You remember the movie A Christmas Story right!? TBS plays it for 24 hours straight every Christmas. It’s a must watch in our house. You know, the one with Ralphie and the Red Ryder bee-bee gun.
You probably remember that, but do you remember Ralphie’s mom??? You know, the disheveled but loving homemaker who the narrator even says “hadn’t sat down to a hot meal in his memory.” She gave and gave and gave and never asked anything in return.
You don’t think twice about it in the movie, but traditional gender roles in America have promoted a society where you don’t get a break! That mentality has been passed down from generation to generation since forever! As the years have gone by, you’ve gotten more busy and more busy, you’ve recruited the your spouse or partner to help with handling this commitment and that commitment. God forbid there’s more than one kid and they each have different commitments! Plus your own commitments, like work, getting to the gym, running errands, paying bills and the next thing you know, there’s literally no time at all whatsoever left to yourself. You’ve gotten to a place where you are merely existing on this planet and not living.
You’ve allowed yourself to get so “busy” that you are forgetting to take care of yourself! You eat fast food more than real, whole food. You load up on caffeine all day because you don’t get enough sleep. You are staring at blue screens more hours of the day than you aren’t. You’re play the comparison game both in real life and via social media. You are burning the candle at both ends running around to all of the activities you’ve packed into each day. You, like Ralphie’s mom, do for everyone else and leave yourself to last… or not at all.
Enter SELF CARE. Self care is the prioritization of your physical, emotional and spiritual well- being. It’s not an excuse to be selfish. It’s literally taking time back for YOURSELF so that you can create balance in your life. You’ve probably been hearing more and more about this topic recently because it’s gaining popularity. Forbes, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, LifeHacker and countless other sites have all written articles about self care over the last few years.
Self Care is often referred to as “recharging your batteries” or “filling your cup” and these monikers are perfectly placed because you can’t expect to give fully to others from a dying battery or quarter filled cup. Every activity you do in a day drains your battery and empties your cup. Taking care of yourself and employing self care every day, every week and every month ensures that your batteries are always charged and your cup is always full.
Your self care should fall into the physical, emotional and spiritual categories as well so that you are staying well rounded and creating balance.
Physical self care is often the easiest because it is the most obvious. These are things you can add into your daily, weekly or even monthly schedule to help destress, refocus and renew.
- Massage/ Spa Treatments– This is the most widely recognized form of self care most people indulge in, but it doesn’t have to be an indulgence. Schedule a treatment weekly to really reap the best results and to keep yourself relaxed and rejuvenated regularly. Sit in a mud bath, do a float tank, get a deep tissue or hot stone massage or all of the above if you can! Spa treatments help release tension and toxins from the body and will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to crush life.
- Dry Brushing– This is a simple, quick and massively beneficial practice everyone should be taking advantage of. Dry brushing not only exfoliates the skin, unclogs pores and even reduces the appearance of cellulite, but it also stimulates the body’s lymphatic system which helps remove toxins from the body. It only takes a few minutes once you’ve mastered the technique and can be an amazing addition to your morning routine (since you should shower directly after brushing). Increased lymphatic flow has been shown to increase immune system function as well!
- Stretch– mobility and flexibility training has been proven to lessen the likelihood of injury in a fitness program, however even if you aren’t a fitness fanatic, regular stretching is massively beneficial. Regular stretching improves posture, increases energy, relaxing the mind and relieves muscle tension. You can see all of these improvements by incorporating just 10 minutes of stretching 2-3 times per week.
- Clean Up Your Diet– The nutrient density of your daily diet can play a huge role in overall health and wellbeing. Increased vitamin, mineral and antioxidant intake reduces risk for development of chronic disease, increases energy, helps hair, skin and nails look better, helps improve sleep quality and aids in recovery from exercise. Increasing nutrient density is easy to do as well. If you currently eat zero vegetables in a day, start tomorrow by having one serving and increase your servings by 1 each week until you’re eating 2 cups of varied vegetables with each meal of the day. The more variety, the better!
- Drink More Water– Hydration is an often overlooked nutritional strategy that will help you feel more energized and awake. Signs of dehydration include headache, lack of energy and alertness, difficulty passing bowel movements, irritability, and dark colored urine. Increasing water intake will not only remove those symptoms, but also improve nutrient absorption too!
