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HOW (& WHY) TO START A JOURNEY OF SELF CARE IN 2019

HOW (& WHY) TO START A JOURNEY OF SELF CARE IN 2019

What is this mania with “self care”? And what even IS self care??

 

Strangely enough, #selfcare means taking care of yourself!  But what I really mean is truly taking care of yourself with little acts of kindness to YOU. To my mind it is a huge comment on the life we are living that we have to consciously stop & think about engaging in self care: about being kind to ourselves, and giving ourselves a little hug…

That “little hug” can be anything that equates to giving a little special time to yourself. It might be stealing some time in the afternoon to indulge in reading a favourite book, or getting up half an hour earlier to start a practice of mediation in solitude, or treating yourself to a long ramble in the woods once a week. It can be ANYTHING that genuinely feels like a little “me time”. This fact is important: if you don’t actually enjoy reading, then reading a book will NOT constitute me time for you; if the thought of lying in the bath for 20 minutes just makes you feel frustrated and bored then that isn’t self care for you. Choose wisely: select something you will genuinely enjoy, and something which will be a true “switch off”. Time to “park” everything else for a while and simply focus on YOU: on doing something you like whilst not even thinking about anything else…

 

 

In today’s society our day to day lives are such that we are forever being pulled in different directions. We have constant demands on our time, from a work ethic that (largely due to our digital world) often demands 24/7 availability, to children whose clubs and hobbies have become a full time job, to the “MUST DO” habit whereby we MUST fit in exercise/meditation/self development too. It can all seem totally overwhelming, & it can feel nigh on impossible to fit in anything else, but I promise you it is possible to carve out an extra 5 or 10 minutes in your day if you set your mind to it. It is YOUR choice, and it has to be YOUR commitment: if you make that commitment, the benefits to be had are endless…

 

THE BENEFITS OF SELF CARE

Giving a little back to YOU makes you feel less resentful of ‘giving’ to everyone else. If we’re honest, we’ve all been there. That feeling that everyone always wants a piece of us: the kids, your partner, work, neighbours – even the dog! It is impossible to achieve this without some degree of resentment unless we find a way to give a little back to us too.

Breathing space: time to “switch off”. In a society of constant demands – from the “ping” and “woosh” of notifications on our phone, to the endless stream of info for our kids activities – the chance to “switch off” or “unplug” for a while becomes a luxury. It is a NECESSARY luxury: one we need to make time for.

Welcome release from from mind chatter. The idea of “mind chatter” goes back to the Buddhist concept of “monkey mind”. Buddhists observed the never ending restlessness of a monkey and compared this to our own restless minds. Our minds are never still, (it is believed humans have around fifty thousand separate thoughts each day), and when this is added to the stresses of modern day society, we can see how real a NEED we have for this release.

Improved health. Taking time out for ourselves will enhance both physical and mental health. When we are forever “on the run” our bodies and our minds feel the pressure. Both end up “running on empty” and this can lead at best to feeling a little run down, and at worst to burnout.

Lowered stress levels. If we are a little clever about which activities we choose as self care, we can succeed in significantly lowering stress levels (see below).

A chance to be mindful. There is a very good reason why “mindfulness” has become such a buzzword: it is SO very necessary as an antidote to what today’s world throws at us. But how easy is it to be mindful in the midst of our never ending day-to-day? Not at all! Giving yourself a few minutes each day for self care however can double up as an opportunity to be mindful as well.

Feeling better about YOU. Giving yourself a little time, a little kindness, equates to giving value to yourself. If we don’t believe we’re worthy of that, then we are really not respecting “self”: not awarding ourselves enough self worth. Committing to a regular practice of self care gives value to YOU, thus increasing self esteem.

AN EXTRA “PLUS”

An added advantage of elevating self esteem is that feeling better about yourself can be the first step to start to doing other (perhaps more challenging) things to make you feel better still: to make you the best version of you that you can become! So we’re talking the biggies like exercise and nutrition, which are themselves a hugely important aspect of your self care. If you start with simple “me time” activities such as those discussed above, this will get your self esteem back where it belongs. This in turn will do wonders for your ability to tackle the bigger challenges a little further down the line: just think what that might do for your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions, and your ability to stick to them…

 

 

 

 

HOW TO “UP” YOUR SELF CARE TO THE NEXT LEVEL

If you can include some activities that are more specifically related to stress management, then this will enhance ALL of the above even more. Some examples might be:

  • Getting out in nature (scientifically proven to lower stress hormones)
  • Practising “Belly Breathing”
  • Starting a daily practise of Gratitude
  • Starting a daily meditation or mindfulness practise

Once again, ALL the above are pleasant things to do: I’m not asking you to go clean the house, I’m asking you to find the time to do something lovely!

 

I am well aware that for most of us, the most challenging part of this whole article is actually FINDING THE TIME. I get it: I’ve been there. But I PROMISE you that ANYONE can find five minutes extra in their day. It is about prioritising YOU, and that is the very first step in self care. There is a wonderful Zen saying which states:

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy: then you should sit for an hour”

…no more need be said!

