Self-care started as a small movement of a few enlightened souls and quickly developed into a buzz word trending into infinity. But now self-care is the need of the hour. When so many of us are working to make ends meet, trying to get through the next virtual business meeting wondering if it will be our last, and finding the energy source to be there for our families as we navigate these uncertain coronavirus times, we need to take a little time out to care for ourselves. Self-care is an important ingredient if you want to be able to balance the recipe of life. But to be able to self-care appropriately, you need to tap into a state of self-love. Self-love and self-care are different yet interconnected in their purpose towards wellbeing. In this post, we explore what these two concepts are and what they most definitely are not, before diving into some practical tips on how you can incorporate both into your life for a greater state of wellbeing.
What is Self Love?
Self-love is the appreciation you have for yourself and grows out of actions you undertake to support taking care of yourself. Self-love covers your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual growth. In our recent installment of our Instagram Live Show ‘Ask The Gaggler’ on The Gaggler, Jocelyne Elias, Founder and Mindset Coach at Mindset Rewire says “Self-love is self-expansion.” Elias further informs, “our primary purpose in this life is to grow and expand to be the best version we can be.”
There are no one-size-fits-all as self-love is dynamic and can take on a different shape depending on what resonates with you and your needs. You need to be intentional about practicing self-love. This is so that you honor yourself by showing self-respect when you dedicate a portion of your day towards this goal of self-love.
Los Angeles based psychotherapist Andrea Brandt cautions people that self-love is not selfish, “Many people mistakenly believe that self-love is the same as narcissism or having a big ego. It’s not.” Brandt continues to explain, “Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world.” Instead, she counters “…when you love yourself you accept your so-called weaknesses, appreciate these so-called shortcomings as something that makes you who you are” and allows you to have compassion for yourself.
What is Self Care?
Self-care is any activity you deliberately do for yourself to take care of your mental, emotional, and physical health. It sounds simple enough but is often overlooked. To improve mood, reduce anxiety, and garner better coping skills to handle the ups and downs of life, good self-care is vital. Self-care is also key to promoting a good relationship with yourself and others around you. Elias made an interesting analogy that explained how self-care and self-love are interconnected: “If self-love is self-expansion then self-care are the practices you do towards that self-expansion.”
It is important to note that self-care is never something you force yourself to do, nor is it an activity you don’t enjoy. Larissa Marks, Spiritual Director and Enneagram Coach explains, “The thing about self-care is that it is a practice that requires you choosing to do it. It will not happen unless you intentionally make space for it.” Self-care serves to refuel you, not sap your energy.
Like self-love, self-care is not a selfish act. Acts of self-care that address your needs, ultimately place you in a better state of mind which in turn enables you to be in a better position to take care of others. So, how can self-care be selfish?
WATCH THE VIDEO: SELF CARE AND SELF LOVE: IT’S NOT COMPLICATED…
Practical Tips For Self-Love and Self-Care”
There are many different methods to how you can practice self-love and self-care but the fundamental pillars are always Body – Mind – Spirit. Here we explore 6 practical tips for self-love and self-care. You do not need to do them all at the same time. It is advised to start with the one that resonates the most with you so that you are more likely to stick with it – consistency is key.
TIP 1: The Start And The End Of Your Day
The start and the end of your day are two very critical time slots for you to calm your mind and unwind from the stresses of the day. Below, we share some rituals you can practice to ensure you get the best start and most calming end to your day.
Start of the day
How you start your day sets the tone for the whole day. Most of us wake up with a mindset of scarcity – I don’t have time; I am so late; oh goodness is that the time…these thoughts cause us to jump out of bed and start running the marathon of the day.
Instead, on awakening, sit in your bed in a relaxed position for three to five minutes, close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths and savour the sensations of your body. You may perform a gratitude affirmation; a simple ‘Thank you for this new day’ or ‘Thank you for another day of opportunities’ will do, or you can be more detailed in your gratitude.
After completing this, bless the day before getting out of bed and starting your day.
End of the day
Before retiring for the day, you can prepare your To-Do list for the next day or you may write about concerns you have from the day. The act of writing is quite powerful as it informs the brain that all is okay, all To-Dos or concerns have been dealt with (in the writing of them) and that it is okay to switch off for the day. You are essentially clearing your mind of everything you have planned for the next day, signaling to your brain that you are all sorted and can sleep peacefully. You may also repeat the deep breathing steps and gratitude affirmations you performed at the start of the day.
TIP 2: Observing Thoughts and Journaling
The ability to observe your thoughts without attaching any judgment is another practice that helps with calming your emotions instead of becoming a victim of them. As you observe these thoughts work towards understanding the source of these thoughts – Where is this thought coming from? Why am I thinking like this? What can I do about this thought? By simply examining your thoughts without judgment will help keep your emotions at bay and allow you to avoid emotional rollercoasters.
