8 weeks to become permanent, especially when you are making a conscious decision to exchange an old habit for another more nurturing one. So, as you decide to start your self-care commitment––whether it’s during your holidays or within your daily routine–– remember that if you start with too ambitious a schedule, you meet with resistance from your own mind. Before you begin, you need not only to explore what good things your new habit will do for you, but also to break down your attachment to an old habit. You will also need to simplify your life by assessing what current activity and behaviour to replace, before you fit in the new one.

But self-care is not just about your daily routine. It is also the decision to act sometimes without planning, on the spur of the moment––for instance getting in the water even though you only intended to walk on the beach, or passing by the massage parlour and deciding to delay your next appointment! Get some spontaneity in your life!

Types of self-care

Self-care involves all aspects of your life–physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It can take many forms, including general fitness and exercise, health, hygiene, nutrition and vitamins, sleep and stress management, life skills, activities and people who bring you pleasure, fun and positive energy, and giving yourself the time and space for quietness and contemplation.

The possibilities are truly endless, and these are but a few suggestions:

Ideas for how to nurture yourself

Physical health –

  • Choose a sport such as biking and swimming or exercising at the gym.
  • Take on yoga or a stretch routine.
  • Sometimes a brisk or leisurely walk will do!
  • Soak in a bath, book a massage, take a nap
  • Sit in the sun for a few minutes

Emotional grounding –

  • Practice yoga breathing exercises
  • Listen to soft, pleasing music
  • Sing, hug someone, share your feelings with a friend
  • Pet your dog or cat
  • Talk to someone as you pretend they are facing you on an empty chair
  • Call a friend

Mental health –

  • Say a positive affirmation
  • Read a book
  • Start writing a diary
  • Express your feelings by  writing a poem or letter
  • Make a to-do list
  • Take practical steps to simplify your life

Spiritual health –

  • Spend a day outdoors connecting with the nature world
  • Meditate on the flame of a candle
  • Pray or talk to your guardian angel
  • Listen to a guided meditation tape

The list is endless!

If you feel that self-care is lacking in your daily schedule, why not book a few coaching sessions to help you examine your values, goals and desires to figure out the steps you can take to develop the foundation of a rewarding self-care routine? Now that’s nurture!

Author: Pascale Aline

Psychotherapist & Performance Coach, I specialize working with tools for self enhancement, growth, productivity and healing (Biofeedback, EMDR, Mindfulness training)

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