It’s been a while since my last post. Over two months in fact. An old back injury re-surfaced, forcing me to take time out this summer to recover and really practise what I am about to preach.
Once I got over my initial frustrations and upset at having my back ‘give out’ on me (again), I realised that this was a message to really take care of my well-being. Properly this time.
Quite brilliant timing considering this post was always going to be about self-care. I was literally knocked down to test everything I had learnt over the years – in turn sharing it with you. Dr. Edward Bach frequently came to mind during this time. Dr. Bach would often suffer the emotional state he was working to heal and his personal struggle and sacrifice culminated in the world-renowned holistic system most of us are familiar with today – Bach Flower Remedies.
In my “Living inside-out” post I write about seven things that you can do to increase the love you feel for who you are. This post addresses No.7 on that list – the importance of taking care of yourself.
Now I don’t just mean giving yourself a bear hug now and again, with a feeble pat-on-the-back for special occasions when you “did good”.
I am talking about an all-out “I am going to put myself first” approach, where you build in some time for your well-being EVERY DAY.
Yes, every day.
I was cheating with this and my back has always been the one area in my body that will let me know when I am not taking care of myself.
In the past, I would give myself Reiki, take some painkillers, visit the Osteopath, do a few prescribed exercises and then carry on as before until the next spasm.
This time I did all the above but instead of carrying on as I did before, I looked back at my daily routine and committed to make some changes. Changes that I knew held great benefit but I hadn’t incorporated into my daily routine for one reason or another.
As Pema Chödrön says – “When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too”.
So I vowed to do just this. Make good friends with myself. That means I have to make self-care a priority every day.
Below is a list of my most important self-care techniques. I have split this into ‘Evening’ and ‘Morning’. I have found greater benefit in how I feel during the day if I practise these techniques during these specific times.
However, if there are different times of the day that work better for you, then just go with your preference.
Please keep in mind that I didn’t start doing all of these things in one go. I started one thing, did it for a while to see if it had any benefit to me and then made it part of my daily routine.
I then gradually introduced something else until it built up to the list you see below.
This is particularly important if you are a parent/carer and suddenly find you have little time on your own and a time limit on absolutely everything else. Just pick one item from the list (or try something that resonates with you) and try doing it consistently for a couple of weeks before you introduce anything else.
SEENA’S SELF-CARE PRACTISE
Monday – Thursday TV-free evenings. Yep, started with a tough one. I can hear some of you saying “whaaaaaaaaat, girl you crazy“. Trust me, I find this one difficult sometimes too. Especially with the new BBC Bodyguard series gracing our screens. There are also days when the kids are in bed and I want to do nothing but just flop down on the sofa and watch some crap. But I don’t. Because I realised a while ago that it just wasn’t doing me any good. I would go to sleep very distracted, not well-rested and wake-up in pretty much the same state. So I now go for a evening swim, read or take a long bath on these days and I swear to you, the difference I feel is remarkable. So much so that I am sticking with this one for the foreseeable future. By all means, binge out on TV/party over the weekend! It might sound mundane (especially if you still tick the ’25-30′ box on a form) but nearly all of us have week-day commitments be it education, work, family, etc, and it’s just not worth zoning out for that extra hour in front of the box.
Gratitude Book. I meet a lot of people who have heard of this one. They may even do it every so often. But very few do this as part of their daily routine. Every evening I sit in bed, take my notebook and write down a few things that I am truly grateful for. It literally takes a few minutes (you can also say it if you prefer it to writing) and you go to sleep feeling bloody brilliant. Even if your day didn’t go so well or you aren’t feeling that wonderful, writing down a few things will change that. Why do I do this before bed? Because the state you are in before you fall asleep determines the quality of sleep you will have, therefore determining how well-rested you will be when you wake up. Basic stuff but the effect of this technique is most powerful if it becomes something you do every day. We are so programmed in this day and age to focus on the negative things in our lives and in the world. But just imagine how your days would be if you put that some focus on all the things that feel good to you.
Reiki. This is something that is very personal to me (and other Reiki practitioners) so not everyone reading this is going to relate. But if you practise meditation, massage, or something along these lines that is therapeutic and relaxing before bed, then do that. I self-treat every night and its akin to a deep meditative state. I usually fall asleep like this, feeling a strong connection to the energy that is all around and within us.
Meditation/Breathing. I used to roll my eyes at this one. Another meditation thing. I would try it for a few days, get frustrated and then drop it because ‘it didn’t work’. But then I started noticing how many successful people did this daily. Not just ‘enlightened gurus’ but people like Karlie Kloss, Alicia Keys, Hugh Jackman, Ariana Huffington, Kareena Kapoor, Sting, Steve Jobs, but to name a few. Robert Downey Jr. got his life back together following his addiction struggles through a number of practises, one being yoga and meditation. Its undoubtably powerful and we are only discovering the tip of the iceberg in its hidden benefits. But many people struggle with it. If you’re like me and the practise of meditation doesn’t come easily, the one bit of advice I have is “don’t try so hard”. Start with five deep breaths (breathing down into your tummy) first thing in the morning. If you don’t get that quiet time first thing (I usually have a child sitting on my head before I’ve even opened my eyes), then do it on the loo, on the bus, anywhere. Just five breaths. The key here is consistency. Note how your days start going for you.
‘Feel-good’ music. The first thing I do when I come downstairs to prepare breakfast, is to play my favourite music so that the sound fills the house. I play mantra music because it always makes me feel really good, it’s believed to carry powerful healing vibrations and I’ve grown up with it so it’s familiar to me. But it really doesn’t matter what you play, it’s how the music makes you feel which is key. Think uplifting, invincible, joyful and you can’t go wrong. You don’t even have to understand the words, as long as you feel good, then just go ahead and play it.
Do something you love. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. You may have always loved to paint. Commit one of those TV free evenings to do a little painting. Or you may (like me) love to dance. Find out about some dance groups in your area. Or you may have always wanted to build, make, try something. Learn a language? The list can be endless. What isn’t endless is your time here on Earth. So why wait?
Obviously there will be days that you fall out of routine for one reason or another. It doesn’t matter. Once you get into the flow of your own personal self-care routine, you will naturally find that you want to keep doing it and it becomes as familiar to you as brushing your teeth.
Now you will be forgiven for thinking I am a pretty mellow, sombre person after reading the above. The opposite is in fact true. I love dancing and partying (yes with a few drinks) and I can be a little OTT when I get going. You will find me whinin’ on the dance floor to Drake or Sean Paul or popping my stuff when an old skool garage track blasts out of the speakers. I laugh really, really hard (and sometimes snort) at the rudest of jokes. I occasionally swear, have a penchant for shopping and I’m not a vegetarian.
I tell you this because my deepest desire is for self-care to become completely natural to all of us (in particular to the next generation) regardless of the kind of person you are.
You do not need to fit a certain mould.
You do not need to be an ‘Om-Chanting’ serene/serious person.
You do not need to be religious in any way.
The only thing you need is an open mind and a desire to live the best life you can. That’s it.
If you are someone who constantly says “When I have more money, I will do X”, know that money will never come.
Or if you say “When I have more time, I will do Y”, know that time will never materialise.
Or if you say “When I have less responsibilities, I will do Z”, know that those responsibilities will never cease.
The only time that matters is now.
Taking small steps now to do what you want to do will start off a catalyst of events that may lead you to where you want to be, or quite possibly, somewhere even better.
The first step you can take is doing something for yourself. Once a week or month is a start. Just start.
Do it now, and the rest will unfold.
Love to you always.
(Feature photo by Tania Arora @taniaarora).