What is self care? We’ve all heard of self care and our heads nod in agreement when we talk of its importance, but in truth, self care isn’t always easy.
As a concept it’s still a bit fluffy, and in practice many people feel it’s inaccessible or that they’re failing at it. What we all need to make self-care happen is a working definition and a broad toolkit from which to draw.
Over the next 14 days of this self care challenge we are going to get crystal clear on what it is and we’re going to build that toolkit together. Each day, use the prompt provided to start your self care journey – you may find it helpful to keep track of your progress in a journal.
Share how you’re getting on by using the hashtag #ITMselfcarechallenge and join in on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We’ll be starting on 1 January, but you can start at any time!
Before you begin the challenge, it might help to listen to our podcast interview with Suzy to find out how you can bring self care into your life.
Listen on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Spotify, Acast, Stitcher and most major podcast providers, or listen online below.
What is self care?
Let’s keep this super simple, self-care is nourishment for the head, the heart and the body. The shape that takes will differ from person to person and it will also vary for the individual, because our needs are ever changing too. Self care is health care and without our health, what do we have?
By health, we are referring to physical health, emotional health, energetic health, and mental health. If it’s ok to brush your teeth and hit the gym, it is equally ok to give yourself permission to stop, rest and top up your energy bank.
Today, take a look at your self care practices and make sure there is something in there for every aspect of your wellbeing: mind and body. Jot down what you currently do and think about any practices you would like to add.
We will be exploring many different ways of nourishing ourselves over the next two weeks so keep tuning in!
Some tips will use movement, some will be meditative in nature, others will harness the mind in constructive ways, and all are easily accessible in everyday life.
Getty Images/Julia Sudnitskaya
What’s your ‘WHY’ of self care?
If we want to create any change, first we need to get clear on why we want to embark on that course of action.
It’s your WHY that will galvanise you when temptation arises or life gets challenging. If nourishing your health is important to you, take a moment to reflect on the following questions.
This is the stuff that will help you be proactive and motivate you to last the distance to sustainable healthy habits.
Describe yourself when you are well-nourished and energetically topped up. What does this facilitate in your life? What does this allow you to do or be?
Describe yourself when you are depleted, empty or fatigued. How does this affect your life and the people in it?
Write out a few statements of why you personally want to commit to taking better care of yourself – for you and anyone your life touches.
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Getty Images/Linda Raymond
Manage your energy bank
Just as a car needs petrol to go, we need energy to sustain us through our days. It’s not only negative events that tax us, even things we aspire to like launching our own business, buying a house, getting married, having kids or even planning a holiday take energy.
Think of self-care as a way of keeping your energetic bank balance healthy. What tops you up? Factor in time to make these deposits in your energy bank.
Is there something you used to engage in that you can reclaim now? What do you find depleting? Think about your visual diet and the company you keep. If you can avoid it or minimise it, give yourself permission to say do so.
Be mindful of your energy bank balance and take mindful action before overwhelm hits.
Write a list of things you can do to top up your energetic bank balance.
Take the ‘micro moments’ approach
Self care needn’t involve large investments of time. Take the ‘micro moments of nourishment’ approach and dot them through your day.
Sixty seconds of being with the breath. Savouring the scent of your morning coffee. Repeating a mantra to cultivate how you want to feel. A few minutes to unwind at your desk. Ten minutes of soothing yoga or journaling before you go to bed.
The practices we’ll be exploring over the next two weeks are potent stress busters and will change the quality of your day, just like hitting the reboot button.
What micro moments did you make time for today? How did you feel afterwards? Make a note of it and think about any micro moments you could fit into your day.
Getty Images/Hoxton/Sam Edwards
Turn everyday actions into a ritual of nourishment
Rather than feeling like self care is just another thing to squeeze into your busy day, look for everyday actions you are already doing and consider how you can imbue them with a feeling of tenderness and care.
Become skilled in the art of mindfulness, curiosity, kindness, compassion and savouring and this will transform the lens through which you see the world.
