For most of my life, taking care of myself was not something I prioritized. I always had “more important” things to do that—in my mind, at least—couldn’t wait, so I always put self-care off as something to take care of “later.”
Over the last few years, however, my body, mind and soul decided that it was time for a shift; in their own special way, they told me to “stop.” I started feeling aches and pains in my body that didn’t exist before; I felt physically exhausted and emotionally drained; and I knew it was time to listen to my body and soul. It was time to pay attention and nourish myself.
For someone like me who’s always going non-stop, has a tendency to multitask (even though I know it’s not good for me), doesn’t get enough sleep, and feels a constant need to be productive, it can be incredibly challenging to pause and make time for myself. But I knew this was not a healthy path and that I needed to shift my priorities and start taking care of myself. I surrendered to the messages I was receiving and started doing small things to create my own self-care routine.
The first thing I did many years ago when I was stressed out at a demanding job was to recognize the physical pains I felt and start addressing them. I started taking a Kundalini yoga class, as this type of yoga was highly recommended to me as a form of stress reduction. also started seeing both a massage therapist and a chiropractor when the pain passed my own personal threshold. I prefer to seek holistic remedies versus prescribed medications, so I always sought the natural path first.
Through the years, my interest in my own well-being has become a top priority. I love to cook, especially healthy, all-natural, whole foods. I cook from scratch and always use organic ingredients as much as possible. For me, cooking is a way to destress after a long day at work and is a therapeutic creative outlet for me. I also start each day by meditating when I wake up. This practice has helped me tremendously in dealing with stress, as the practice of mindfulness and self-awareness has helped me to become less reactive and more thoughtful in my words and actions. I work out three to four times a week, because there is nothing like sweating and cardio to release toxins. I feel great after a morning workout and am motivated and energized for the day ahead of me. Through all of these practices, I’ve learned how important it is to listen to my body. Rather than pushing myself to keep going when I’m not feeling, I’ve learned to give myself permission to rest, which has been monumental for me in avoiding illness and burnout.
Now that you’ve learned a little about my self-care rituals, here are a few of my best tips for starting your own:
Ask yourself, “How do I feel?” on a daily basis. If your answer includes words like stressed, tired, anxious and overwhelmed, then you’re most likely someone who needs to take better care of yourself. Make a decision and a commitment at this time to a self-care practice, and put it in writing. I strongly believe that when we write down our goals and commitments, this act of taking pen to paper helps us stay focused and committed to them.
Determine which areas of your well-being you need to focus on most:
BODY: How does your body feel? What does your body need? Do you feel physically well?
MIND: How does your mind think? Does your mind tend to positively or negatively affect you?
SPIRIT: How do you connect to your spirit or soul? Do you feel you are being true to your soul? Do you know yourself?
Once you identify areas of your BODY, MIND and SPIRIT that need to be paid attention to, start identifying possible solutions for each one. For example:
BODY: Physical activity (i.e. walking, running, cardio, pilates, barre), physical therapy (i.e. massage, acupuncture, reflexology), rest (i.e. more sleep, naps during the day)
MIND: Mindfulness practice (self-awareness with non-judgement), meditation practice (being present in the moment), professional therapy (psychologist, psychiatrist, life coach)
SPIRIT: Journaling, reading, spending quality time with yourself to determine what is your passion and who you are at your deepest level
Next, ask yourself, “What makes me feel great and fulfilled?” Once you identify these things—whether it be a particular physical activity, hobby or spending time with your loved ones like your significant other or even your dog—do more of these things.
Also ask yourself, “What depletes my energy?” Once you realize what those things are (maybe it’s an individual or an activity), then learn how to say “no” to these things and expose yourself to them less.
And finally, ask yourself “What are the little things I can do on a regular basis to take care of myself?” Maybe this includes burning a candle when you get home at night; perhaps it’s getting your nails done or writing in a gratitude journal. Maybe it’s taking your dog for a walk, reading a chapter out of the book you’ve been meaning to start, grabbing dinner with a friend, carving out some time to organize part of your home, or spending quality time with your significant other. Whatever these small actions and rituals are that bring you joy, schedule them, savor the time you spend doing them and remember to be in the moment.