As I write this, I am secluded to my bed, sick with flu-like symptoms. I’ve been in the same spot for four days now; and to be honest, I’m completely over it! But, I must admit, this time of quiet (and misery) has given me the opportunity to reflect and think through how I currently take care of myself and the importance of self-care.
Before this little ‘bug’ snuck up on me, I was crushing my to-do list, making great strides in my business and I had finally found my momentum. All that changed in an instant. One minute, I was having lunch with my husband and the next, I had a sore and tightening throat. That uncomfortable sore throat quickly became full blown illness, that included the works – from body aches and congestion, to a mild cough and complete exhaustion. My eyes itched and I had a pressure headache that nothing seemed to help. I was so overwhelmed with symptoms that I wasn’t getting any rest and thinking clearly was out of the question. I had been knee-deep in work and I hadn’t left the house in days, so I had no idea how I found myself this sick so quickly.
The worse it got, the more I had to acknowledge that I was vulnerable because I hadn’t been taking care of myself. I had neglected my health and while eating right and working out won’t completely eliminate your chances of getting sick, it will bolster your immune system and help you combat the things that you can’t control (like the flu).
I realized that taking care of me, was even more important than getting things done. I really couldn’t have one without the other, and that’s the part that’s often overlooked. We may think that we are ‘doing okay’ or ‘getting by’, without really caring for our bodies, our minds and our spirit; but it will catch up to us. Whether you find yourself burnt out, feeling tired, overly stressed out or you experience sickness or a major health scare – the lack of attention that we show ourselves will show up, just as it did this time for me. So here I sit, with finally enough energy to pen this post, realizing that I too need a self-care regimen… now, more than ever!
What is self-care?
Self-care is simply taking care of YOU. It’s a concept based on the belief that through actions and targeted behaviors we can strengthen and nourish our bodies, experience less stress and anxiety, and refresh/renew our spirit; That setting aside time that is focused on your overall wellness is essential to maintaining energy, improving your moods, and creating overall health.
There are three elements to total self-care: Body, Mind, and Spirit
When you create habits that are focused on your physical well-being, you make your health a priority. You start to put yourself first. In order to properly care for your body, you have to take action… literally. If you’re like me, you know the importance of exercise, but cringe at the thought of the pain associated with a new workout routine. But, let’s be honest, the benefits of an active lifestyle, outweigh any initial discomfort. Exercise can boost your immune system, increase endorphins, and decrease stress. Sounds too good to be true? It’s not. But you have to be committed to fully experience all of the benefits.
My suggestion: Start Slow. Successfully create a daily regimen by doing something that you know you can do every day; for example: a daily 30-minute walk – that progressively increases to an hour or a 30 minute Zumba DVD Workout. The more convenient it is for you, in the beginning, the more likely you will stick to it!
Taking care of your body is a little more than just what you do… it’s also what you consume. What we eat is often associated with weight loss, but eating well is not just about losing weight. Food has the ability to affect your mood, concentration, energy, hormone levels, and even the way your organs function. Even though I knew this, the more I immersed myself in learning how various foods affected my body, the more I understood the true importance of eating right. There is direct correlation to what we eat and how our body’s perform!
We often see the way we think and feel as separate from the foods that we consume, but the mind and body are one. Think about how you feel after you eat certain not-so-good-for-you-foods. Some foods can leave you feeling exhausted, while others can affect your ability to focus. Paying attention to what we eat is an important component to caring for our bodies. The best way to get a clear picture of how what we eat affects us, is to keep a food diary. Document everything that you are consuming and then, pay close attention to how you feel.
Tip: Keep it simple. Grab a small pocket size notebook or download an easy to use app (I suggest My Fitness Pal) and get started.
If I asked someone what they do regularly to nourish their mind, I would probably get a blank stare in response. Think about that. We all know someone that practices yoga or never misses a weekly massage appointment, and even though those activities are excellent for your mental and emotional state of mind, we don’t usually directly associate them with mental health, but we should.
Creating habits that are designed to calm your emotions, elevate your mood, and balance out your emotions, can be just what you need to gain clarity and focus in your life. You can start by implementing activities that cost you nothing, but have great impact on your mental state and attitude:
1 – Journal
Reflecting on how you feel and why you feel that way can be very therapeutic. Writing down experiences that cause heightened emotion (both, good and bad), can help us to identify and eliminate triggers or agitators in our lives.
Tip: Keep your journal by your bed or by the coffee machine, so that you are prompted to do it each day – before bed or first thing in the morning!
2 – Soak
We are always on the go and showering is the fastest way to clean up quick and keep it moving, but try incorporating a relaxing bath experience a few times per week. It will help to relieve tension in the body and put you in a relaxed state.
Tip: Add a bath bomb, relaxing candle and your favorite music to enhance your private time.
3 – Solitude
Put your cell phone on do-not-disturb and find a good book to read, spend some time in meditation or prayer.
Whether you consider yourself religious or not, spiritual self-care should be a priority in your life. This element is not so black and white, because only you can define what helps you feel connected to a higher power. As you’re thinking through the activities that you want to incorporate, don’t limit yourself to what works for others. For you, this may mean regular prayer time, daily meditation, creating a daily affirmation, volunteering to help those in need, maintaining a gratitude journal, or being a part of a local place of worship. The main thing is to remember that there is no right or wrong way to nourish your spirituality. However, any habits that you create should bring you a greater since of being and connection to your purpose.
Self-care is not doing one thing or another, it’s more about developing a lifestyle where you are consistently setting aside time to care for YOU – body, mind and spirit. Initially, if you’re not used to it, it may take a little effort to create a regimen that’s solely focused on you. Don’t worry, in time, it will become second nature – a regular part of who you are.
Remember: To do your best, give your best or be your best self, you have to incorporate habits that support and nurture your overall well-being. Take some time to find the self-care techniques that are the best fit for your life.