Today, think about your everyday actions. What are you already doing that you can make more nourishing? The way you greet the day, the way in which you dress yourself, how you shower, how you eat your meals, the way you talk to yourself?
These are all things we can turn into a ritual of nourishment with awareness and choice.
Illustration by Abigail Read
No energy for self care? Try legs up the wall
Reclaim the lost art of relaxation with this potent yoga pose. Use it whenever you need greater clarity, calm or resolve. It is especially useful when we are sleep-deprived. Think of it as a great alternative to a nap with no pressure to actually drop off, but just as restorative.
Lie down and slide your legs up the wall or over the sofa. Make sure there is something soft beneath your head and you feel warm and comfy.
Close your eyes and give yourself permission to rest. Anchor your mind on the mantra: there is nothing required of me right now.
Be here for 10 breaths or 10 minutes. Try it out and let us know how you go!
So often guilt gets in the way of us engaging in self care, and it can be a pretty tenacious character!
Today, repeat a mantra to blow away the feeling that self-care is somehow indulgent or selfish.
We’ve all heard of the oxygen mask analogy (you have to put yours on first before tending to others) and we all get it, but generally we are not applying self care in life threatening scenarios and it still feels uncomfortable putting ourselves first in everyday life.
So use this mantra: It’s not me ‘first’, it’s me ‘as well’. It’s not about putting yourself first, it’s just making sure that your needs and your health get a look in too!
After all, the people that are in your care need you to keep giving and keep going, so dot your day with some ‘micro moments of nourishment’ and see those dividends ripple out beyond you.
Illustration by Abigail Read
Reboot with child’s pose
If you are feeling frazzled, stressed out, fatigued or your mind won’t stop whirring away, try out this tonic.
Child’s pose is a wonderful way to soothe your nervous system. Feel the sensation of earthing your brow against the floor, or if your head doesn’t comfortably touch the floor either make two fists or fold your hands and rest your forehead on your hands.
Soften your shoulders, relax your thighs, buttock and lower back and feel the sensation of breathing into the back of your body.
Be here for 10 breaths or a few minutes and feel how it’s like hitting the reboot button.
Can’t break out into a random child’s pose? If you’re at your desk, fold your hands and rest your head on them or sit up and with two gentle fists, gently press against your forehead. Soothing self care in an instant, whenever and wherever you are.
This is a ‘micro moment of nourishment’ and this is how we integrate it into daily life, a little here, a little there. Notice the difference this makes.
We often feel we don’t have time for self-care, but here are some ideas that blow that self-imposed barrier out of the water. These mood boosters can transform the quality of your day in an instant!
- Scent – use a scent you love to lift your mood. Spritz some room spray or lovingly apply some hand balm
- Standing tall – your posture has a significant impact on your energy levels and sense of personal power. Lift your heart, relax your shoulders, let the crown of your head snake its way skywards and feel energised!
- Take a few deep breaths – remember the mantra, ‘when you breathe better you feel better’
- Movement is a great natural antidepressant: Take some shoulder rolls, up, back and down and drop any physical tension you find.
- Listen to music you love
- Read or watch something uplifting
- Watch a YouTube cat video or anything that gets you giggling.
- Watch the moving cloudscape
- Wear a colour, item of clothing or piece of jewellery you love
- Think of three blessings in your life and why they happened
- Give yourself a break – put a ring around the next minute to just be still and enjoy some peace. Use the mantra: “The world can wait”.
Try them out and see how they work for you. We’d love to hear your mood boosters too!
Calm your mind and body with the prayer salute
We’ve all been there, the anxious mind that just won’t stop, the body that feels jittery and restless. Use this prayer salute yoga sequence to calm and soothe your body and mind.
Perfect during the day if you need to release tension or just before bed to disentangle yourself from the busyness of your day.
Feel how this sequence is like a moving meditation and immerse yourself in the sensation of moving, led by your breath.
