Self care really does go hand in hand with self love - the inherent knowing that you are perfect and enough exactly as you are. To practice self care is to put your love for you at the forefront of your mind in a way that also respects your daily tasks and lifestyle. To put your self care last is to disrespect your needs and to not express love to yourself, even if it is not a conscious or deliberate disregard.
[while this is a little different to our normal posts about exercise, performance and striving for a result, it is all interrelated. Think of self care like the ground the staircase to success is built on - if that ground becomes unstable and forms cracks, there is only so long before that staircase comes undone..]
What is self care?
If we scan social media, self care is
A day at the beach;
An afternoon on the couch with a season of Will & Grace;
Spending hours being pampered at the local beauty salon;
Going for a long walk in a rainforest;
Splurging on new clothes/shoes/activewear; or
An hour of yoga & meditation that leaves you feeling completely blissed out.
While it very well may be one or all of those things for you, realistically, time is going to get in the way of ALL of those practices at some point in time.. It’s inevitable. Our lifestyles are so busy (ugh!) that most of us wish we had an extra couple of hours in the day for productivity. An important task for all of us in this crazy, busy modern world is to bring to the forefront of our thinking the small, daily things we can do to keep ourselves functioning at a high level.
Defining self care practices for you and your every day life is an important part of establishing your personal boundaries and setting yourself up for greater success.
SELF CARE is the practice of giving back to you in whatever way you inherently need.
SELF CARE is doing something that fills your cup back up, to hopefully put in overflow, so then you can continue giving to others from the overflow.
SELF CARE takes as little time as 10 seconds (2 deep breathes) or as long as 3 days, if that’s what you need. It is something that fits your day and your lifestyle, and resets your system to optimal function.
What are the benefits of self care?
There is some genuine backing from research as to why SC is so important for us!
Hormone Regulation: Self care typically involves an activity for relaxation and recharging. As a whole, our society operates at this heightened and stressed state for far longer than it should. Our cortisol (stress hormone) is meant to peak around 8-9am and begin dropping off again by 4pm, where melatonin (hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness) begins to rise, readying us for a peak and bed time of 8:30-9pm. However, because of our constant contactable nature and high stress until late at night, our hormone cycles begin to deregulate.
Training Rest & Digest: Stress is a representation of our sympathetic, ‘Fight or Flight’ nervous system, which we are not meant to operate at for long periods. Going back to our cave man and primal nature, fight or flight was needed for maybe 30 seconds at a time to either, a) chase prey or b) run away from predators until we find a safe haven, after which time our parasympathetic system kicks back in and we can ‘Rest and Digest’.
By having small moments of calm or self care in our day, we stop wiring ourselves for constant fight or flight responses and can rest, digest and absorb information, nutrients or simply recover. If you’re someone who struggles to switch their brain off before bed, a few days of small blocks of calm will improve your ability to chill out for bedtime. It’s like reminding it what that ‘calmness’ thing is all about.
Mindfulness: Self care, because of its quiet nature, embraces mindfulness. Mindfulness when eating improves digestion; mindfulness in exercise can bring you to a better awareness of your movement patterns; and mindfulness in nature or your environment (granted it isn’t a nightclub) can help to lower cortisol and improve parasympathetic function, as we talked about before.
5 WAYS TO GET MORE OF IT IN YOUR DAY
These 5 ways also come with a way to talk yourself into accepting it as a necessary part of your day.
Coffee or Tea Time - Take the time to drink it out of a ceramic mug & leave your phone upside down on the table, or back in the office.
Just do it - Caffeine takes 30 minutes to start having an impact on our system, so by taking the time out to relax, breathe and enjoy the drink without distraction, you can reboot your parasympathetic. I sometimes double this with my reflection diary. By the time you’re cup is empty, the caffeine will be ready to work its magic on your brain.
Calm your parasympathetic - highlight 10mins in your day to stop, plug in some Binaural Beats, close your eyes & embrace it.
I recommend getting the Spotify App and finding a tune that suits your taste. These work to stimulate your brain with two different frequencies, which encourages your system to function at the frequency difference (i.e. 205Hz & 200Hz, leaving you at 5Hz, or something similarly sciencey.)
