Replenishing yourself with sustainable self care...
Self care is a word that has been thrown around in the wellness world for several years now - and I feel that along the way it has become a little distorted, so today I wanted to explore what self care means to me, and how we can integrate it into our lives at a deeper level than bubble baths and beauty treatments (which FYI... I am totally on board with too!)
Self care for me is about sustainability. It isn't about refilling when empty - it is about maintaining a consistently full cup. In fact having an overflowing cup so that when I do give to others I have plenty of resources left for myself.
Because - while giving to others is a wonderful honour, and something that particularly as women we desire greatly (it is literally in our DNA and hormonal responses) - when it doesn't come from a sustainable source it is actually harmful and damaging to ourselves.
The word care means... 'the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.'
Consider this for a second... What is NECESSARY for you to MAINTAIN and PROTECT your own health and welfare? What are your non-negotiables? (think as important as brushing your teeth and having a shower)
Self care isn't a luxury.
Yes it can be massages and bubble baths, but more importantly than this, it is emotionally supporting yourself. That looks different for everyone but stretches from the way we fuel ourselves nutritionally, to the people we surround ourselves with, to the way we set our boundaries with family and in our work, right up to the language we use when speaking to ourselves.
Self care is necessary. Essential. Vital.
For many of us, we have spent so long disconnected from our own personal needs, that we have to re-learn and remember how to allow ourselves the time and space to do things that nourish our mind and body.
My favourite way of coming back to this is with the simplest words... 'what do I need right now?'.
Consistency is key here to sustaining your self care cup. Instead of waiting until the batteries are drained completely, find ways to incorporate small gestures of kindness towards yourself each and every day. These actions don't have to take lots of time up, and you can get instant feedback on them when your body literally FEELS like it is replenishing.
Some of feelings that I associate with self care are...
What words do you associate with self care right now?
Am I worthy?
For many people it can be really difficult to enjoy acts of kindness towards ourselves, because ultimately, in this day and age, there is always something we 'could' be doing that feels productive or 'useful', and to spend time doing something for ourselves can seem self indulgent or even selfish at times.
There will always be an excuse as to why you can't do something for your own self care... but I urge you to explore WHY you are resisting? Do you not feel worthy of your own time? Do you feel guilty about doing something just for you? Do others make you feel shame around wanting to do something self orientated? Do you not know where to start? Have you become so disconnected from your own truth that you don't even know what fills you up anymore?
With any changes to lifestyle, I always encourage baby steps.
Five minutes of self care actions, a few times a day is enough to sustain yourself - and if you have five minutes to scroll through social media - then you have five minutes to do something for yourself.
A few of my favourite things that take no more than five minutes are...
- Using my beauty products instead of 'saving' them for a 'special' occasion. Every day is a special occasion and this helps reinforce self worth.
- 5 minute meditation - resting the body and activating the relaxation response to restore the mind.
- Enjoying the Ayurvedic ritual of Abhyanga before a shower - choose a part of the body you want to show some care to, and massage your favourite oil into that area before you get in the shower. You can learn more about this practice listening to this Podcast here. I have found this particularly powerful in my body love journey.
- Taking my shoes and socks off and standing on the earth for a few minutes to soak up nature's magic. The perfect way to ground when you feel overwhelmed.
- Self massaging my feet at the end of the day - nothing fancy - just simply noticing where feels a bit sore or achy and spending some time nurturing them. I always combine this with gratitude towards my body for physically supporting me during the day.
- Drinking out of my favourite mug, or eating my food out of a pretty bowl - turning the act of eating or drinking into a little ritual is sacred.
- Lying down with my feet up the wall at the end of the day to replenish my body.
- Playing my favourite song and moving my body intuitively to the music.
What can you do daily - that doesn't take long - to practice self care for your body?
Create a checklist now of ten things that make you feel vibrant and FULL... and whenever you notice your energy levels dip - look at that list and choose one item that you can do there and then. You can download my Self Care Checklist worksheet to print out and fill in by clicking here.
What happens when you are taking from an empty reserve? Scraping the bottom of the well for a drop of water and drying out the earth that it is held in will lead to cracks and crumbles, fragility in the ground and the vibrancy, radiance and life-giving ability is literally sucked away from it.
As bold and dramatic as this may sound... I think productivity is killing us.
The 'doing' rather than 'being' is depleting our energy resources drip by drip - until we are empty vessels that feel numb, anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted and so far removed from ourselves that the body and mind feels in a state of dis-ease.
