Today we wanted to share with you some of our best self care tips. Self care is having a real moment, but what exactly is it? We discuss the origins, importance and impact of self care and give practical tips on how to bring it in to your life.
Before we talk about self care tips – what exactly is self care?
Whilst self care might seem like a millennial buzzword, the concept of prioritising and taking time for yourself has been around for centuries. Philosophers like Plato proclaimed the benefits of reflection and contemplation. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism. Ancient Greeks were all about self love – or Philautia, as they called it then. So whilst it seems to be a hot topic in 2019, it is certainly not a new idea.
But what is self care? The dictionary defines it as ‘the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness’, which summarises the modern take on it. It also mentions that this is particularly important at periods of high stress. As it feels like the entire planet (including the climate) are feeling strained at the moment, it’s maybe unsurprising that Google searches for self care have doubled over the last two years.
What a person defines as their version of self care changes from individual to individual. For some it’s a bubble bath and a good book, for others it’s a kale smoothie and 1000 burpees. However you choose to do it, at its core self care is all about listening to what your mind and body needs and giving it to yourself, guilt free.
Why is self care so important?
In a busy modern world, it’s important to remember to look after our base needs as humans. We need healthy food, we need to feel safe and we need to rest. It’s very easy to lose sight of these primal requirements when we’re surrounded by technology, and leading hectic lives.
However, the instant gratification of scrolling through social media might give you a hit of dopamine, but it isn’t enriching your sense of self. Self care is often about disconnecting with the world – both physically and virtually – and putting your needs first.
But sometimes we can feel guilty when we do things for ourselves. It’s easy to think that you “should” be working, doing those household chores, calling a family member etc. But in fact taking the time to look after our emotional health means you will be productive when you’re working, better able to care for others and most importantly, you’ll feel better. It’s an important investment, and one that we often neglect with our hectic 24/7 lifestyles.
Self care is especially important for those with stressful jobs -like social workers, nurses and teachers. It’s also a crucial part of a preconception care. If you are a parent or mum, or hoping to become one, creating a robust self care routine is strongly advised. Fertility and stress are intrinsically linked, so it could also help increase your chances of conceiving.
Having a good self care routine will also help nurture your good relationships with others. Imagine a “care cup” – it’s important to keep our care cup topped up. You may have heard the phrase “ you can’t pour from empty.” While it may sound cliche, there’s a lot of truth in this phrase. If we are not taking the time to look after ourselves and are stressed, tired, overwhelmed, you are much less likely to have the resilience to cope when times are tougher.
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Self care package
Self care is all part of a healthy lifestyle. Here are some key elements of self care and tips on how you can incorporate them in to your daily life.
Most people need around 7-8 hour of quality sleep to function healthily, so this should be a priority. The body not only needs sleep to regenerate and create energy but it’s also processing everything that has happened that day. This is important from a self care and mental health perspective. Our capacity to manage our emotions dramatically diminishes when we’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep is truly a cornerstone human health – there’s even studies that show there are more heart attacks on the days when the clocks skip forward!
Self Care Tips: Go to bed an hour earlier than usual and read book rather than scrolling through your phone. For extra special self care, sprinkle some lavender oil on your pillow!
Have a healthy, nutritious diet
As with all elements of self care, your diet is about balance. Aiming to eat healthily is not about trying to lose weight or trying to look a certain way. It’s about listening to your body and understanding what it needs to be nurtured.
Fat diets, junk food and binge drinking are all part of the culture of instant gratification, that is not sustainable. A sugar high will inevitably lead to a crash and a fad diet will almost always lead to you feeling worse, rather than better about your body. If you listen to what your body wants, most of the time it will be craving nutritious, vitamin rich foods – as well as the occasional cookie!
Self Care Tips: Treat yourself to a night in trying out new, healthy recipes. Make it an enjoyable activity that you’re excited about rather than a laborious task. If you need some inspiration, check out our fertility diet plan. The recipes are great even if you’re not trying for a baby!
The physical benefits of exercise have long been recognised. However, in recent years the positive impact it has on your mental health has become more widely understood. Even if the idea of the gym makes you want to hide under the covers, you won’t regret getting active.
30 minutes of physical activity a day is enough to get endorphins running around your body and give you a sense of achievement – both great for self care.
Self Care Tips: Don’t force yourself to do something you hate, find an activity that puts a smile on your face. Dance around your kitchen to your favourite song, take a brisk walk in the woods or do some skipping!
Go to yoga
At Parla we are huge fans of yoga and talk a lot about yoga for fertility. But yoga is also a great part of a self care routine – whether or not you are trying to conceive. The practice of yoga really connects the body, mind and soul. The physical side of it will form part of your essential daily activity, but it will also give you so much more. Yoga is great for mental health and can help with stress and anxiety, give you time to reflect and get in touch with yourself.