Getty Images/Teo Lazarev
Meet your ‘inner elder’
At the heart of self care lies the ability to extend love, kindness and compassion to ourselves. If you find this hard, you are not alone. How do we do it?! Move over inner critic, it’s time to meet your inner elder!
Your inner elder can be that future white haired version of you, smiling back on you right now, or if you prefer you can create an internalised version of an elder dear to you, like a grandparent.
While the inner critic might still be leaping about, seek out the wisdom of you inner elder, they are just waiting to be heard: ‘pet, it’s going to be ok!’ Or ‘Of course you feel the way you do, anyone would’.
Just being aware of the concept might allow you to hear your inner elder’s voice better – offering a word of consolation and reminding you of ways you have coped before. An image I like to use here is passing the mic to my inner elder.
There can be other voices of doubt and fear but we can choose to direct our attention to the thoughts that spur us on. When we tune in to that compassionate voice great things truly blossom and we move closer to being the kind of people we aspire to be.
Visualise your inner elder today. Who are they? What do they look like? What advice would you like to hear?
Fire your arrow of intent!
At this time of year we are naturally turning our attention to health, wellbeing and healthy lifestyle choices. Rather than this being just something we think about, get your body involved!
If you want to set an intention, literally breathe life into it by striking a warrior pose. This shape will galvanise you into action by fine tuning your resolve and focus, helping you achieve your goals.
Breathe in, straighten your legs and raise your arms overhead.
Breathe out, bend your front knee, and lower your arms to shoulder height. Gaze out over your front finger tips and fire your arrow of intent.
Feel your inner strength. Feel your firm resolve. Nothing will blow you off course!
What’s gone well?
Maybe you’ve created some New Year’s resolutions, and just about everyone has a ‘to do’ list; how about a ‘what went well’ list or simply ‘what got done’!
Too often we fritter away the energy available to us in acknowledging our achievements when we leap straight onto the next thing that needs doing or worse, when we get stuck ruminating on those less than successful moments.
Reflect on what’s gone well to focus your mind on something positive. Take the opportunity to sift through your day and see all those countless tasks you’ve ploughed through, and let your mind linger on something that went well today.
Take a look at the action you’ve taken on this self care challenge over the last two weeks and give yourself a pat on the back.
If you feel inspired, you can look a bit deeper and think about how far you’ve come and the ways you’ve grown in the last year. Pause to reflect and feel how this lifts your spirits and bolsters your feeling of self-worth and personal power.
Think along the lines of:
- What events have unfolded recently and how did you navigate them?
- What have you learnt about yourself or about the world in general?
- How have you grown?
- What skills or strengths have you drawn on?
Let your mind sift over the big and the small stuff – they’ll accumulate and fill you with light and life. Reflecting on your achievements will empower you with insight into your unique skills and abilities, boosting your sense of agency and wellbeing. Remember to use the mantra: I appreciate me!
Build your self care toolkit
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of self care inspiration! If you want to really unlock the power of self-care then forming your own list of self care primer statements is the way to go.
Spend some time writing out your commitments in the form of ‘If I am feeling X, then I will Y’. These are powerful ways of priming your brain for more life-giving choices.
The more time you spend with this, the stronger your self care muscle becomes and the greater the dividends.
For more ideas on how you can nourish yourself, dip into my book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ or tune in on Instagram for my #MondayMicroMoment session where we build the self care habit together!
About Suzy Reading
Suzy is a mother of two, a chartered psychologist, yoga teacher, and health coach.
She specialises in self care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges.
Suzy is a contributing editor for Psychologies Magazine, the psychology expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics and is a founding member of the ‘Nourish’ app. She figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in hills of Hertfordshire, UK.
Her second book ‘Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness & Self-Care for Children and Parents‘ will be out on 4 April 2019, shortly followed by The Little Book of Self Care on 2 July 2019.
The Self-Care Revolution by Suzy Reading was published by Aster on 28 December, £12.99 (octopusbooks.co.uk).
Illustration credit: Abigail Read
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