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Imagine this. You’re on a roll with your new self-care practice; stretching, staying hydrated, meditating and so on. As a result, you’re feeling wonderful; motivated, content, on top of things, and healthier than ever.

Then, it happens. A phone call, an email, the rising cost of living, a wild housing market, an unappreciative boss, family conflict.

Whatever “it” may be, you’re shaken out of your equilibrium. Stress creeps in, and suddenly sticking to your self-care practice seems near impossible…

Honouring nuances

When we become stressed, there can be a reactive inclination to let overwhelm take the wheel.

Sometimes, our self-care habits fly out the window so fast we don’t even notice it’s happened.

Other times, we’ll start drawing rash mental conclusions like, ‘I don’t have time to meditate, I’ll start work earlier,’ or ‘it’s time to cut costs, starting with my yoga membership.’ As natural (and perfectly normal, don’t beat yourself up!) as this is, it’s not the most nourishing or even effective way to move through such periods.

If there’s something yoga reflects, it’s that our self-care practices keep us grounded through the inevitable fluctuations of life. Sometimes the waves feel ‘good,’ other times not – but a self-care practice exists to give you balance either way. The challenging times are what they’re there for.

As a freelancer, it seemed inevitable that I would learn about the nuances of self-care. Self-love versus responsibility; intuition versus logic; flexibility versus a fixed way; healthy discipline versus steamrolling myself. They’re all spheres where I’m still figuring out balance, but I have learned a lot.

For example, I know that if I throw my yoga practice out the window to get more work done, soon after I’ll feel so stiff and sore at my computer, that my productivity will be halved anyway. I can stop meditating daily when I’m overwhelmed with life’s challenges – but when I’m inevitably less happy for it, my creativity and ability to see solutions dissipates!

We each have our own unique flavours of what self-care looks like, and this transforms alongside us, as life flows forward. Self-care could mean cancelling your yoga membership for a while, and swapping it out for more Netflix and naps – to help alleviate financial stress. Been there! But it could just as easily mean going to yoga classes twice a day instead, and bringing intentional awareness to the rejuvenating impact on your nervous system, which in this example, evokes the momentum required to begin a desired job search. Self-care could mean starting Crossfit, or booking a cruise ship holiday. You get the idea: it’s not black and white. Regularly checking in on what your most self-loving choice is in any given moment, is key.

What exactly is self-care?

According to Google Trends, the number of searches for ‘self-care’ has almost quadrupled since 2018. The World Health Organization defines it as:

‘the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.’

With this definition, self-care includes everything related to staying physically, mentally and/or spiritually healthy. It’s the steps we take to manage stressors in our lives, as well as our own health and well-being.

A slightly less textbook definition comes from Dr Paula Lopez, who suggests ‘self-care can be anything that floats your boat — anything that puts a smile on your face. Anything that makes you feel cared for, even if it’s you caring for yourself.’

‘Let’s be clear on what self-care is and what it’s not. Self-care is not selfish, but a necessary lifestyle practice for good health.

Self-care isn’t just something you do to recover from illness or crisis, but is also preventive and proactive. It’s a way to value and love yourself, but also demonstrate to others that you care to show up at your best for them, personally and professionally.

Consistent self-care practice is what sustains our energy and motivation to keep moving through life successfully, and it is a tool of resilience to help us through the hard times.’JACQUELINE ASHLEY

 

Self-care habits we stand behind

Practicing self-care doesn’t mean hour-long bubble baths and Balinese holidays (though those are great too). Here are a few tools we love:

  • Starting each day (while your eyes still closed) with a gratitude list
  • A morning yoga flow
  • Eating a wholesome breakfast
  • Journaling
  • Self-massage
  • Taking a midday nap
  • Attending a HB retreat
  • Booking a float tank session
  • Watching a show that makes you feel good
  • Herbal tea
  • Having a ‘silent’ day
  • Lighting a candle, or incense to wind down in the evening
  • Going tech-free an hour before sleep each night

Everyone’s different

Ultimately, what self-care looks like for one person will look completely different for the next. Feel into which activities bring you joy, a sense of presence, and replenishment. Then, lean into and uphold them as best you can, even (and especially) when times get tough. You’ll thank yourself later.