- Diffuse Essential Oils– Good quality essential oils can improve mood, provide relaxation, help you breathe more easily during times of congestion, help you fall asleep more quickly, improve cognitive function and even provide drug free pain relief and and toxin free scents to your home/ office
The emotional are oftentimes more abstract, but are most often more important than anything you can do for yourself physically.
- Practice gratitude– you can do this by starting a gratitude journal where you write 3-5 things you’re grateful for each and every morning when you wake up. Just make sure you’re thinking outside the box and aren’t just being grateful for the same 3-5 things each day.
- Engage in self love– give yourself a compliment every single day, write yourself a love note telling yourself all the things you love about yourself, give someone a hug (this will help each of you), listen to your body and begin connecting with it on a much deeper level. If you don’t truly love yourself how can you love others?
- Banish negativity– We all have our own personal inner monologue that’s constantly going on inside our own head, but if that monologue is full of negativity it’s going to be impacting your health and preventing you from reaching your goals. Banish those negative thoughts by reframing your thinking to tell yourself the truth of the situation rather than the story you are choosing to believe about the situation. Start with the facts and repeat those facts to yourself until the truth is what you see, not a smokescreen of what you “think” is happening.
- Look into the future– Visualize what you want your life to look like a year from today. Not just the hope and the prayer next year, but the deep down, real, place you want to be on this day next year. Take time to really use your entire being to lay out the full picture of what you want then go to your calendar and map out an action driven timeline with which to make that visual become your reality.
Spiritual self care may seem woo woo to you, but when it comes to grounding yourself, finding your true passions and allowing yourself to really just bathe in the relaxation, these methods of self care can’t be beat.
- Journaling– journaling is a fantastic way to get a more clear picture of where you are and where you want to go. Our brains can become far too cluttered, so getting that clutter out onto paper is a great way to clear your mind and focus your thoughts. Journaling evokes mindfulness and allows you to take a step back and see the bigger picture and also calls attention to how past frustrations could be holding you back. Journaling can also help you achieve your goals. You can dream inside your own head all you want, but it’s usually not until those dreams are spoken out loud or written down that they truly become a goal. Once written down, you can then create a clear plan to action that will take you there. Journaling has been shown to increase cognitive function, boost memory and once created as a daily habit, strengthens your self discipline. If you’ve never journaled before, I highly recommend picking up a 5 Minute Journal to get you started. As the title suggests, it literally takes 5 minutes each morning and night to fill out!
- Meditation– this is truly an incredible way to achieve better self- awareness, reduce stress, lengthen attention span and promote emotional health. Find a quiet place where no one can bother you, sit or lay down, and just clear your mind. If you find your mind wandering to your to- do list or yesterday’s workout or the event you have coming up, just refocus on clearing your mind and and just be present with yourself. The more you practice meditation the easier it will become to get into and stay in that zone of relaxation.
- Nature Walks– getting outside and walking in nature has been shown to be highly beneficial for overall health. From mood elevation to the benefits of breathing in fresh air and taking in valuable vitamin D from the sun, getting out into nature is yet another form of meditation. Allowing yourself to be one with the nature around you can provide clarity, relaxation, stress relief and will allow you to become energized.
- Mindful Breathing– being mindful of your breath and using the full power of your diaphragm is a powerful method of lowering stress and anxiety as well as retraining your breathing in general. Many people merely shallow breathe and don’t ever use the full capacity of their entire lung. Learning how to take big heaping belly breaths is energizing and refreshing. When feeling stressed or anxious you can use mindful breathing to allow you to release those stresses and anxiety triggers out of your body with each exhalation you take. This will allow you to calm yourself naturally and in any given situation.
By no means is this an all encompassing list of self care techniques, however these are a great jumping off point for you to begin taking time back for yourself so that you can more regularly fill your cup and recharge your batteries.
Whether your goals are performance driven, seeking better aesthetics or just looking to be happier and healthier for life, I highly recommend implementing some methods of self care on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Don’t be like Ralphie’s mom and leave yourself to last. You will reach your goals more quickly and you will be healthier and happier as a result!