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December 13, 2021

Forget New Year Resolutions, Choose Self Care Instead

As we come to the end of 2021, after a crazy couple of years of the pandemic, it’s the perfect time to reflect on how we can take better care of ourselves. I’m not one for new year resolutions generally, as they put pressure on us and are usually not for the longterm, but fads. That’s why most people start each new year with the same resolutions they had last year! The changes they make might last for January, but do not stick after that… sound familiar?

So, what’s the best way to make changes in the new year that we can actually stick to? The answer is SELF CARE!!

It’s not selfish to take care of yourself

Shifting our mindset to one of self care, makes us feel good. Self care for some might look like drinking less alcohol and eating more green vegetables, for another it might be getting to bed early and walking in nature, and for others it might be learning to de-stress by turning off devices and connecting with loved ones.

In my nutrition and lifestyle consulting practice, I help my clients find better ways to take care of themselves. Women in particular often put their own needs last, as they are busy putting everyone else’s needs first. There’s a reason why on aeroplanes we are told to put our own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.

Make 2022 your self care year

I invite you to spend some time reflecting on ways you can take better care of yourself, without putting pressure on yourself. You might need to lose weight or kick the booze, but instead of focusing solely on those needs and goals, shift your mindset to one that allows you to feel nurtured and supported. Taking care of yourself should feel good, not stressful or forced. If you need to lose weight, you may think about how you can take care of yourself by cooking yourself a nourishing meal, or investing in some healthy new cookbooks. If your aim is to drink less, you might focus on beautiful ways you can wind down in the evenings such as a lavender and Epsom salt bath, or discovering new herbal teas instead… the shift is in your mindset. Whatever your health goal, shifting to a self care mindset feels comfortable, easy and doable, rather than restrictive. Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?”

10 ways to take better care of yourself

  1. Improve your sleep hygiene. This might seem obvious but it’s one of the best ways to make yourself feel good. Broken nights sleep are extremely damaging to health. Hormonal balance, immune function and weight regulation are all affected when we don’t get the sleep we need. Your weight loss efforts, for example, may be being hindered, not by what you’re eating, but by your lack of quality sleep. Same goes for excess alcohol consumption. Alcohol upsets your sleep which makes you feel more anxious making you drink again to stop the anxiety. Getting a good night’s sleep can take you out of that cycle.
  2. Take regular Epsom salt baths. The magnesium in the salts is absorbed through your skin as you soak in the tub. Magnesium is needed for over 300 biochemical pathways in the body, so when you top up your levels you start feeling much better. It is known as “nature’s tranquilliser” for good reason, as it supports the nervous system and regulates the HPA-Axis (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis, i.e. the conversation between the brain and the stress hormones). When we’re too stressed for too long, the body struggles to down-regulate this pathway – a bit like the thermostat in a heating system losing its ability to turn off the boiler even though the room is hot. Add some candles and essential oils to your bathing experience and take your self care to a whole new level.
  3. Eat foods your body needs. Your body wants quality protein, healthy fats and vegetables. Taking time to eat natural, non-starchy, unprocessed foods is an act of great self care. Make shopping for, preparing and cooking your meal an act of meditation, taking the time to honour yourself as you do so. Slow down, eat mindfully and see what happens. Unhealthy eating comes from a place of being in autopilot. Get mindful and see how things change.
  4. Breathe! The quickest and most effective way to de-stress is to take long, slow breaths. Your body comes out of stress response as soon as you do so, as it’s the opposite of the flight or flight state where breathing becomes fast and shallow. The parasympathetic part of the nervous system is switched on immediately during deep breathing. Getting into the parasympathetic state regularly is the key to good health and longevity. Most people are stuck in the sympathetic state of fight and flight and struggle to come out of it. Breath work can be really simple – breathe in slowly and out fully for the count of 6 on each breath. Do this throughout the day wherever you are.
  5. Make essential oils part of your day. Pure essential oils not only smell wonderful, they enhance your health. Lavender is relaxing, rosemary helps with mental focus and neroli creates a feel-good mood. I use a diffuser in my home and work space all day, every day to purify the air, support my health and make my home feel like a spa. The olfactory nerve is part of the brain so smelling wonderful oils is a pleasant and very effective way to influence your neurotransmitters. Diffuse them, use a few drops in the bath or shower or add to body care products. Find the oils you love that make you feel good.
  6. Get into Nature. We spent millions of years evolving outside. We are simply not supposed to sit in buildings all day, every day! Getting into nature helps us de-stress and is beneficial to our nervous system, immune system and state of mind. Even in the city, you can find a park and get barefoot on the grass. Weekend trips to the coast or the forest can make us feel rejuvenated ready for a new week ahead.
  7. Turn off your device. Hours each day can be wasted scrolling through social media. Give yourself a digital detox and notice how much richer your life becomes. Look up from your screen, connect with your loved ones, or allow yourself to be bored and start daydreaming again! Too much device time, especially upsets our circadian rhythm by sending too much blue light to our retinas, decreasing melatonin and increasing cortisol – the opposite of what your body needs to relax.
  8. Invest in your health. Taking care of yourself is not a luxury, it’s a priority. Forget that new handbag, or pair of shoes, invest instead in yourself. Join a yoga class, buy the best food you can afford, sign up to health program for your needs, or find a therapist to work privately with. You deserve it.

Get the support you need

It’s not always easy to change your habits for the better. You may need support and guidance on your self care path. This is especially true if you’re suffering from a particular health issue. Getting the support you need can help you stay on track, keep you motivated and accountable. In my nutritional therapy practice for example, I often get clients to undergo a functional medicine test that looks at their hormonal status and stress response. Based on the results, a programme can then be tailored to the client’s specific needs. I see many clients with a disordered stress response, so breathing exercises and magnesium baths become their priority. Sometimes results show that a woman’s oestrogen is being metabolised down a potentially carcinogenic pathway, and her priority would be to eat more cruciferous vegetables containing indole-3-carbinol, and to focus on a hormone-supporting diet and lifestyle.

Finding a professional to help you get targeted support gives much better results than going it alone. A practitioner can help you figure out where your own priorities lie, and provide the knowledge to support your health journey. Make 2022 your year of health and self care.

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