Work is driving me crazy, the laundry isn’t done yet, dinner hasn’t been prepared, the kids still need help doing their homework, lunch needs to be prepared and the list could go on forever. With our to-do lists being never ending, we often forget to take care of ourselves, whether it be skipping lunch, avoiding the gym, or getting 4 hours of sleep a night to compensate for our busy schedules. Bouncing from one activity to the next without any break is simply exhausting.
There is a lot of buzz around the words “self-care” these days. But, what does self-care really mean? Self-care could mean something different to everyone. To me, self-care entails taking my alone time at the gym and making conscious, healthy eating choices. To you it could mean taking 30 minutes before bed and sipping on some herbal tea.
In general, self-care means supporting one’s own physical, mental and emotional health in whatever form or way works with your daily life. Self-care is something that is provided by YOU for YOU. It means recognizing what you need and figuring out how to get it. Self-care should not be about escaping one’s reality to find peace, it is really about making a little bit of time everyday in your regular routine so you don’t get to that point of relentless exhaustion.
Self-care is often the first thing to be compromised during times of high stress, like becoming a parent. I see this first hand in my practice. Mom’s regularly tell me, “I feel bad for spending time away from my kids”. As a mom, self-care practices could even just involve solitude and time alone to reflect. This can help mom’s recharge so they can focus on being the best mom out there!
The culture these days is to keep pushing ourselves to be better, to do better and ignore the signs our body is telling us when we are physically, mentally and/or emotionally tired. When we ignore these needs we comprise quality in our work, become stressed, depressed and the list can go on. We can’t function well if we aren’t well. We all need to learn to make ourselves a priority, because that is what self-care is all about.
As difficult as it can be to fit in self-care time, especially when demands are high it needs to be done! I invite you all to participate in a 1-month self-care challenge. Write down 5 self-care goals you wish to engage in the next month. And then live and breathe by these goals for the next 30 days. These goals don’t need to be time consuming or extravagant - they just need to be realistic. Don’t wait until everything is “right” to make time for yourself. The time is NOW!
5 Best Ways To Upgrade Your Self-Care Routine
1. Eat Well
There are so many studies supporting a whole-foods diet that is low in processed carbohydrates for overall health and wellness. Aim for the rainbow when eating fruits and vegetables to get more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
When I don’t take the time to prepare healthy meals on Sunday for the week ahead, I find myself eating out and eating unhealthy during the week, because it’s just easier. This often leads to feelings of guilt and lethargy. When I take a couple hours on Sunday to prepare meals for the week ahead the meals are more filling, healthier and require less $ spent. This is my form of self-care for my physical health.
2. Stay Physically Active
All activity counts! Being that we are in the middle of summer, what better time than to make this a priority! Maybe you walk to work, maybe you take the kids out for a walk after work, maybe you dance around in the living room to some of your favourite tunes, maybe you chose to lift the basket instead of rolling the cart at the grocery store or maybe you go up and down the stairs at home for 20 mins. Whatever it is, that 20-30 minutes a day focusing on any form of physical activity can help to eliminate stress, boost mood and raise energy levels!
For me, fitting in any form of physical activity into my daily routine is emotionally freeing.
3. Sleep For 8 hours A Night
It is so easy to stay up at night when everyone has gone to sleep to complete chores around the house - whether it be, preparing lunches, folding laundry, doing piled up dishes or answering emails. Figure out how much sleep you need a night (8 hours is recommended) and strive to hit that goal! Sleep deprivation causes irritability, poor memory, weight gain and so much more!
8 hours of sleep is the amount I know I need to feel refreshed in the AM. Self-care to me means knowing when to call it a night!
4. Listen To The Mind & Body
The body knows best! Listening to your body can make a world of a difference. The body has ways of communicating what it needs with you. Unfortunately, we often ignore the signs. If you are not making the right eating choices, your body will tell you. If you are not feeling quite like yourself lately, your emotions will tell you. This also means noticing how you talk to yourself. Notice any automatic negative thoughts. Negative thoughts can lead you down a rabbit hole that only exudes negative emotions. Catch these as they come and turn them into positive feelings.
Listen to what your body is trying to communicate with you and then like Nike says, JUST DO IT!
I will often ask myself - what do I want? What do I need? Do I need some alone time or do I need a night out with my girlfriends?
5. Try Something New Every Week
It is easy to fall into patterns and habits of everyday life. Doing the same thing every day, day in and day out does not offer a chance of personal growth and personal challenge. Stepping out of your comfort zone can help make you feel alive and allows you the chance to keep learning. Experiencing growth comes from changing routine behaviours and patterns
For me this could look like, trying a new gym class once a week, going to a new restaurant for dinner, or trying a new recipe!
The key here is, BALANCE. Managing, work, fun, family, friends and self-care can be quite overwhelming and daunting. It is all about finding the right balance between all of these and making sure to carve out some time for you. We need to make self-care a priority and set goals that we can achieve. Self-care can improve relationships, self-love and productivity and best of all does not have to cost a thing! The question then becomes what can we let go of or what can we delegate to make self-care practices a priority.
Written By: Dr. Saira Kassam, ND | 2018