MOVING AWAY FROM SUPERFICIAL IMMEDIATE RELIEF TO LONG-TERM NOURISHMENT FOR THE SOUL AND BODY.
Self-care is everywhere, it seemed to be the buzz phrase of 2018. And while I am celebrating the popularity of self-care going mainstream I'm noticing that from time-to-time that the #selfcare acts being promoted, are remaining on a superficial level. While I myself am no stranger to popping on the TV or Netflix and watching some easy-viewing to relax, or gorging on a cheap bar of chocolate that i’ve kept hidden from my daughter, I am also concerned at how often we are performing these acts in the name of some sort of self-care regime.
If we examine our current patterns we notice that even when we are watching TV with our feet up we aren’t truly relaxed, we are passive but over-stimulated. Perhaps we may flick through our phone absentmindedly while half watching, adding to the over-stimulation. While eating cheap nutrient-lacking chocolate we are neglecting our bodies the opportunity of nourishment. These, and many more acts of ‘self-care’ are simply contributing to our stress levels. Over-tired, over-stimulated, under-appreciated and under-nourished.
The modern day is challenging, we are constantly bombarded with new trends or articles, lack of sleep, juggling lots of plates in the air, navigating new stages in relationships and all while society dictates that we should look our best at all times. I am declaring a need for everyone to reclaim self-care for what it really is and should be: time to consciously choose to self-prioritise, to devote even just ten minutes a day to ourselves to develop and relax, unwind and reconnect to who we are without the labels.
Here are my top ten tips for practicing Conscious Self-Care:
1. Sleep. Sleep is vital to our bodies health and our mental functioning ability. If you are a parent it can be extra challenging to get those precious 8 hours in, when you feel your body calling out for sleep ask a friend or family member to babysit for you, even if it's just for an hour in the daytime. Try to nap to top-up your low sleep levels. Ensure you have proper black-out curtains in your bedroom to prevent natural light from creeping in and waking you and remove any technological devices from the bedroom, especially computers and phones if possible. The blue light emitted from these devices upsets our natural rhythms and induces a poorer quality of sleep. Try to avoid looking at your phone for at least 30 minutes before bed, instead why not practice some of the following:
2. Journal. The power of putting pen to paper can be quite remarkable. Whether it’s simply pouring out your thoughts onto a page to have them listed anywhere else than your head or perhaps as a means of documenting your day or inner thoughts, the process is hugely beneficial. Why not try inner-concious writing? Find a prompt to use, this could be a word or a poem, a sentence or a quote you’ve seen on pinterest. Write the prompt down at the top of the page and set a timer for fifteen minutes. The only rule is that you don’t stop writing for the whole fifteen minutes. Try to avoid editing your writing, remove the inner critic and just enjoy the process of putting words down on paper. Once the timer is up, read through your writing or even better, read it aloud. Often the same topic will arise irrespective of the prompt and you will start to hear your true inner voice speaking to you.
3. Meditate. #Meditation has been proven in many scientific studies to help calm the mind and bring a sense of balance to your well being. If you find meditation tough or aren’t sure where to start then begin your practice with a guided meditation. There are many cool apps on the market which allow you to check-in and find a moment of stillness. I highly recommend ‘Headspace’ who have a free ‘basics’ pack with 10 guided meditations to get you started.
4. Bathe. When was the last time you indulged in a warm bath (or shower!) just to have some ‘you-time’? I'm willing to bet that it’s been a while and that bathing is just a daily necessity grabbed in those in-between moments. Before sitting down to relax, head to the bathroom, lock the door and enjoy 10-30 minutes in the bath to relax and unwind. Treat yourself to some essential oils or natural wax aromatherapy candles or a cruelty-free bath bomb (I love Lush and local Marlow business 'Lavana Botanicals'!) to make your bath extra luxurious. Don’t be tempted to take your phone in with you, if you must then read a book but I recommend checking out completely and just being.
