As degrees of lockdown appears to be the norm for the foreseeable future, it’s more important than ever that we invest in our well-being and self-care.
Personally, I’m calling my 2020 upgrade – Self-Care 2.0. Over the years I’ve discovered practices that work for me. I constantly seek to tweak and refine them, so I have a menu of options to nourish my mind, body and spirit. This year, I’ve given them a reboot. In this, the first of a two-part blog, I’m sharing ways to enable you to take better care of your well-being. However, I have to start by putting my hand up and acknowledging that this is an aspect of my life where I have struggled.
Like many people, a cocktail of people-pleasing tendencies, a multitude of responsibilities, the habit of busyness and a reluctance to ‘switch-off,’ meant that my self-care was fairly low on my agenda, if it appeared on it at all. I associated ‘me-time’ with selfishness and I’d feel guilty if I did take a time-out to rest and resource myself. But then in 2017 cancer gate-crashed my life and it was a wake-up call.
Turning 50 this summer was another reminder of the passing of time. Birthday’s ending with zero always prompt me to reassess what’s truly important. I’ve lived five decades in my body and I want it to continue to be my ally for a few more. Witnessing my Dad’s brave journey with cancer and his passing this autumn, was also a tangible reminder that my health is truly my wealth.
Some people begin to focus on their wellness as a way to manage stress. For others, it’s an investment in their present and future physical and mental well-being. Whatever your route into the wellness space, your journey starts by making your health and well-being is a priority.
Until recently I didn’t consider quality sleep as part of my self-care routine; now it’s top of my list. We know that stress can wreak havoc on our sleep and poor quality sleep hinders us in so many ways. I’ve a few do’s and many don’ts when it comes to giving myself the best chance of a restorative night’s sleep.
My bedroom has always been a TV-free zone and my phone and iPad are also banned. Simply put, I value my sleep more than consuming the latest news, social media updates or email. Since I was a child, I’ve always read in bed and this remains part of my wind-down routine.
I try to avoid eating after 7.30pm and not drinking after 8pm. I won’t drink any caffeine after 4pm. When I feel I might need something extra to help me drift off, I’ll take a bath, do some gentle yoga, or listen to a guided mediation or soothing music. When it comes to night-time routines, so often we have unconscious habits that don’t serve us. As with most aspects of self-care it’s about purposefully adjusting some of those habits and noticing the difference.
If sleep brings me rest and rejuvenation, nutrition adds a sense of vitality. I know that just because something tastes good, doesn’t mean it’s good for me. I’m no nutritionist and if you follow my Instagram you will know I like my food (baking is my weakness!) but I am aware of what nourishes me and what depletes me.
Knowing that stress, coffee, processed foods creates acid in the body, I try to alkalise my diet as much as possible. I call this ‘green in.’ A few months ago, I spoke with Nichola Flood on my podcast. Known as the Queen of Health, (www.thequeenofhealth.ie) Nichola shared many nutritional tips and insights. She also has some great smoothie recipes. I make her green mojito 3 or 4 times a week. I love them and they love me. That sense of vitality kicks in almost immediately, as if my body is screaming thank you. Throughout the year, but particularly during the winter months, I take wheatgrass shots and supplements to strengthen my immune system. Vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and echinacea are always in my cabinet.
Consuming greens feeds my body, surrounding myself with green fuels my soul. My Instagram and Twitter followers know that one of my most used hashtags is #natureismychurch. Living in Dublin and with Covid travel restrictions, my ability to spend time in nature has been curtailed in 2020. I missed the wild scenery of Kerry this summer and our regular Sunday morning beach walks have been a rarity.
I breathe more deeply when enveloped in nature. The fresh air soothes me. The wide landscapes stir my soul reminding me that we are all part of a bigger picture, a higher consciousness. Thankfully we have a garden and a park close by, but when I can’t be in nature, I’ll try to bring nature to me, even if that is just having a few flowers in the house.
With the installation of my new operating system Self-Care 2.0, I made the personal commitment to reduce my screen time by 50%. I deleted the games from my phone that had become an easy distraction for idle hands. I now disable the email function on my phone when I close my laptop at the end of the working day. Whilst there was some cold turkey, I now feel the benefits. My mind is clearer and my eyes are not as tired.
I’ve spoken about controlling exposure to news and social media many times. It’s a practice central to my well-being and even my sanity. ‘News’ is a commodity and like all commodities, we have to figure out where the line is between staying informed and being overwhelmed. Social media platforms are fantastic for staying connected especially in these times of social distancing, but just as I won’t fuel my body with other people’s rubbish, I apply the same logic when it comes to feeding my mind and spirit.
I laughed when I read that Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of many books including ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ who also turned 50 recently, said that at age 40 she learned how to say no, and at 50, she now gets pleasure from saying no. Bring that on! Of course, saying yes to our self-care often means saying no to other people and their requests on our time and energy.
If I’m stressed, or running on empty, saying yes to a request, when I really want to say no, means that I’m slipping closer to burnout, sinking deeper into martyrdom and further stoking my frustration and general irritability. Like all self-care routines, saying no takes practice. It’s not about being difficult or selfish, it’s about valuing yourself and your well-being.
In part two of this article, I’ll share 5 more self-care strategies, more ways for you to take even better care of you. World-class self-care starts with an intention, a promise you make to value and prioritise all aspects of your well-being. So, let me close with a question – what can you do right now to feel more soothed or more empowered?
If you like this post then check out this post titled How to easier on yourself.
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