With everything we have going, we need a new way to approach self-care. We can’t afford 3 hours to go to a spa or a relaxing walk in nature. In order for self-care to be sustainable we need for it to take minimal time, require minimal scheduling, and have maximum impact.
In the past when we’ve thought of “Self-Care”, we envisioned hours out hiking in the beautiful countryside with waterfalls in the background and birds singing… Then we would look around ourselves and realize it would take us a very long plane ride and a lot of scheduling headache to get to such a place and we’d move on with our lives.
As life has sped up, there has been a lot of new research done on what exactly our bodies, mind, and emotions need in order to function at their best. And it is these studies that give us the clues we need in order to create a sustainable self-care routine.
In this post we’re going to focus on the top two things in each category that we can begin working on to create a sustainable self-care routine. If you want to take things to a little deeper level, you can check out our Free 30 Day Self-Care Challenge. It’s where we dive in-depth into 15 different self-care tactics and the science behind them.
I want to start on this one as I feel it gets the least amount of attention – but also has one of the greatest impacts on our lives. Mental Self-Care. This affects things like willpower fatigue, potential deficit, hyper awareness, and so on.
Willpower Fatigue: Research done by Columbia University has revealed that willpower, much like our physical muscles, can become tired and less effective. And with the average individual having to make about 35,000 decisions in a day, it’s no surprise that by the end of it we can’t decide on what to cook for dinner! A couple things we can be doing to help is to minimize the decisions we have to make. Pick out what we’re going to wear the night before. Meal plan for the week so we don’t have to decide what to cook. Or decide to only buy a certain type of shampoo so you aren’t having to compare and contrast every time you go to the store.
Potential Deficit: We have learned that living below what we believe our potential is (or should be) is actually toxic to our brains. When we live in a bad situation and blame it on others – instead of changing ourselves and our lives, we’re telling our brains that that is all we deserve. We are unconsciously shutting down our creative receptors saying, “there’s no need for you. This is all my life will ever be because of XYZ”. So what do we do? Start making little choices every day to improve even just a small aspect of our lives. Start making a conscious effort to be a little more than what we were yesterday.
This one is a no brainer for most of us – breath deep, exercise at least 15 minutes a day, eat good food (what “good” entails is a totally different post!), and get 8 hours of sleep each night.
But do we know why??
Deep breaths: When our body goes into a primal “fight, flight, or freeze” response to the stresses and dangers we face, it cuts off our brain’s access to the cerebral cortex (the reasoning part of our brains). Deep breaths actually reopen that connection. Without those deep breaths throughout the day, our bodies will stay in a partial state of alarm. And this means we aren’t able to fully access our logic and processing side of the brain.
Exercise: In addition to keeping our bodies in shape, exercise is another thing that snaps our bodies out of the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. We were designed to deal with big threats, like “there’s a lion, we need to run!”. But in today’s age, we are bombarded with tiny threats like “the water bill is overdue” multiple times a day. So our body stays in this quasi-alarmed state and can’t complete what scientists are calling the “stress cycle”. One way to complete that cycle and tell our bodies that the threat is gone is through cardio exercise. This could be as simple as a brisk 15 minute walk! It doesn’t have to be intense, just something to get your heart pumping.
As a woman, this one is my favorite (and most valuable) section of self-care. It’s what inspired me to start learning about sustainable self-care in the first place. I felt like my emotions were always on the verge of snapping – flinging the emotional debris on my family. This aspect of self-care covers things like anxiety, depression, perfectionism, loneliness, and so much more!
Practicing The Pause: We are out every day juggling a million things and it’s hard to find an hour or two of quiet. So instead, we encourage you to keep an eye out for little ten minute (or two minute) moments in which you can pause and just be in the moment. Not chasing kids. Not worried about what’s for dinner or who you need to call back. A moment, ideally several of them a day, when you can just breathe slowly, listen to the rain falling outside, and enjoy the brief chance to be fully present. This is giving your mind a chance to reboot and have just one “app” running if you will, instead of the 15-200 that are normally up and going.
Stop Deliberating: Studies have shown that we are generally less happy the more choices we have. On top of that, when decisions are deliberated instead of made quickly, our brain becomes reactive instead of logical. So, the more choices we have (or possibilities we think up) = more deliberation. And more deliberation = more worry and stress. Which in turn makes us snappy and just generally unpleasant to be around. The solution? When you come to a cross roads or become anxious over something that could happen – instead of deliberating, make a quick decision on what you would or should do. Even if it’s the wrong decision, it’s mentally better for you than no decision.
The Big Picture
And there you have it! Self-care for you. Not just your body, but all of you. I hope this post has helped you think of things in a little different light and has inspired you in ways that you can better care for yourself.
Self-care doesn’t have to be this mysterious process of finding out the secret “key” that works for you and only you. Some of it is that, but a lot of self-care involves things that we can all benefit from. ❤️