 

 

HOW TO PUT ALL THIS INTO ACTION

Your first step has to be believing you are worth it, remembering your own self value, and therefore finding that time. The second step is COMMITMENT: make the decision that 2019 is going to be the year that you give back to YOU – and therefore to everyone around you. Write down your commitment to a self care programme, sign it & place it somewhere you will see it regularly. Tell other people about it: telling others increases accountability. Then jot down a list of activities that you consider to be true self care for YOU.

If you’d like to take it all a step further and to engage in a daily 5 minutes of stress relieving self care, then do grab my FREE download here. This is where the real turnaround happens. The guide will take you through a simple, manageable, step-by-step process to carve out that time and practice self care activities that will truly address your stress levels as well. In the space of just seven days you will start to see the difference, and THAT is the turning point: the point at which you realise that SELF CARE WORKS: that it is oh so very worth putting in that time. And you’re not thinking it because you’ve read my article: you’re BELIEVING it because you’ve tried it yourself, and you’ve seen the results .

 

“FACTS” ABOUT STRESS: TRUE OR FALSE?

“FACTS” ABOUT STRESS: TRUE OR FALSE?

Stress is very definitely ‘out there’, and it seems it is becoming more and more acceptable to admit to suffering from stress. I think this is a huge step in the right direction, and is hopefully a move towards removing the stigma surrounding mental health in general.

There is however a downside to this upsurge in conversations about stress. Now that there is such a plethora of information across the media, how do we know what is fact and what is fiction? Read on!

1. STRESS IS THE SAME FOR EVERYONE: FICTION. Stress is the body’s response to a perceived threat. Every individual will react in a slightly different way, dependent on many different factors: it is NOT a case of one-size-fits-all. Our reactions to stress are dependent on genes, life experiences, temperament, culture…and the list goes on. Equally the actual physiological response can differ in the individual: “there is considerable variation in level and type of hormones released by different people and in response to different stressors – [it is] not a simple physiological process”

https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-biology.html

2. STRESS CAN MAKE YOU PHYSICALLY SICK: TRUE. The stress response creates both behavioural and physiological reactions, hence the symptoms related to stress are many and wide-ranging. The involvement of hormones is key here: our hormones need to be in balance for the body to thrive. If we define stress as “any force that disturbs the natural equilibrium of the body” we understand the potential for stress to stop the body from thriving. Meanwhile chronic (ongoing) stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, whereby depletion of the adrenals and the HPA axis takes the body way out of balance, and potentially on the road to a myriad of health problems.

3. STRESS IS ALWAYS BAD FOR YOU: FICTION. Most of us can picture situations (perhaps leading up to a sport event or a work presentation) where our adrenalin races, our heart beats a little faster, our palms get a little sweaty…and then we go and perform really well. The stress response strengthens connections between neurons in the brain and boosts brainpower. Short term stress boosts the immune system, and can motivate us to succeed (imagine yourself working to a deadline – for some this is a huge motivator to keep going and to do well). Meanwhile dealing with a stressful situation can make us more resilient as it helps us to learn to deal better the next time around.

4. YOU MAY BE STRESSED EVEN IF YOU DON’T SHOW ANY PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS: TRUE. This goes hand in hand with the fact that stress is not the same for everyone. If you are a ‘coper’ you may show less outward signs of stress, even though the hormonal changes are still eating away at you on the inside, and still need to be addressed. Equally, use of medication or inappropriate behaviours (such as misuse of alcohol, nicotine or other drugs, or even excess use of caffeine) can mask symptoms. It must be understood that this can create its own dangers: it is important to be fully aware of any symptoms so that they can be addressed. Masking symptoms “may deprive you of the signals you need for reducing the strain on your physiological and psychological systems”. Lastly, we should remember that these sorts of habits tend to ‘up’ the negative impact that stress is already having on the body (we feel jittery, we have difficulty sleeping, blood pressure can be affected).

5. IF YOU ARE STRONG YOU WILL SIMPLY “GET OVER IT”: FICTION. Stress can create anything from minor headaches or skin complaints to high blood pressure and heart issues. These will not simply ‘go away’ unless the underlying stress is addressed in some way. “Admitting that you need help…doesn’t make you broken. It makes you fixable. And teachable”.
The one fact that is consistent throughout this is the need to be aware of and to address stress. Positive stress management techniques which are considered and appropriate to the individual can start to at least ease any complaints and start the body on the road to recovery…

HOW TO USE #timetotalk AS STRESS MANAGEMENT

HOW TO USE #timetotalk AS STRESS MANAGEMENT

This video was initially recorded in line with #TimeToTalkDay, an initiative to raise awareness of mental health, and to attempt to remove the stigma surrounding this. This is a subject I feel very strongly about: we all have mental health just as we all have physical health, yet we rarely see the two in the same light, & sooo many times we are less comfortable talking about the latter.

Just as exercise, nutrition & stress management are VITAL in maintaining good physical health, they are essential for good mental health too. In so many ways our primitive self was not made to cope with this modern, tech-crazy society we live in – & our evolution just hasn’t quite caught up. “We evolved as tribal creatures, living happily in large groups, and so the brain actually interprets social isolation as a major problem”.

This video looks at talking as one of the many strategies which can be used to aid and improve mental health, & explores how talking and sociability were integral parts of our existence in primitive times.

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