5. Yoga. #Yoga has many proven benefits including increasing patience, stamina, bringing a feeling of calm and of course the various physical benefits too. Exercise is often an overlooked method of self-care and yet it is one of the simplest to do! Of course I am highly biased when it comes to recommending yoga as a self-care practice but this is because I have lived through the benefits. My personal practice has enhanced my focus, motivation, creativity, patience and stamina in my life off the mat as well as on it. You can find free YouTube videos demonstrating anything from 5-90 minutes yoga sequences that you can fit around your busy schedule. You can alter your practice to suit your current mood too. If you are feeling fatigued or need an energy boost then a flow sequence involving heart openers, backbends and inversions (turning upside down!) will leave you feeling exhilarated and on a natural high. Or perhaps you need a more restorative practice involving lots of forward folds and hip openers to ground and settle intense energy. You can customise your practice to suit your current needs. Remember that while YouTube and other online content provides a really accessible way of practicing that it is vital to attend a class whenever you are able to with an experienced teacher who can check you are safe in your alignment and who can enhance your practice. ... Of course I can recommend one of the most beautiful Yoga Studios around with some fabulous teachers!
6. Eat. As if we need permission… right? But in all seriousness food sustains us and each mouthful can either contribute to our bodies health or detract from it. I'm not saying avoid chocolate or sugary treats altogether, instead choose nutrient-dense low-processed chocolate or treats such as Ombar or Pana Chocolate. Or why not try creating beautiful and inspiring salads or meals? Eat the rainbow and feel lighter and brighter inside. I love Deliciously Ella, Naturally Sassy and Minimalist Baker for fun and alternative meal ideas.
7. Socialise Invite one of your tribe round for a cup of tea or head out to a local coffee shop. Put the phones away and try to invest in some distraction-free time together. #Friends who support us and ‘get’ us can be the ultimate reviving energy that we need to surround ourselves with. They’re also the cheapest healing around, a safe person who you can rant and rave to and clear your mind of anxieties. Remember, a true friendship is one that is balanced, where you lift each other and feel revived after spending time together. Observe your friendships and make sure to carve out more time with those who do just that. Notice the friends in your life who do the opposite and while I'm not saying to change your friendships, perhaps become more mindful of how you feel after seeing each one and reminding yourself of this when you feel low yourself.
8. Walk. Head out to your nearest wide open space or woodland and walk. Slow down, tune in to your footsteps and actively feel the connection between your feet and the #Earth below you. Being outside in nature boosts our mood levels and helps us to see the bigger picture. Often the natural spaces are quieter than towns and cities too and we need this quiet to be able to connect to ourselves properly. If the weather permits then why not extend the benefits of your walk by taking your shoes off and walking #barefoot? There are many proven benefits to walking barefoot. I love the incredible work by Nutritional Movement Professional, Katy Bowman for inspiration and real-world science.
9. Affirm. #Affirmations are a powerful way of creating new neurological pathways in the brain. Start with something simple: “I am enough.” Speak these words to yourself five times in the morning, five times at lunchtime and five times before bed and notice how you feel after each round. Once this has become routine then you can explore other affirmations of qualities you’d like to gain more confidence in or qualities that you’d like to develop in yourself. A lovely friend once explained the #ego to me as 'Whenever you feel inferior or superior to someone that is your ego at play'. It stuck with me and I use affirmations to ground myself or to help lift me a little when this happens. Keeping my ego at bay and remaining equal in mind to others is a vital part of my own self-care regime.
10. Say no. Ultimately we are all craving Conscious Self-Care because we are all far too #busy. We need to #simplify our lives, to find magic in the ordinary, to stop rushing around and to say ‘no' more often. We don’t need to do it all and if you have children then the same goes for them, they don’t need to do an activity every day of the week just as much as you don't need to be rushing around acting as a taxi service. We need opportunities for boredom to arise to then give ourselves and our family, space to be creative. We need to say ‘yes’ to the things that serve us and ultimately be far more selective about what task or role we dedicate our precious hours to. As that old saying goes “If you don’t have 20 minutes to meditate then do an hour”.
I hope you find this list useful and can start to consciously indulge in some much-needed self-care. I'd love to hear your own tips and ideas for conscious self-care below in the comments! You just need to sign up as a member to the blog to be able to comment and like the posts, it takes a minute - easy! Maddy x Maddy is a Hatha Yoga Instructor at Leo Yoga. She works to promote true connection to the self in classes and aims to cultivate a holistic and nurturing whole body experience for her students. Check out our timetable and book on to attend one of Maddy's classes. Leo Yoga. Words + Photos copyright Maddy Kendell, original blog post on www.nayanayoga.co.uk