Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Spa days, pedicures and prosecco, a weekend binge watching Netflix – these are all lovely indulgences that are great, but in and of themselves are not self-care. Why? Because they don’t actually RESTORE us. Self-care is deliberately taking care of our wellbeing through restorative activities, that we do on a regular basis.
Self-care is creating a life you don’t have to regularly escape from. It is essentially about acknowledging that we have needs, and that these needs deserve to be met. It is about caring for ourselves, but not in a selfish or self-indulgent way, but as self-preservation, so that we can be the best version of ourselves that we can be.
People with autoimmune disease will often use words like ‘fight’ and ‘warrior’ to describe coping with their disease on a daily basis. To balance this, we need to stop attacking ourselves with unkind words and actions and replace them with words like ‘kindness’, ‘support’, ‘care’ and ‘self-love’. It is a much more gentle, compassionate way of looking after ourselves.
So, how do you build a nourishing self-care practice? I always recommend you schedule regular self-care activities into your daily life in order to stay ‘topped up’ instead of running your tank so low that you’re left feeling overwhelmed and can’t cope. A better strategy is to do a little, often. Aim to find ways each day to prioritise yourself, that fits in with your life and that you find enjoyable.
Everyone is busy, but without a routine of self-care that we have scheduled into our diary, we can easily find another day has passed without any time for ourselves. So, here are my top nine suggestions for how to incorporate self-care into our lives each day:
1. CARVE OUT TIME FOR YOU EACH DAY
For the past 6 months, I have started waking up at 6am so that I am able to get myself organised peacefully, before the chaos of the day begins. I find this quiet time has had a really positive effect on my wellbeing. During this time, I meditate, write in my 5-minute journal and plan my day. Then I exercise.
I urge you to look at your schedule and block out some time for YOU each day. It could be just 10 minutes to begin with, but block it out. Then, decide how you’d like to spend this time. It could be going for a walk during your lunch break. Taking a nap when your baby naps or time to yourself whilst walking the dog. Or, it could be getting up earlier than everyone else like I do. Do whatever suits you best, but once you’ve scheduled it, do your best to stick to it. Honour that time you’ve booked with yourself, like you would any other appointment.
2. PRIORITISE SLEEP
Going to bed at the same time each night is about the single most important thing you can do to help you sleep better. The health benefits of sleep are numerous including improving your immunity, mood and cognitive performance. When we sleep our body is busy repairing, growing, recharging and rebuilding. When we don’t get enough sleep, we may find it difficult to cope and feel overwhelmed, so be sure to prioritise sleep.
3. LET GO OF TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS
Friends and family are important, but what is most important is that we surround ourselves with people who are a positive influence, who are a joy in our lives. People we can trust, who have our best interest at heart, who lift us up to be better versions of ourselves.
Unhealthy relationships are particularly stressful and can deplete our energy and positivity. In fact, unhealthy relationships hurt not only psychologically, but can also be physically damaging, causing loss of sleep, anxiety, mental health issues and can weaken our immune system over time. Don’t be afraid to leave a toxic relationship or to set boundaries to protect yourself.
4. IT'S OKAY TO SAY 'NO'!
Why do we find it so hard to say no? Saying yes all the time can be stressful and for many of us, saying yes is a habit that can lead us to feel overwhelmed with too many commitments. Saying yes all the time becomes exhausting and when we continually prioritise other people’s needs over our own, our health begins to suffer.
Your happiness will be made up of the choices that you make each day. If you’re not sure about something, say no to it. If you notice you’re feeling hesitant because you know in your heart you’re not too thrilled about the idea, say no. If you notice you’re feeling overwhelmed with being so busy, then it’s time to start saying no in order to reclaim your time for yourself. And, remember, you’re not being selfish by saying no. The saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ is so true. Look after yourself first and then you’ll have the capacity to help others.
5. LET YOURSELF REST
You are allowed to rest. You don’t need to be productive all the time. You can’t be productive all the time. Give yourself permission to find time in your day for ‘downtime’ to rest. Tune in to how you’re feeling and if you feel tired and need a break, then slow down and take it. Even 10 minutes will help recharge you. Have a quick nap, do some stretches, practice meditation, listen to your favourite podcast or audiobook, make a smoothie, take some deep breaths or simply sit and be.
6. EAT A DIET RICH IN WHOLE, UNPROCESSED, REAL FOODS
The act of preparing and cooking food for yourself and your loved ones is an act of self-care. Nourishing yourself with healthy, delicious foods keeps you feeling alert, positive and is crucial for your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. An AIP or anti-inflamatory diet can often help those with autoimmune disease, but what should be your priority is eating real food. Nourishing your body and mind with nutrient dense food is the best self-care you can practice!
7. INCORPORATE MOVEMENT INTO EVERY DAY
Try to get some movement into each day. Exercise is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health. It increases serotonin levels, leading to improved mood and energy. What is important is that you choose a form of exercise that you like and plan it into your day so that you have time to do it.
8. SPEND TIME IN NATURE
We’ve all heard that getting outside is great for our mind, body and soul. These days we tend to spend so much time indoors that we have lost touch with nature and her healing vibes. Spending time in nature, even 15 minutes strolling through a park during your lunch hour has great health benefits such as:
· Improved immunity
· An increase in their sense of well-being
· Feeling more productive when working
· Feel happier
· Higher energy levels
· Better sleep and fewer sleep disturbances
· Decreased feelings of stress and negativity
· Being exposed to Vitamin D
9. SPEAK KINDLY TO YOURSELF
Show yourself the same kindness you’d show a loved one. We often accept and love our friends and loved ones for who they are, as they are. We know their good and bad sides, what they’re great and not so great at and we love them all the same. We accept them for who they are. So, why don’t we love and accept ourselves in the same way?
The way we speak to ourselves and the way we treat ourselves can really impact our wellbeing and if it is negative all the time, can contribute to making us ill. Notice how you speak to yourself and if you find you’re constantly putting yourself down, try to replace them with compassionate, kind, supportive, loving words – just like you’d say to your friend or loved one.
Learning to show yourself the kindness and compassion you deserve is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and is essential to your health and wellbeing.
Our self-care practice should be a long-term goal, for long term health. It’s our actions and our thoughts each day that will make the biggest impact on how we feel. Incorporate more self-care into your life and just watch as you really begin to thrive.
Written by Kylie Hendrikse