The problem I have found, with myself and with my clients, is that we tend to wait until we are in desperate need of a break, until we are shattered emotionally and physically, before we take any action. This reactive approach to self care means that it comes in fits and starts, it is 'when we can fit it in' as opposed to being built into our routine as a habit. It is usually at the bottom of our 'to do' list as a 'nice to do, but not essential'.
Living in this way is not LIVING.
When we are totally empty, and have been consistently starving ourselves of self care, it can take a long time to refill our temples. Of course, ideally we wouldn't get to this stage - but I know from past experience that life often gets in the way and before we know it we are floored with exhaustion.
The body aches. You struggle to get up in the morning. You feel little joy and pleasure. Your energy is zapped. Your emotions are frazzled. You find yourself getting irritable and short tempered. You want to make a change, but you don't know how to, and there is shame. Deep shame that you have allowed yourself to get into this 'state' of being.
Usually, the body shouts pretty loudly at us when we get to this point. For me it shouted in many ways. Anxiety, menstrual health issues, digestive upsets, lack of joy, disconnection and chronic stress and inflammation which I am still unravelling now.
What can you do if you feel like you are running on empty?
These are a few things that I have found to help me in my journey to filling my mental and physical 'cup' back up...
For a period of time you may need to strip back everything that isn't essential in your life in order to refill yourself. This can be challenging of course, but it is essential. I like to use the mantra 'I am doing enough' to remind me that actually a lot of the pressures I put on myself are self inflicted and are based on 'shoulds' as opposed to necessity. It is removing the conditioning I have learned over many years that being busy equals success. Slowly, slowly the shifts are happening.
Allow someone else to hold space for you. This can be so powerful and nourishing - when you let someone take care of you it enables you to fully surrender without the worry of 'doing'. This is why I adore giving people private yoga sessions and allowing intuition and the body to guide the practice to replenish energy levels and use movement as a medicine.
Yoga Nidra. This is a beautiful form of meditation which allows the mind to stay alert, while the body sleeps. Physically and mentally it is a powerful healing practice and is so simple to do with a guided meditation app such as Insight Timer or by visiting www.yoganidranetwork.org
Support your body nutritionally. It can be really tempting to reach for caffeine, sugar and instant 'pick me ups' when we are tired and drained - however these will only give you a very short term boost and ultimately will actually deplete your system more. Choose whole, unprocessed foods as much as you can and eat regular meals that support stable blood sugar levels. Eat the rainbow - filling your plate with different coloured vegetables, protein at each meal and healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil. If you need any support in this area then please get in touch with me.
Quality sleep is vital - which I appreciate is often hard, especially if you have young children with unpredictable sleeping patterns. If the number of hours of sleep is low, then trying to get the best quality sleep you can do will help. Limit screen time for two hours before bed if you can, don't drink caffeine after 4pm (that goes for chocolate too - yes even dark chocolate as it can be a stimulant), try not to eat a big heavy meal just before bed, and make sure your room is a comfortable temperature. If your mind starts to buzz with 'to-dos' as soon as you climb under the covers, then keep a notebook by your bed to download your thoughts and lists onto so you don't worry yourself trying to remember them.
Gentle movement. Having been the person that trained in the gym and pushed my physical capabilities to the maximum for a long time, it took a lot of acceptance and kindness to give myself the chance to slow down and go gently when it came to movement. I did have to strip back and stop going to the gym for a period of time - because my body was taking a long time to recover. Now I pay attention to my natural energy rhythms and honour that. I balance more intense exercise with rest to keep that energy in/out level and I spend more time walking in nature and doing slow yoga flows instead of the dynamic power classes I used to love. It isn't for ever - it is just for a short time until you feel fully nourished.
Self care is, in my opinion, a practice.
Just as we practice anything, we have to consistently re-programme our neurological pathways to see the actions as part of our daily rituals. This means not only physically learning, but also re-wiring our mindset beliefs around the way we treat ourselves.
Replenishment is one of the fundamental pillars of my holistic coaching sessions - because we have to start with a full cup before we take on any transformation or life changes. If you would like to know more about this then please click here and get in touch with any questions.
When we implement sustainable self care and start with a full cup, we can actually give MORE to the people we love and care for.
Please do let me know if you enjoy this article, and feel free to share with anyone who might need some self care support right now. You can also get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the things I have mentioned in this article by emailing me here.