There's been a long-held belief that people are worthy of respect when they put others before themselves. People have often evaluated their own worth (and the degree to which they deserve value in society) by their ability to contribute and place the needs of others before themselves.
Along with this belief is the idea that self-care is self-indulgent. However, we can only sustain physical health and emotional health when self-care is a priority. (This is true for both women and men, despite some old-fashioned gender stereotypes!) When your needs are met, and self-care is a non-negotiable priority, you can come to the world as the best version of yourself; fully nourished and ready to nourish those around you.
In fact, giving yourself permission to take care of yourself is probably the best thing you can do for the people in your life. Not only will you be happier and healthier, but those around you will be, too.
1. Feed yourself the best foods when possible.
Often when we are busy fulfilling our responsibilities, part of the way we make more time is to neglect our own dietary needs. Instead of fully nourishing ourselves, we rely on packaged, microwavable or takeout foods, which lack nutrients and often have an abundance of substances that are detrimental to our health.
Decide to make food a priority for yourself; even for just a short while. Chances are, you’ll feel better at the end of that process, with increased energy and clarity. You can start slowly here, evaluate where you are now, and make plans for small steps. As you learn new strategies for sustaining healthy eating as a regular part of your life, you'll make more changes and your progress will be exponential.
2. Move everyday.
Our bodies are made for movement. Find time to move daily and to exercise three days a week. Daily movement could be in the form of a walk or gentle yoga. Your three-times-a-week exercise could take whatever form resonates with you most: the gym for cardio, core work and resistance training, swimming, running or power yoga.
3. Make sleep a priority.
For a myriad of reasons, our society is becoming increasingly sleep-deprived. Sleep is significant in our body’s ability to be well. While sleeping, we repair damaged tissues and organs, we metabolize hormones our body no longer needs, and our brains use this time to organize our thoughts and experiences, and to make permanent neurological links (memories) for the learning we experienced that day.
4. Develop a breathing & meditation practice.
When we breathe fully, using our diaphragm, the parasympathetic nervous system becomes engaged. This is the rest and relax system of the body, the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, which engages during times of crisis or arousal, and which for many people is on much of the time. Allowing the body and mind to believe that all is okay and that it can rest and relax comes with breathing deeply and provides an opportunity for significant repair to the body. Meditation enhances this process further as it allows the brain to change its activity and release calming neurotransmitters.
5. If possible, do something you really enjoy daily.
If that isn’t sustainable, try weekly, or as often as you can. Take a bath with some Epsom salts and essential oil, write in your journal, buy yourself some flowers. Whatever activity you choose to do, don’t feel guilty about taking the time to do it; remember it’s feeding your soul and increasing your joy.
6. Tweak your supplement routine.
Consider speaking to a healthcare professional such as a nutritionist or naturopath to determine if there are supplements that would enhance your overall health. Many people are lacking in Vitamin D3, iron, digestive enzymes, probiotics, omega-3 or other key nutrients. Using specific foods or supplements will enhance your feeling of wellness and energy.
7. Get outside.
Time in nature is extremely restorative. Visually feasting on the beauty and wonder of nature, placing our feet on the earth, our body in water, and breathing in fresh air is a great act of kindness towards out bodies and minds. If you find time outside healing and pleasurable, make time for it as often as possible.
8. Make time to be alone.
Just as a sense of community is paramount for people, so too is time alone. Often there are feelings of guilt associated with taking time alone, but it is essential for everyone, particularly people who are introverts. Time alone allows people to process their thoughts and experiences and to rejuvenate.
9. Develop a gratitude practice.
Begin your morning with an affirmation, something that builds resiliency in your mind and heart. Perhaps you have a meeting or family responsibility that day that will require some extra effort from you; build your affirmation around the idea that you'll be successful in that endeavor. For example, “My mind and heart dissolve all fear, doubt and anxiety in me now, I am magnetic to my highest purpose and move through my day with ease and grace.”
Beginning your affirmation with an intention is also very powerful. Then, end your day with gratitude. Write down three things you are grateful about from the day, and reflect on why they were meaningful to you.
Think about what brought you joy or pleasure, what did you appreciate in someone or something. Doing this regularly will change your perceptions of your life, the people in it and your responsibilities.