When it comes to a self-care checklist, it’s great to look at one which meets our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs. At a time when mental health issues are on the rise it’s important that we start to incorporate our own self-care into our everyday routines. When building your own self-care checklist, the following ways will help in getting you started.
For some of us, eating healthily was encouraged from a young age. However, as a teenager and into adulthood, many of us may not of truly embraced healthy eating, although we understood why we should. Reaching for something sweet or indulgent is often an impulse when feeling sad or anxious, believing that instant fix this is what will make us feel better.
When we try to take note of the effects of what we eat, over time we begin to notice the energy building benefits from eating nourishing foods. Feeding ourselves is a source of self-care. Eating nutrient rich foods such as whole grains, vegetables, leafy green salads, high protein foods, pre and pro-biotic foods or supplements, which can have a positive effect on the gut and also allows our brain to heal.
Eating healthy should always come from an idea of nourishment and balance, not from restriction. I would never say “don’t eat that brownie”, because when we restrict ourselves it can create a hate relationship with our body and with food. For me I am sensitive to fructose and have IBS, which a few years ago made me so restrictive on what I ate. I eventually became so restrictive (for example I would never eat fruit!) which actually made my IBS worse and also resulted in never truly enjoying what I ate.
Now I look at things in moderation and because my relationship with food has changed my IBS is a lot more settled. I now look at food and instead of worrying about what I’m eating I think “Is this going to give me energy? Is this going to give me the nourishment I need right now?”. And yes, sometimes I need that brownie and I will eat it without guilt.
Stop thinking and start moving. No, I don’t mean you have to go do that sweaty spin class where all the seniors can out cycle you. Just move, it’s as simple as that. Any form of movement is a great way to show yourself that you care about you, just as much as you care about those closest to you. Physically moving our body produces endorphins that put simply make us feel happy.
In a world with anxiety and depression on the rise we all must be aware of this connection to improved mental health and movement. If we are always on our devices from when we wake up to just before we go to sleep, then we lose that our connection to our body. We are increasingly in our own heads instead of sensing how the body is feeling.
Yoga or walking outdoors are perfect examples of movement which creates such awareness. Our mind begins to slow, we notice the rhythm of our breath, the tension in the body we didn’t notice before, we look within and get to know exactly what we need right in this moment.
Slowing down as a self-care routine may seem contradictory to movement, however the two go hand in hand. Slowing down is a must for self-care and if you live in a fast past city, like I do in London, it is essential. For most of us today we are all about the go, tick this off, be this, achieve that, strive for that, but when do we really stop and look at what we have in the present? By slowing down we come to realise that life isn’t always about what we do for a career, or what we just bought with our hard-earned money. It’s about just being. We don’t live to work, we work to live and it’s time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. If your body is constantly in an adrenal pumping mode it will eventually come to a point where it crashes due to burnout.
By slowing down, we get to give ourselves time to heal and restore so that we can be at our best. Like self-care, slowing down isn’t giving up, it’s about thinking “I’m important. I need time to stop and enjoy all that I have worked hard for”.
We all have both feminine and masculine sides or Yin & Yang. It may be that you are constantly in a Yang state (masculine) and need to balance out by going inwards tuning into the yin state (feminine, slowing down state). Yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and any creative hobby such as singing, writing, journalling are really good because they allow us to turn inwards (yin), drawing our selves away from a constant doing state (yang), often a consequence of a busy lifestyle. This busy auto pilot is so common working in a bustling city and also in a society that has conditioned us to think we should always be working towards something.
Living overseas and going through a breakup has taught me even more about the importance of close relationships in my life. Self-care doesn’t always have to involve being on your own. Spending time with friends and family is so important to our wellbeing. Being human we seek human interaction and connection. Having lived overseas myself I understand the times feeling lonely, and when I feel this I look to spending time with my loved ones as it brings me back a sense of home and grounding.
Kindness is one of the most important aspects to self-care. Offering kindness to ourselves, in all aspects of life, is a nurturing practice. It’s easy for some of us to offer kindness to those we love, however when it comes to ourselves it’s not always easily done. Something my sister always taught me is that feeling guilt is a pointless emotion. It doesn’t serve you and it doesn’t serve others. If there comes a time when you have to set boundaries with people in your life, to stop yourself from feeling overwhelmed or constantly obliged, then offering kindness to yourself in such cases is necessary. If we are always obliging to others and build up expectations on ourselves to be constant pleasers to others, we will always feel drained and get to the point where we have nothing left to give.
Lastly, investing in a diary or using your calendar reminders on your phone is a must for your self-care routine. Scheduling in time for your self-care activities is important as you are more likely to actually do the activities if you have set aside the time specifically for them. Remember setting time a part for you is not selfish but a necessity to a healthy mind, body and soul.