I’ve been running hard this year. I made promises to my family, telling them I would stop letting work leak into our personal life. At the same time, I chose to challenge myself at work. Then someone asked me what I might do for myself, how I could show myself some extra love right now.
My initial reaction was to give myself rest. I could read a book, take a hike, or sit in my rocker with a cup of tea and stare out at the world, letting my mind rest or wander. These are the things I thought of right away because I’m tired and all I can think about is rest.
Those are great ideas and lovely ways to rest and care for myself. So are taking a bath, having a glass of wine, or chatting with a girlfriend. These are nice ways to relax and pamper yourself so, if it feels right, take that time for yourself. Enjoy yourself!
There’s more to self-care than wine and bubbles. Taking good care of ourselves means tending to all our needs. We must look at all bodily systems and all levels of being.
Related: Download our FREE Fempreneur Self Love Journal.
The surprising place to start is with your personal foundation—how you eat, drink, and sleep. We don’t think about these simple things as self-care, but they’re essential to feeling our best and being our best. We’ve all experienced the tired toddler. I often experienced this at the end of a family function. It was a wild and wonderful day for my daughters. They ran, they played, and they probably had more than their share of sugary desserts. What they did not do was stop the fun long enough to eat well and they did not nap. So when it was time to buckle them into a car seat and drive home, the meltdowns commenced.
They didn’t melt down because they were spoiled and thought it would get them what they want. They weren’t trying to manipulate us. They couldn’t do anything else in that moment. Their bodies weren’t functioning properly. This meant they couldn’t manage their emotions— and they had intense emotions!
The same thing happens to us. We don’t see it because (hopefully) it isn’t that drastic. Our bodies cannot function properly when we deprive them of proper hydration, nutrition, and sleep. This means we don’t feel our best, we don’t make the greatest decisions, and we definitely aren’t the person we want to be.
We need to stoke our bodies with healthy food, drink enough good fluids to stay hydrated, and sleep enough to be rested. Doing these 3 things allows our bodies to function properly. When we ignore them we impact our biological functions. We see effects such as lack of energy, irritability, and brain fog. So this is where self-care starts.
The first aspect of self is our physical needs.
This beautiful body of yours wants to move. It wants to serve you and help you in your work and your life. So move it! You don’t have to run a marathon; you don’t have to run at all. Just do something physical that feels good. Stretching, yoga, walking, kettle bells, and jumping jacks all get the muscles moving, blood circulating, and heart beating.
Next, consider your breathing.
Thankfully, breathing is an autonomic function so we don’t have to remember to move air in and out of our bodies. It’s also a function we can control and most of us don’t take advantage of the opportunity. We walk through our lives taking shallow or medium breaths. Many years ago I was working with an energy and massage practitioner. After 40 minutes on the table she asked me if I ever took a deep breath. The question surprised me and it opened my eyes. No, I didn’t take deep breaths.
At first I wondered why and then I decided to just do it. Stopped at a red light? Take deep breaths. Watching the eggs boil? Take deep breaths. Waiting for the webpage to load, the microwave to beep, the receptionist to talk to me? Take deep breaths.
Taking full, deep breaths is essential for humans. It releases toxins, eases tension, soothes emotion, and brings mental clarity. All it takes is letting breath flow into your body, breathing in until your belly moves out. You can take this further by employing breathing techniques but simply bringing breath in until your belly moves out is a nice, easy way to care for yourself.
Another neglected aspect of our self-care routines is our emotions.
Oh, we deal with them. We do it drinking wine, eating ice cream, or complaining to our girls. We manage our emotions the way our families, friends, and the media taught us. But feeling well and happy means feeling and releasing those emotions. It’s normal to want to avoid the difficult emotions. They are unpleasant and it’s not fun to experience them. However, stuffing them down won’t get us to the happy place we want to be.
Go ahead and sit with your unpleasant emotions. This doesn’t mean wallowing in them, rather allow them to be. You can sit and have a good cry, journal, run, or do whatever feels right. Just don’t push them away.
Moving deeper we come to a place in ourselves where we need to witness our own lives. We need to see ourselves moving through the world and do this without judgement. This isn’t about evaluating, measuring, or calculating; it’s about noticing. Nothing more and nothing less. Noticing what’s happening in our lives and how we’re moving through. It.
One way to do this is to be present in each moment.
As you do things, allow yourself to simply be there. Don’t think about the to-do list, the project, or the situation at home. Do what you’re doing and focus on what you’re doing.
When you fill your water bottle, notice the feel of the bottle in your hand, the bubbles rising to the surface, and the sound of the water. Then see yourself filling the bottle. You can also take a little time at the end of your day to think back and watch yourself move through the day. Notice what you were doing, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. This is not a time to revisit emotions or thought processes. Focus on your sensory experiences and actions. You may notice other people interacting with you and moving through your day as well. Just see it and experience it without delving in or judging it. Observe it, name it, and stand away from it.
Last, live curious and be yourself. Be yourself without judging or pushing. This releases resistance and brings you closer to bliss. It can be tough because we are taught to evaluate ourselves and constantly improve. And what if you are wonderful, perfect, and whole just as you are? As we accept ourselves and grow our patience, relaxation and energy flows through us. The further we take this, the freer and more joyous we feel.
When we approach self-care on all levels we truly nurture ourselves. As we nurture ourselves, we begin to see growth and find ourselves moving through life with more ease, grace, and calm.
My calm means I am less triggered and more creative. The thing my husband does that always annoys me, not an issue. My teenager rolling her eyes, doesn’t trigger me. My client is being difficult, I can chat calmly and look for a good resolution. This isn’t a magic wand we can wave and make annoyances go away, but we can nurture and care for ourselves so we can be our best self—a self with who is less triggered, less fearful, calmer, and happier.
Download a FREE copy of the Fempreneur Self Love Journal.
Sandy Fowler is a stress-relief guide for women. She shares simple strategies for relieving stress as she helps them find time for what matters most at SandyFowler.com
Whether she is speaking to a group, teaching a class, coaching a client, guiding a meditation, or hosting her podcast, she is always helping busy women find simple ways to make life better.