3 simple “self-care” practices
In today’s hectic pace of life, practicing self-care has the potential to counterbalance the effects of stress and anxiety. When you take care of yourself, it can really improve your quality of life and have a positive impact on your well-being.
Self-care practice. What does that mean exactly? For some people, exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep and drinking plenty of water clearly defines this concept. Of course, a good diet and enough sleep are essential of our health because it gives fuel to the physical body. Besides, I know that I’m not the only one to feel weaker when I’m hungry or when I’ve only slept four hours at night (hello moms!).
So, why do we still feel stressed, out of balance or “disconnected” even when our primary needs are being met? The practice of self-care is not only preserving or improving one’s physical well-being but also taking care of our mental, emotional and even spiritual well-being. It is not a selfish act. On the contrary, how can we take care of others when we our lacking in our own self? The analogy of the airplane oxygen mask is a good illustration of this issue. The flight attendant always asks passengers to put their own mask before putting on the child’s mask. If you run out of air, not only will your life be in danger but you will not be able to help your loved ones. The logic is simple to understand, so why not apply it more often in everyday life?
As a parent, it’s easy to put others first. We do it for our babies, who literally depend on us to survive in the first months of life. However, it is very difficult to give our energy and our love if we are deficient inside. Taking care of yourself is not only learning to give better, but also learning to receive better. In addition, the mother gives the emotional tone of the family because her energy determines the atmosphere of the home. In the last year, I realized the importance of filling up my own well to be a better person first and foremost as well as a better mother.
Since stress is omnipresent in our society, the consequences are harmful to our health. The body is programmed to react to stress in the same way as it did centuries ago. Our nervous system is constantly activated when it perceives a threat to our life, whether it is real or not. Our adrenal glands secrete hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline when our “fight or flight” mode is triggered by a stressor. Although this reaction has kept us safe in the past, it no longer has the same utility today. It is important to reduce the harmful effects caused by this extra energy stored up in the body. It is by activating our parasympathetic nervous system that the body will regain its state of equilibrium as it learn to “rest and relax”. Hence, the importance of taking a moment for yourself in your day to slow down and recenter.
Here are three simple ways to practice self-care taking and connecting within, which really are:
1. Connect with nature
Human beings are part of nature. To disconnect from the stress of everyday life, we need to reconnect with this source of life. It can be as simple as walking in the forest or walking barefoot in the grass or sand. If this is not possible, for example, in winter or if you live in an urban setting, find a park or garden and hug a tree or breathe the smell of cedars. No kidding, be creative! Studies have shown that the pytoncids released by plants help to release stress and clean the mind of negative thoughts. By connecting to nature, one also reconnects with oneself.
Personally, I feel instantly connected to nature when I walk in the forest and observe all its splendor. The ocean remains undoubtedly the most purifying and energizing element in my opinion. This is partly due to the negative ions, these particles in sea air, that the sea has an antioxidant effect, even cleaning .
2. Connect within
Take a moment to be alone with yourself, in peace and quiet. Go in your closet if you really can’t escape the chaos. Turn your attention inward: How do you feel, mentally and emotionally? What are the physical sensations you feel at this moment? There are different techniques to help you tune in to what is going on inside: meditation, conscious breathing, journaling, and so on. Find the one that works for you and schedule a specific time in the day to practice it.
Stopping and turning inward regularly will increase your sense of well-being and connection to yourself. Why? You will take the time to BE rather than to do. When we stop to feel what is happening inside of us, the messages and the answers to our questions go back more easily.
For my part, I take five minutes in the morning while standing up to meditate on my breathing. When baby wakes up earlier, I try to pick up that time during the day, during the nap or before going to bed, to combine meditation with a short yoga session or connected consciousness breathing.
3. Treat yourself to a massage or hot bath
To take care of your body and mind when they need a real “boost” of energy, nothing better than a therapeutic treatment. Generally, tension and pain are physical messages that our body sends us, hiding a source of stress and anxiety. By ignoring them, they will only come back in strength and maintain the vicious cycle of psychological and emotional suffering. Therapeutic treatments like a massage can alleviate stress as it is known to reduce cortisol levels and increase hormones such as dopamine and serotonin .
In the Eastern world, therapeutic care is part of the culture, they are not perceived as a luxury, but as an integral practice to well-being. Whether it’s a massage, an acupuncture treatment, a Reiki session, a spa day or simply a hot bath with salt, take time to relax by pressing the “pause” button. To help you stay in the present moment and let go of the tensions when you receive your care, concentrate on your bodily sensations and your breathing.
In my opinion, to be truly effective and beneficial, the practice of “self-care” must also nourish the mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. Taking care of yourself should be a practice that children are taught from a young age to encourage healthy lifestyle habits.
Have a good practice!