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What "Self Care" Really Means

Did you know that July 24 is International Self Care Day?

All around the world, people will be slowing down a little to honour the fine art of self care.

But what does that really mean?

"Self care” is one of those popular terms in the media, especially on the health & fitness side of things. But taking great care of yourself is about so much more than green smoothies and exercise (although those things do help) - it’s about having a look at yourself in a holistic way, and supporting ALL the elements that make us human.

I like to do this by dividing my self care into four main areas, and checking in with each one.

Area #1: Body

Physical self care is a great place to start, because when your body’s not healthy, nothing else can be.

Nowadays, one of the biggest threats to physical well-being is stress, which comes in different forms: we’re stressed out at work, sure, but our bodies are also stressed out because of all the harmful toxins in our air supply, water, cleaning products, etc.

We also stress our bodies with the food we eat. Sugar is the main offender here, and, unfortunately, refined sugar is used in almost ALL processed foods.

Tips for Body Self Care

  • Pay attention to the essentials. Get 8 hours of sleep a night, and exercise 3-5 times a week
  • LOAD your plate with leafy greens. Cut down on sugar and processed foods and EAT YOUR VEGGIES! Include a rainbow of colours on your plate J
  • Support your adrenals. Your adrenals take a beating from chronic stress, and without these glands acting optimally you’ll find yourself exhausted and sick. Try supplementing with B vitamins, magnesium and herbs such as; maca root, ashwagandha and rhodiola (all available at your local health food store).

Area #2: Mind

Here again, stress is one of the biggest impediments to well-being.

We’re living busier, more productive lives than any generation in history, and it’s taking its toll on our health: mental stress from a jam-packed schedule, environmental stimulus, and being “plugged in” to screens at all times can contribute to adrenal fatigue and many other illnesses.

Tips for Mental Self Care:

  • Unplug! One of the greatest things you can do to support your mental well-being is get off those devices for a good chunk of every day.
  • Take a true holiday. Leave the work & devices at home, get out into the woods, and let you mind & body unwind.
  • Try meditation. The research couldn’t be more positive about meditation for stress reduction: this ancient practice of sitting quietly and being present to your surroundings can do wonders for stress, and overall well-being.

Area #3: Heart

There’s physical heart health, which is another discussion, but what I’m really referring to here is your emotional well-being.

Because of those aforementioned devices, we’re spending more time in isolation - and it’s not good for our health. Sometimes the best self care is meeting a friend for a coffee: that emotional connection is just as imperative to our well-being as exercise.

Tips for Emotional Self Care:

  • Make time for your friends and family, and really be present with them while you are. Splitting your attention between a loved one and your phone does not count.
  • Notice consistent sadness, numbness, or anger? Just as you would visit a doctor for a physical ailment, consider seeing a counsellor or psychologist if you’re not feeling emotionally well.
  • Support your gut microbiome. There is much research suggesting that the chemicals and nerves in the gut influence parts of our emotion and our gut bacteria (good bacteria) are at the root of it.

Area #4: Spirit

This can be a tricky area to talk about with people, because we often conflate “spirit” or “soul” with religion.

For many people, the well-being of their spirit or soul does come from religion - but this doesn’t mean you have to go to church for spiritual self care.

Essentially, taking care of your spirit means feeling connected to something larger than yourself. Whether it’s your running community, a charity you volunteer with, or a big project you’re working on with a group of people, that sense of belonging and contribution is essential to good health.

Tips for Spiritual Self Care:

  • Take a look: when was the last time your contributed, volunteered, or gave back? When was the last time you were a part of larger community with a common goal? If these elements are missing from your life, there are lots of easy ways to try different things out. Start with one volunteer shift for a cause you believe in, and notice how you feel after.

Self care looks different for everyone, and rightly so: using this four-pronged approach, hopefully you’ll be able to identify where the gaps are in your well-being… and spend July 24th taking healthy steps forward!