Hello everybody! Welcome back to my blog. In this blog, I want to help people find their way to a healthier lifestyle. I mostly talk about exercise and its science, which is my area of expertise, but I also talk about nutrition, sleeping habits and many other subjects related to wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle.
Today I want to talk about something we have completely forgotten about: self-care.
Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in preserving and improving one’s own health.
The definition of health according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.”
If we mix these two definitions, we can then say that self-care is when we take an active role in preserving and improving our physical, mental, and social well-being, beyond the simple absence of illnesses.
One of the fashionable trends that typify this practice is Yoga. Yoga has existed since around 2700 BC, but it was not known world-wide until relatively recently. I love Yoga. Not just the practice of the exercise itself, but the philosophy behind it. Yoga is the fusion of our physic and mind. According to this, both body and mind must be looked after.
Some people have completely separated the mental health and the physical health. These people just cultivate one part of themselves, and I’m sure we all can think of that friend or family member that does a lot of sport but does not read or challenge their brains, or the opposite, those that have an amazing knowledge of many different things and we consider them smart or cultured, but they have forgotten the last time they went for a walk or the last time they cooked something healthy at home, or even slept well at night.
We also have those people that have forgotten about looking after themselves to focus 100% of their time on looking after others. This is a very typical behaviour of parents, especially new parents.
This is a very natural behaviour. I’m not a mum myself, but I really hope I will be one day. I have researched about it, and I have seen many people falling for this, especially women.
In this post, I will share some reasons why it’s important to practise this self-care and some tips for you to start practising it!
- Recharge your batteries.
One of the first things you get from looking after yourself is that feeling of restfulness. When you start doing something that you want to do and enjoy doing it, you don’t feel pressure to get it done, your only focus is on that thing that makes you happy. By doing this, we release certain hormones, such as dopamine. When we tick something off our “to do list”, this dopamine released on the brain makes us feel pleasure, along with learning, improved memory, and other functions. Add these pleasurable moments to your “to do list!”.
Apart from dopamine, if you choose doing exercise as a way of self-care, you’ll release endorphines, which are the hormones that reduce pain and increase the feeling of pleasure.
The list goes on. We also increase the production of oxytocin, the hormone of love, if we choose to do something with someone that we love as a way of self-care, or serotonin, if what we do makes us feel respected and appreciated.
Think of something you do during the day that you do just because it makes you feel satisfied and try to do it every day to help to reset your mind and therefore, your body.
- Reconnect with yourself.
I propose you do a list of things you like to do, or you used to like to do. Highlight those that you do on a daily or weekly basis, and circle those that you haven’t done in a while, but you’d like to start doing again. I did this exercise with my mum, and she realised that she hasn’t done nearly any of them for a very long time.
My mum is one of those loving mums that would stop the world to give her children anything they need. Nowadays, her youngest child is more than 20 years old, and the oldest is more than 30, meaning that she’s been prioritising her kids for more than 30 years, but they don’t need her that way anymore. She completely forgot what she used to like, and she was shocked by how difficult it was to make that list. She ended up with a little list, and to my surprise I didn’t know that she was so passionate about any of them. Worst of all, she doesn’t know where to start!
When we teach ourselves for such a long time that other’s necessities are more important than ours, it’s difficult to find pleasure in those things that we really enjoy. We disconnect from our own selves.
Start today, right now, thinking of those things, and make them a priority no matter how many responsibilities you have. You have kids? At some point, they’ll be asleep, at school, looked after by someone else. There’s always a way to find 30’ just for YOU. One day, your kids won’t need you anymore. They won’t think “wow my mum sacrificed all these things to raise me, I am going to give up my plans and dreams for her”. That’s not what we want for our kids, and that’s why number 8 is so important.
When you stop being connected with responsibilities, other people’s necessities and even with your phone, you’ll connect with yourself
- Reduce stress.
At this point you can imagine in which way looking after yourself will decrease your levels of stress. The “bad” stress, the long-term stress, the stress that stays there with you for a very long time.
Stress is the mental disease of our time. Dealing with work, family life, the house, social life, now the car breaks down and BOOM! COVID… we’re constantly under pressure. And it’s good that we are conscious about this, and we need stress to survive, but it becomes a big issue when we are not able to disconnect and enjoy life. Finding those 30 minutes every day to unwind your mind and do something that makes you feel good, will increase the previously mentioned hormones and reduce cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone.