Just do it - All of those times during the day that you stop and whinge how tired you are probably add up to upwards of 40mins.. Imagine if the first time you registered you need a breather, you grabbed your phone, headphones, a pillow or jumper and found a quiet corner (in the car or under the desk will work) and took 10mins. YOU JUST WON YOURSELF ANOTHER 30MINS IN YOUR DAY!
Cook Dinner from Scratch. The busiest days that lead to us reaching for Uber Eats are generally the ones that need that 10mins of pausing and resetting. Have the self control to go home, stick some salmon and veggies in the oven (plz put a timer on cause charcoal isn’t tasty..), take a hot shower and enjoy your home cooked dinner on crockery.
Just do it. You deserve to eat well and enjoy a meal made with love.
Doing the dishes vs using the dishwasher. I don’t know about anyone else, but for me growing up, doing the dishes was a part of our routine. After dinner a parent and one of us kids would grumble our way into the kitchen, fill the sink and scrub away.
Just do it. Think of the environment if you really need talking into…
Read a book before bed.
Just do it. Not only will you be improving your comprehension skills, learning something new or igniting the creative part of your brain, you will be removing the overstimulating blue screen from your bedtime routine and letting your parasympathic kick in properly to ensure a good night’s rest.
But don’t take my word for it…
I asked some boss-babes in my network to reflect on what self-care means to them and how they include it in their week for a real life example of what is realistic! Enjoy xx
Alesha Pimm (me) - Sports Scientist, Coach at Building Elite
Each day I spend 10 minutes outdoors, preferably in the sun, I aim to cook my lunch from scratch and I eat one meal away from technology. Three little things that help me create space from the crazy. My weekly (sometimes fortnightly if other commitments come up) ritual is a Sunday beach trip where I swim, read a book and enjoy my coffee, and I spend as long as I feel necessary enjoying the peacefulness.
Monique Dolman - Coach at Younique Coaching, Professional Dancer
”I really value and enjoy helping other people so I often do neglect my self care because I am generally happy helping. However I know long term my value of self care is higher and I need to align with that. What had been working for me lately; no plans or commitments on Sunday’s especially working or training. When I am not racing between gyms, dance rehearsals, dance gigs and teaching I actually enjoying the space and try to stop to do so. Instead of filling it with other chores or plans etc. It might not seem like much but this has really helped me create more space and time to see how I feel. I feel more connected to myself and my partner as well.”
Sally Baumann - Sports Dietitian & Head of Dietetics at Inspire Health Services
”I make sure to plan my next day the night before and outline how I’m going to fuel well and integrate some self care, whether that be meditation, training or catching up with friends. Setting your intention helps with execution.”
Jess Boyd - Massage Therapist
”Self care has been a major focus in my life for the past 12 months and is something I value everyday now. At the beginning of the year I wrote a list of the things I love doing the most and that fill me up the most and I just started doing at least one of those things everyday. At first it was small things like indulge in a rom-com book over self development book and drink more water, singing in the car after work and go outside more and see the sun. Nowadays, these things are everyday living to me and I’m looking at bigger things to change, with the most recent being decreasing and compacting my work day and reflecting and writing more. Not everyday is perfect, but there is perfect in everyday by doing one or more of the things that fill me up and make me a better, happier person.”
Chantal Coleman - Director at Ritual HQ
”Self care is like the oxygen mask in an airplane. You CANNOT be the best version of yourself for others or for your children if you don’t take care of yourself first. For me, as a mother to an impressionable daughter and a future partner to someone, role modeling self care teaches my children that it is ok to take care of themselves. It is ok to want to live a beautiful, healthy life. My self care involves eating well- especially Monday to Friday. Well balanced food following principals of whole food, quality protein sources and loads of vegetables. I always do squats, bench and deadlifts as part of my training. Every week. It doesn’t have to be heavy, but this is my minimum and keeps me on track. And lastly, skin care - I’m big on quality skin care.”
Renee Ludlow - Coach & Director at Dauntless Performance
”Taking the time each day to do those little self-care things is one of the most important things I do. It helps to reduces my stress levels, keeps me focused and reminds me what my priorities are. Most of the time, it’s the simplest things that make the most impact – such as grabbing a coffee (sometimes with a friend!), having an afternoon nap, snuggling up with the dogs, sitting in the fresh air and sunshine etc. We can’t give from an empty cup; self-care makes sure our cup is replenished.”