Self Care: The Ultimate Tool for Wellness
Updated: Apr 24, 2018
When we are under a decent amount of stress we can sometimes get lost in it. Lost in the sense that we fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel and all of the love, hope and opportunity that is available to us at all times. When this happens, we allow our mind to focus on the negative and the damaging thoughts of how bad our current situation is, only drawing more negativity into our current existence.
Through this process which we all go through at some point in our lives, we forget to take care of ourselves not realizing that the bare minimum of our potential can’t be reached without this critical foundation being in place. That foundation of being a ‘healthy you’ requires you to prioritize your needs above all else and that is achieved through cultivating a self care practice.
We have been hearing a lot about self care in the media as of late but what exactly does that mean?
Well for starters, self care can look very different for everyone just like a diet can depending on a number of factors such as a person’s geographical location, body type/constitution, their work, stress level, family life, etc... You get the picture.
However, I do believe that there are some non negotiables that may be interpreted slightly differently due to the above factors but mostly they fall under these umbrellas: proper nutrition, taking the time to rest, regular exercise, building a loving supportive group of friends/family, giving yourself some alone time, practicing self love, adopting some cleansing rituals and cultivating a spiritual practice.
The tips I'm sharing here are not in order of importance, however this first one is absolutely critical: nourish yourself properly.
I know that often times when we lose a significant relationship this necessity is the first to fall below the wayside. But without proper nutrition, you will not be able to function optimally on a physical, mental or spiritual level. If you already had a healthy eating lifestyle in place, then your task is to stay the course even if you don’t seem to have much of an appetite. If you struggled with this prior to the upheaval in your life then this is a great opportunity for you to adopt a healthier lifestyle and the process of identifying what that will look like for you will likely even serve as a much needed distraction.
One diet will not work for all of us, so it's up to you to figure out what the best foods for you are. There are plenty of people who can help if this a tough hurdle for you, such as a nutritionist, functional medicine doctor or a health coach, which I happen to be. Once you have your diet figured out, it's important to stick to it by making it part of your daily routine. A good place to start? Avoid processed junk foods, fill your plate with locally grown vegetables, minimize sugar consumption and drink plenty of clean water. To find high quality vegetables, fruits, grains and meats, I recommend shopping at your local farmers market where everything will naturally be local, nutritious and in season.
In addition to consuming a nutrient dense diet, it’s also incredibly important to allow your body to rest through a good night's sleep every night. This can be a big challenge for many people and therefore cultivating a daily nighttime routine to ensure you get enough good quality sleep is the best way to achieve this. Again this will look differently for different people but a general guide is to follow the natural rhythm of the sun as much as possible.
Ayurveda, an ancient system of health originating from India, states that one should go to bed at 10pm and rise at 6am. This may shift slightly depending on what season we're in. For example, in the winter, the sun doesn't rise until nearly 8am. Which makes sense because like all animals we're supposed to rest more during colder months. By syncing your natural rhythm with nature, you are more likely to feel optimistic, positive and excited about life again.
If going to bed by 10pm is a struggle for you, then list all of the obstacles preventing you from doing so and tackle them one at a time.
A few good tips to fall asleep faster:
avoid caffeinated beverages after 2pm
shut off electronic devices at least two hours prior to bedtime and do not bring them into the bedroom (they emit blue light which is not only harmful but will also keep you from sleeping)
utilize candles and/or a pink Himalayan salt lamp (these wonderful lamps give off negative ions thereby combating the electromagnetic field rays coming off of your electrical equipment)
massage your body with oil
read an inspiring book
These tips are wonderful for showing yourself with love and will surely prime you for a restful night of sleep.
Once you have started fueling your body properly and find a way to achieve restorative sleep on a nightly basis you can focus on improving and maintaining your physical fitness.
Taking care of your body through regular exercise is going to serve you well both in the short term and in the long run and again may serve as a much needed healthy distraction. Your body is your vehicle in this life and not taking care of it will result in illness, disease, and a lack of mobility preventing you from living a fulfilling life.
Taking care of your body means keeping it functional, pain free, agile and strong. In order to do this you need to find exercises that work for you. Find something that you enjoy doing, you can do with minimal risk of injury and you are able to incorporate them into your weekly routine. A good variety in your fitness routine is always fun, will keep your mind engaged and will allow your body to work on different muscles in different ways improving your range of motion and minimizing your risk of injury. Yoga is a perfect option to obtain strength and flexibility. There are many different variations of yoga, so select one that fits you and that you love.
Sustaining exercise requires your commitment to it and finding an exercise ritual that you can’t live without will set you up for success in maintaining your practice.
I enjoy regular strength training, bike riding, running, yoga and swimming. The opportunities are endless. You might even discover a new found passion and meet other individuals with similar interests through the process.
About the Author: Edith Agoston is a freelance writer and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach in Seattle, WA. She writes about all things health and wellness including nutrition, fitness and spirituality on her main platform edithagoston.com. Edith works with her clients to implement behavioral lifestyle changes to improve their overall well being.