- Improve your physical health.
One of the things that we do to look after ourselves is some sort of physical activity. In my most successful post so far “13 reasons why you should do exercise” I talk about the benefits of exercising. Check it out if you missed it!
Find those 30’ of physical activity every day. It’ll help you in many ways.
- Improve your social relationships.
Sure, spending time with your kids is socialising, but when was the last time you had some quality time with a grown up talking about your stuff rather than who did the groceries and who changed the last nappies?
Take some time out with someone. Turn off your phone to avoid distractions and enjoy a cuppa with them. If that someone is a co-worker, try to talk about something that has nothing to do with work. If you decide to spend some quality time with your partner, don’t talk about the kids, the house, the bills. Talk about how you first met, about how your first date went, about that trip you did together so long ago. Remember that when we socialise we release the hormone oxytocin, the love hormone. Reconnect with them, let them know that you enjoy their company and love them, it’s amazing how good it feels after these little instants!
- Gain self-confidence and self-esteem.
Quoting my previously mentioned post “13 reasons why you should do exercise”, ‘Self-esteem is a subjective evaluation of our own worth, and it is linked to how we feel at that specific moment. If you have the hormones of happiness circulating in your system, you have bonded with the people you love, you like what you see in the mirror and you feel better inside, your self-steam and confidence will be impacted.’
Hormones play an important role in our mental health. The presence or absence of hormones and the fluctuations of them have been scientifically proven to affect our mood and how we see ourselves. The yet mentioned hormone serotonin is the hormone that boosts your confidence, satisfaction, and empowers you. It also fights the hormone cortisol, reducing the levels of stress.
In a more fundamental way, when you practice self-care you’re telling yourself that you’re worth that care, you deserve those moments. When your levels of self-esteem are low, you tend to suck other people’s energies, ending up lonely because nobody wants to feel drawn down a deep hole.
- Therefore, improve your mental health.
For those who didn’t know me from before, in this blog I always talk about the importance of seeing a professional if it’s needed. In this case, if you suspect that you have a mental health issue, I encourage you see a psychologist.
Once you’ve gained in all the items we talked about before, your mental health will consequently improve. It’s been demonstrated the positive effects of exercise in our mental wellbeing, and the rest of the benefits add up to this mental sanity.
Plus, you have all those hormones of happiness and wellbeing playing on your side.
- Be a good example for the kids.
As parents (or parents to be), we are told that everything we do, we do it for them. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, and we must be there for them if they need us through the night. Those moments for oneself, or to share with our beloveds, are over. Is this what you want to pass on to them?
I have always seen my mum looking after me and my siblings. She was an amazing mum, but as we grew older, we started to see a woman that lost her self-confidence and purpose. When my parents got a divorce, my mum found herself in a hole from which it was very difficult to escape. Eventually she did, but on the way, she needed to find some purpose. She started looking for a job, she reconnected with her old friends, and she had a lot of spare time for herself. At the beginning, she just wanted to do what she did best: looking after others. But my siblings and I were old enough, and we didn’t need her care, we needed her example.
Through the years, I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. I wish I saw my mum doing what made her happy, doing the items she put on that list, but the truth is, she was never explained how to be a little bit “selfish”.
We want our kids or future kids to be free, cultured, fair, feminists, happy, but we need to be that ourselves so they can learn from us.
Kids don’t do what we tell them to do, they do what they see us do.
What if I don’t know where to start? You need to find out what you’d like to do first. There are many things you can do to start practising self-care, but in the end, what works for me might not work for you. I am going to share with you what I personally do to look after myself, outside and inside. Perhaps you’ll find some inspiration.
- Walk every day for at least 30’.
- Morning and night skin routines.
- Read at least 30’ every day. Normally before going to sleep.
- Listen to podcasts or audio books.
- Watching documentaries about something I’d like to learn.
- Spend time choosing my fruit and vegetables at the markets.
- Have a tea or a coffee in the garden.
- Enjoy 10’ every morning cuddling my cats in bed.
- Watch something on the TV with my husband every night.
- Play the piano.
- Organise my wardrobe, pantry, or desk.
- Let myself feel bored and let my mind wonder.
- Put my phone away most of the time.
That’s it for today! I really hope some of these tips are helpful. If you like what I do and you want to support this project, follow me on Instagram and Facebook, like the post and comment! Thank you!