Another related practice that can help you navigate your emotions is Journaling. Journaling is an exercise involving thinking and reflection and is best performed by writing down your thoughts that come out of this process. Writing is a very powerful method as it enables you to see your thoughts for what they are and forces you to think more clearly to articulate your feelings more fully. Journaling helps to clear your mind and allows you to be more aware of your thoughts, some which serve you well, and others that do not serve you at all. This practice is one of the best ways to sort out your thoughts and emotions so that you are best positioned to disregard the thoughts that offer no positive value to you. You are left with a clearer and more peaceful mind. Over time, you will find journaling allows you to understand yourself better and it’s easier to make decisions that are more in line with your values.
Journaling can be performed in the morning or evening depending on what time of day you prefer and are more inclined to be reflective. We suggest journaling at the same time each day and being consistent with this daily practice to reap the full benefits.
TIP 3: Sitting In Silence And Meditation
Going into silence for even five minutes a day has a hugely positive impact on your mind. You may say that you cannot meditate, or you don’t have time. We all have that time slot of five minutes and rather than thinking of it as meditation, which may be overwhelming for some, just think of it as sitting in silence with yourself. Elias suggests, “I advise people if you cannot do it at home just escape – go to the toilet, do it in the toilet. You just need to sit with yourself.”
The benefits of meditation are countless. And the resources for meditation music, guided meditation, mediation apps…are endless. You just need to start and experiment to find which format is an appropriate match for you. When you find one that resonates with you, stay with it for some time then expand your meditative experience into the other types available as you continue to advance your meditative practice. Even 5 minutes a day to start is a step that will help you and you can gradually build up your ability to meditate for longer periods.
In a recent interview with The Gaggler addressing ways to boost immunity, Dr. Walid Khairallah, Medical Director at Green Clinics Lebanon and Expert in Integrative Functional Medicine urged, “Taking care of one-self through spiritual practices like meditation, prayer, mindfulness, or self-reflection is crucial. They’re all important aspects of dealing with the current situation and a great opportunity to dedicate time to our personal growth.”
TIP 4: Deep Breathing
Breathing is something your body does automatically. You don’t even have to think about it, but you really should. Did you know that most of the time you may not even be breathing properly? That’s right, most of the time when you breathe you are shallow breathing. Proper breathing involves your nose, chest, and stomach (yes, stomach!) and a great stress reliever.
Before you start the deep breathing, make sure you are in a comfortable position – either seated or lying down. Place one hand on your stomach, just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose and let your stomach push your hand out. Then breathe out and feel the hand on your stomach go in, you can use your hand to push out any residual air. Repeat this 3 to 10 times at a deliberate pace, taking your time with each breath. You can do this two times a day and any time you are feeling particularly stressed.
Once you have mastered this form of deep breathing and want to progress to a more advanced method of deep breathing you can try the 4-7-8 method. Here you take 3 long, deep breaths to the count of 4-7-8 – 4 seconds deep inhale through your nose followed by a hold of 7 seconds and finally exhale slowly for 8 seconds. After you have done this routine 3 times, you may feel slightly light-headed which is normal as your brain is receiving a lot of oxygen from this deep breathing method.
You can perform either of the deep breathing methods three times in the morning and the evening. During the day if you are feeling particularly tense or have been involved in a stressful incident, you can do a couple of the normal deep breaths and this is called grounding.
TIP 5: Spirituality
Spirituality holds a different meaning for different people. For some spirituality is associated with religion or cultural traditions. If this is the case for you, then observing rituals, attending religious services, or reading religious texts can make up your spiritual self-care time. For others, spirituality is connected with nature, art, music…ultimately it can be any practice that is sacred to you and connects you to your source of The Divine. Whichever path you select will ultimately lead to the same outcome – connection, purpose, and happiness. We are all spiritual beings in physical bodies.
When you take time for spiritual self-care, you are taking the time to fill up your soul and nurture your relationship and connection with The Divine to feel heard, safe, and empowered.
The practice of spiritual self-care quiets the mind and improves your ability to calm down the restlessness that the stresses of daily life bring upon you.
TIP 6: Forgiveness
Being human requires you to forgive yourself. As a human, you make mistakes, we all do. If you beat yourself up for every mistake, judge yourself, you will lead a life of constant guilt. Such negative emotions eventually will cause low energy and feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and poor self-worth because the negative feelings stay inside us. It’s a downward spiral that doesn’t need to be. So, accept your humaneness so you can move forward to self-love, self-respect, and self-empowerment. Practice being less hard on yourself when you make a mistake. At the end of the day, every mistake comes with a lesson learned and we are all students of life.
You now have our 6 tips for incorporating self-love and self-care into your daily life. You might be wondering where you start? Our advice is to start with the practice that resonates the strongest to you. Don’t worry about performing the practice for a long time each day; the important part is that you start, even if it is for 5 minutes initially, and gradually build on that practice by extending your time. There are going to be days where you are not going to have the time to love yourself and indulge in self-care and self-love every single day. It’s okay. The fact that you have read this article in its entirety (you are here aren’t you?) is practicing self-care so you can do this!