Self Care Tips: If you don’t feel comfortable joining a class, there are great Youtube vides you can follow. Why not create you own little yoga studio at home with a mat, candles and incense?
Many people put yoga and mediation in the same bracket and whilst they definitely can be practiced together, they aren’t exactly the same. You can actually meditate anywhere, even on a busy packed train – and its a great part of self care. The whole point of mindfulness meditation is to be present, and to allow yourself to focus on your breathing and your body.
Whilst ideally it’s wonderful to take some time out, and have peace and quiet, to meditate, there are other ways. You can bring mediation in to your everyday life by practicing mindfulness. You won’t realise it but you will often undertake daily tasks whilst thinking about something completely different. With mindfulness, you stay completely focused on the task in hand.
Self Care Tips: Meditate whilst you’re making a cup of tea! Focus on the sound of the kettle boiling, how the water changes colour and the smell coming from your mug.
Spend time with your family and friends
As discussed earlier, part of self care is learning when to say no to people and to take some time for yourself. However, it’s also important to spend time with loved ones, as isolation can impact your mental wellbeing. But be mindful of who you surround yourself with.
You want to ensure your friends are bringing a positive energy and are adding value and love to your life. It’s very easy to fall into negative patterns and to continue giving your time to toxic people who don’t give back. Regularly check in with yourself and think about how you spend your time and who with. Be grateful and nurture relationships with the people who make you happy and let the negative people go.
Self Care Tips: Write a list of the ten people that make you the happiest and who enrich your life. Include people you see all the time and maybe some you have lost contact with. Then arrange times to catch up with each of them regularly throughout the year.
Take time away from work
Whilst technology has undoubtedly made our lives – both professional and personal – easier, it comes with its drawbacks. In a modern world where we are constantly connected, it can be hard to shut off, even after leaving the office.
For the increasing amount of people joining the gig economy and working for themselves, this balance is even harder to strike. Set clear boundaries with your managers and clients, so they don’t expect you to respond to emails at weekends. Working and looking at your screen late in the evening will disrupt your sleep. It’s important to set aside a few hours evening that are dedicated to screen free activities.
Self Care Tip: Download one of the may apps now on the market that limit your screen time. This isn’t only great for helping you switch off from work, but will also help you curb your social media habit (addiction?) too. We love AppDetox and OurPact .
Why is self control important?
Self control and self care often go hand in hand. Sometimes doing the best thing for our mental and physical health means saying no things. This could mean avoiding unhealthy (but admittedly fun) activities such as drinking alcohol. It’s also about saying no to social engagements. Whilst a healthy social life is key to human happiness, as always, you can have too much of a good thing.
As we grow older, and friendship group expands, our social calendars can also become stretched. How many times have you looked at your diary only to realise that every weekend for the next few weeks if booked up? Between birthday parties, brunches, baby showers and weddings, it’s very easy to say yes to everything and leave no time for yourself.
The phrase FOMO (for of missing out) is something most people are familiar with. However JOMO (joy if missing out) is the new trend! .Try and control your urges to say yes to everything and find joy in a simple night in with your own company.
How do you take care of yourself emotionally?
Our emotions are intrinsically linked to our health and well being, and self care is all about being kind to yourself.
Take a moment to think about how you treat yourself when something goes wrong, this could be failing to meet a goal/ target, or making a mistake at work. A lot of us tend to have a very negative internal voice and beat ourselves up when things go wrong. Developing self-compassion can help you be more kind to yourself.
Think of what you would say to a good friend if he or she was facing a difficult or stressful situation. Then, when you find yourself in this kind of situation, direct these compassionate responses towards yourself.
Even if you are not facing a stressful situation, a lot of people have a demanding internal voice. This means using words such as “should” “must” “need.” Try reframing the way you speak to yourself, so you give yourself options and choice – “I could do this” or “I’d like to do this because.”
What role does self care play in mental health?
Whilst self care is important for everybody, for those that struggle with their mental health, it is absolutely paramount.
A good self care routine can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even if you don’t generally have mental health issues, a lack of self care can result in these conditions manifesting.
If you have depression and or anxiety, self care can help you have a healthier perspective. When we are at breaking point taking a step back to look after ourselves should be a our first course of action.
Whilst a lot of self care is individual It’s important to be open to seeking professional help when needed. Speaking to a therapist is actually part of a lot of people’s self care routine. Dedicating time to speaking about your issues, or attending courses like CBT, is important for your wellbeing, if you feel its