It’s no surprise..... that as women...... we naturally burden ourselves with the well-being and needs of others...... before those of our own. We often have an innate sense of nurturance and compassion towards our loved ones, whether they be our children, partners, or elderly parents.
Equally important, however, is the need to take care of ourselves. In fact, being compassionate and nurturing towards ourselves is not only essential to our well-being and overall health, but has a substantial impact on our relationships with loved ones.
What is Self Care?
Self-care is the act of nurturing our whole self.....physically, emotionally and mentally, resulting in an enriched and fulfilling life. At times, this warrants putting ourselves first...... because our happiness and well-being matters. As women, we need to value this...... and essentially retrain ourselves to realize that self care isn’t selfish. If we do not take our own well-being and happiness seriously- not only will this adversely affect our health, but also cause us to be resentful in our close relationships.
The Body and Mind Connection
More and more research demonstrates the importance of being in tune with our body and mind. How we think and feel, as well as how we cope with stress......all have a profound impact on our overall health. In fact, emerging research shows that every cell in our body responds to these factors. This means it’s OK to say “No” if we’re feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. Our mental well-being matters and profoundly influences our overall health. We must not put it on the back burner.
Our Relationship with Ourselves
Self-compassion...... being kind and accepting of ourselves...... especially in the face of adversity...... is a large component of self-care and has a direct influence on our health (Allen et al. 2012).
This is particularly important for women, as we are typically our own worst critics. Research, in fact, indicates that taking a kind and accepting mindful stance towards ones flaws and failures can actually reduce anxiety and stress (Allen & Leary, 2013). Therefore, it is important to be accepting and loving towards ourselves......as well as become more comfortable with prioritizing our own needs and health. Studies (Arch et al. 2016), (Allen & Leary, 2013) also show that this also improves the quality of our relationships with loved ones.
Ways to Implement Self-Care:
1) Have Self-Compassion
Love yourself, or at least accept yourself. Ensure your internal dialogue is one of acceptance and understanding. Refrain from judgment and being overly critical. Treat yourself, the way you would a close friend. This is what you deserve. Refrain from judgment. Realize that we are all perfectly imperfect and that’s what makes us human.
Meditation helps us to be more in tune with our body and mind. This is important as it helps us to regain balance by re-setting and rejuvenating, which has a positive effect. Research also shows that meditation can optimize our body’s response to stress, as it can actually produce long-term structural changes in the brain (Alda et al. 2016). Meditation also increases alpha waves in the brain- associated with a deep sense of relaxation and restoration- also significant to our health.
3) Reap the Benefits
Begin by finding a quiet, comfortable place to sit. Rid yourself of external distractions. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 5. Then exhale slowly for a count of 5. Then hold for a count of 5. Then repeat. Try your best to dismiss distracting thoughts; let them come and go- and continue to get back to focus on your breath. This will become easier over time, and as noted, has significant health benefits.
4) Engage in "Play Time"
Take breaks throughout the day to laugh, “veg out” and enjoy life- even if it is for 10 minutes. Grab lunch with a friend, watch a funny movie, take time to walk in nature……anything that brings you joy.
Research (Chopra & Tanzi, 2015) indicates that these little moments matter and actually have significant implications for brain health, as they allow us to optimize and use all of our brain functioning.
5) Take Care of Your Body
Do not underestimate the importance of taking care of your body. Obtain sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and consume nutrient dense foods and plenty of foods and liquids that hydrate you.
What are your self care rules?
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