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February 18, 2022

What is self care?

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“Self care” is a popular phrase you’ll have heard a lot recently, especially since the challenges of Covid. I use the term self care in my own website and socials as it’s a key concept in nutritional and lifestyle medicine, but what exactly is self care?

I often get asked this question by busy clients when they first come to see me. We brainstorm together to set up a nutrition plan for their exact health needs, then I speak about setting aside more time for self care practices. The thing is that a lot of people don’t actually know what self care is, and when you ask them how they take care of themselves, they go blank.

We’re living in a fast paced world where being busy is considered being successful. Taking proper care of ourselves has become hard. Eating healthy food, slowing down to eat and enjoy a meal is only the start of taking care of yourself.

So, what is self care?

Self care is doing whatever helps you relax. Whatever feels good for your peace of mind. For some that might be meditation or listening to relaxing music, for others it might be taking a lavender candlelit bath, or it could simply be curling up on the sofa under a cosy blanket and laughing at a funny movie.

Self care is also about slowing down enough to be mindful of your self talk, habits and feelings. If you don’t know what’s going on inside you when you reach for unhealthy foods, for example, you’ll have no opportunity to reset that feeling or thought. There’ll be no opportunity to choose more mindfully, more wisely.

Being on autopilot is the opposite of being mindful, and when you’re in autopilot you act without thinking, without feeling. Slowing down to notice what’s going on in your inner world and outer world is one of the greatest acts of self care.

10 Ways To Take Better Care of Yourself

  1. Cook a healthy meal for yourself, taking time to chop and prepare and eat mindfully. Notice how the food feels, smells, tastes. Eat slowly, enjoying every mouthful without any distractions.
  2. Stop and notice how you are feeling inside as often as you can. Take a few slow, deep breaths and simply feel. If you’re about to take a particular action, like reaching for sugary foods, stop to notice how you’re feeling, be honest with yourself. Are you trying to swallow uncomfortable feelings?
  3. Allow the uncomfortable feelings to surface. They are trying to tell you something! Your inner voice is crying out to be heard, not silenced though comfort eating, excess drinking or staying too busy. Transformation comes when we allow ourselves to truly take notice.
  4. Get barefoot and walk on the earth. The negative ions from the earth promote health and boost your mood. You get the same effect being by waterfalls, in forests and by the ocean.
  5. Call a friend to connect and share, taking time to actively listen as well as talk. Authentic connection and a feeling of community is high up on the list of practices in the Blue Zone areas of the world (places with above average health and longevity).
  6. Use essential oils to feel good. They highjack your neurotransmitters for an immediate mood boost! I adore smelling fresh roses as they transport me to a bliss state instantly. Essential oils are even more powerful as they’re concentrated. Choose the oils that you love and make you feel good. Use them in the bath, under the shower, diffuse them, or blend them into a body oil.
  7. Learn to meditate or use hypnotherapy audios to deeply relax and switch into your parasympathetic nervous system (your rest and digest mechanisms) where healing takes place.
  8. Treat yourself like you would a loved one on their birthday. Pamper yourself and give yourself gifts – cook a special meal for yourself, make a fresh vegetable juice, book yourself a massage or check-in to a spa for the day.
  9. Luxuriate in an epsom salt bath for a soothing experience and a good hit of magnesium, nature’s tranquilliser. Light the candles, add the essential oils – now you’re getting the idea!
  10. If you need to rest, rest! Get as much rest as you need as often as possible. There is always time to rest. You may have to say no to some things. Take notice of what serves you and what doesn’t.

Article by Jo Rowkins, Nutritional Therapist and lifestyle coach at Awakening Health.

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