Self care can be a tricky business. We live in a time when our lives are jam packed, and many people experience a huge amount of pressure to be doing more.
Even when we consider incorporating at self care, it can become yet another item on the to-do list, another task to jam in to an incredibly packed day.
It can also be hard to know exactly what is right for you. There is a huge compendium of self care information available online. What is the right choice?
I’ve spent a lot of time considering this issue. I work with many patients, mostly women, who experience high levels of stress due to the pressures of their day to day lives.
Many of my patients put themselves dead last on the list of priorities, and it is their health which suffers.
These patients come to see me when their health is starting to cause them distress, either physical or emotional.
In Chinese medicine, a part of our ethos is to dig deep to uncover the cause of ill health. Very often, the answer lies in the way patients take care of themselves.
These patients have tried many different things to try and rebalance their health, but haven’t found any one thing which sticks.
Often my suggestion is to spend some time considering what it is that does help you feel good. This can be vastly, incredibly, different from person to person.
In my own personal experience, I have tried different diets as a way of bringing about a greater sense of health and vitality. If I’m completely honest, from time to time I’ve also been looking for ways to maintain a healthy weight.
I’ve tried many different types of exercise, relaxation and self care.
What I’ve found is my body responds well to a vegetarian diet, filled with lots of veggies, some protein, fat and some carbohydrates. Low carb, paleo or keto just aren’t for me. My blood sugar crashes, my cortisol spikes and I feel crap.
I also know I need to keep a close eye on my sugar intake. As this can easily become something which drives me, rather than being something I choose. But I also know I really love enjoying something sweet, so completely depriving myself of it isn’t something that works for me long term.
I know many people who have great success in terms of energy levels, clarity of mind and weight loss by following diets which just aren’t right for me.
It doesn’t mean my approach is wrong, or theirs is.
Different bodies have different needs.
The same goes for exercise. I know my body and mind feel best when I am consistently active, combining strength training, walking in nature and some yoga and Qi Gong.
Having time to myself is also super important to me. I need time and space to be able to mentally unpack the rest of my life, and feel in to how I’m going. If I overload myself with commitments, I can very easily become undone. I’ll notice changes in my mood and clarity of mind, and I’ll find myself making poor choices in terms of my diet and exercise routine.
It’s taken me a long time, and many (many!) missteps to get to a point of knowing the very best way to care for myself.
My way works for me. But it may not work for you!
To find what is right for you, consider spending some time feeling in to what you need and what works with your current lifestyle.
When trying something new, whether it is a diet or a new exercise routine, take some time and really listen, deeply, to whether it is helping you feel nourished, strengthened, energised or calm.
Ask yourself what your intention is for choosing this new thing. Do you feel excited and inspired to get started? Or do you feel it is something you ‘should’ be doing?
It’s also worthwhile to keep in mind our self care needs changes over time, as our minds and bodies have different needs at different times.
As a woman, it’s important to honour our cyclical nature and adjust according to our hormonal needs.
As a human, our dietary and exercise needs change with the seasons.
During times of stress, consider the choices which would best support you: from dietary, to exercise to social commitments. Know that it is ok to let yourself off the hook.
And what happens if you go off track? Well, as someone who has gone off track at least once or twice (read - definitely a bunch more times than that!) I can tell you sometimes going off track can be useful.
It can help us get really clear on what works for us.
When you feel the negative impact of moving away from something that works it can be a great motivation to get back on track. And when it happens to you, cut yourself some slack!
Just notice the changes and ask yourself what you’ve learned from the experience.
Knowing how to self care in just the right way for you can have wide reaching benefits: improved energy levels, emotional wellbeing, physical strength and more.
It can be a work in progress, but it is work worth doing.
Anna McMullen is a gentle and caring practitioner who firmly believes in the important of self care!
She offers Heart Centred Coaching, Acupuncture and Chinese medicine to help support those who need some help getting on the right track.
Contact her on 0402945574 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.