Self care. It’s a buzz word for sure and a topic that has been surfacing in many of my conversations over the past month. So much so that I feel a need to share with you what it really is and the four foundational components that make up true self care.
When I talk about self care I am referring to fundamental ways of daily living that are critical, crucial, non-negotiable, whichever of those adjectives that get your attention to keep reading.
I find that those who practice this form of self care all have something in common: an uncanny ability to forge through whatever life throws at them with as much grace, acceptance, positiveness, and “luck” as well as better overall physical and mental health. Their inner (and outer) energies tend to balance and recalibrate easier than those that neglect their self care.
So I’d like to share with you the 4 common threads self carers define as self care. I personally can attest that if I veer off one or more of the 4 foundational legs I am susceptible to getting sick, injured, more adverse to negative incidents, general low energy, unfocused and lack of motivation. There is a caveat, however, and it is that we are perfectly imperfect. There is no magic potion to living a “perfect”, in balance, secure life with the most loving relationships, health, careers, etc. But understanding that a daily foundation of self care opens you to living your BEST life (and acceptance of the good and bad) , well, I’ll take those odds any day!
Self Care Priority #1:
Yup. It is truly number one and trumps the other 3 . Our bodies, physically and emotionally, are designed for significant healing and recharging while we sleep. And by this I mean on average 7-8 hours a night. Don’t buy or give in to the modern day myth of what you do in your waking hours must get done and is far more important than sleep. Chronic lack of sleep leads to a host of negative ugliness all backed by numerous scientific studies: depression, impaired concentration and productivity, weight gain, greater risk of heart disease and stroke, poor exercise performance, risk of Type 2 Diabetes, and impaired immune function. I find that last one to be the main reason we catch viruses and why the best diet in the world can’t help your immunity if you are sleep deprived.
Sleep, people, sleep!
Self Care Priority #2:
You are what you eat.
Your food choices play a close second to Priority Self Care #1. Focusing on whole foods for your sustenance is one of the best ways to maintain optimal physical health. I’ve also discovered and share with The Whole Meal followers how certain foods impact both physical and emotional well being on an energetic level and address life issues beyond aches and pain. We have so much power in our own hands to heal, shift and live abundant lives just by what we eat! And don’t worry, our bodies are forgiving and can handle some typical industrialized modern food. Live by the 80/20 rule and your body (mind and soul) will thank you.
The Whole Meal motto never ran so true: Good Food. Better Life.
Eat well, people, eat well!
Self Care Priority #3:
Move your body.
Everyday. No excuse. Our human bodies were designed for movement, any kind of movement. So those of you that feel athleticism or fitness is not your thang it’s ok as walking, taking stairs instead of an elevator or escalator, dancing, cleaning, stretching all count. Just move somehow everyday especially if you have a sedentary job.
Getting your blood flowing does more than just pump blood to your heart it also keep muscles and ligaments strong to support your skeletal frame and increases oxygen to your brain so you can feel energized, positive, and focused to take on tasks…all of which does wonders to release stress from the body.
Move, people, move!
Self Care Priority #4:
Now this may seem counterintuitive to Self Care Priority #3 but it’s a yin-yang thing, as in we need to create stillness in our daily lives to create the right kinds of movement we need to be our best selves. Stillness is the stopgap to losing ourselves in modern living where the exterior world of appearances and pleasing others is emphasized and we feel pressure to live up to these outward values that may not necessarily give us joy or happiness.
Being still everyday reminds us of who we are and what is truly most important to us, gives us the ability to honor our authentic self in balance with our outward self (ego). One is not more important than the other but we just tend to live in a time on this planet where many authentic selves are being lost, are asleep and/or bullied. So create space in your life for stillness to stop the madness and find or rediscover who you are.
Meditation is the easiest way to build in stillness. It can be as simple as laying or sitting quietly in your bed first thing when you wake up and be present to your breath going in and out. Don’t be caught up in a “right way” to meditate as there is none. It is what gets you to be still and present in the moment, whether it is for 5 minutes or 20.
Yoga is another great way to find stillness (AND it checks off Self Care Priority #3 too). Most that take up a regular yoga practice talk about how they feel less stressed, are more kind, tolerant and mindful of others’ needs and views, and feel more connected with themselves.
Be still, people, go inward!
YOU. ARE. WORTH. IT.
That is a reminder for those that are skeptical or too busy to bother. If life feels too much then make the commitment to work on one area only ( I would start with sleep and then move through #2-4 in that order). We all have the ability and free will to choose what our priorities are everyday. Make self care your number one priority and watch how much easier other areas of your life become.
My own journey started almost two decades ago with recognizing the impact of food when I got pregnant for the first time and felt immense responsibility for this soon-to-be human being. That little shift opened up for me a journey with food I never imagined- both in how much I enjoyed learning about food and how great I felt from eating well- and realizing I was meant to share my knowledge with others. And while I have generally been involved in sports or some kind of movement most of my life my attitude as to why I move has shifted significantly. It’s become less about how it makes me look or outward achievement and more about how it makes me feel. This has been momentous for me! Both meditating and yoga did not come easy to me nor willingly. I resisted both for a long time- dabbling here and there since my late 20s. As I allowed stillness and new ways of moving to be more frequent in my life and gauged the impact of my food choices, I noticed how much more empowered I became to address demons, blocks and fears in my life. I know now I am worthy and I am perfectly imperfect. Self care helped me release being the victim and instead made me feel gratitude for my life with all its joys and flaws.
The other immense, huge (did I say huge) benefit from prioritizing me first is how I have become a better mom, partner, friend, daughter, overall better human. When I allowed myself to honor/wake up to me in such core vital ways I showed my daughters (kids pay attention more to what you do over what you say) how they are meant to navigate life now, as young adults and for the rest of their lives. So if you tend to put others first, like me, the cliche “Self care is not selfish, you can’t serve or be there for others from an empty vessel” never ran more true.
We are all human and largely here in the West we live similar lives and struggles all just at different degrees. Self care is the one antidote for us all to level the playing field in living lives with vitality. It doesn’t require a lot of money, higher education or to be living in a certain neighborhood. All you need is a desire to live your best life and make the commitment to prioritize your self care to get and stay there. Do that and all the rest will fall into place. You are truly worth it.