Practical strategies for self-care

Snow is falling outside my window, swaddling the world in softness and decorating it in icing sugar dust. It makes me want to curl up and stop.

The sharpness of earth’s fresh breath against my skin was so enlivening this morning it left me tingling, but once I stepped inside my door I started to crave solitude and stillness like never before.

The onset of the new year can often ignite desire that drives change and, while we may enter January full of purpose, by February we can feel deflated and fatigued as we search for the energy to initiate new projects.

Although spring is on the way, when it is still cold outside we need to be sure to conserve ourselves adequately. The chilly months offer us a great opportunity to practice self-care.

Self-care isn’t being selfish

Self-care has become such a buzz word of late it’s almost taboo. Isn’t self-care selfish? I hear so many you say. The truth is, self-care is connected to self-preservation and showing ourselves respect. In a busy world, where most of us strive for balance, investing effort in self-renewal rituals is necessary not only for our health and happiness but for survival and a deeper sense of satisfaction too.

Self-care isn’t an empty me-first mentality. It is less about indulging egotistical interests and more about devoting energy into crafting a meaningful relationship with ourselves, that cuts through superficial feel-good fixes to keep us centered. Yet it usually only occurs to us when we hit a crisis.

‘How you treat yourself is how you are inviting the world to treat you.’

– Jane Travis –

Often when we experience lack we look to someone or something else for a pick-me-up, overlooking the fact that disconnection is the true cause of distress and we can self-soothe.

Like all things, self-care takes discipline and practice, but over time it can help to harmonise body, heart, and mind, improve resilience, increase body-confidence and lower the risk of stress-related issues, leaving us feeling far more in control of our lives.

So as Valentine’s Day approaches let’s commit to showing ourselves love before we shower it on others. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Here are a few practical self-care strategies to get you started:

Rebel against your morning routine

Morning routines are great and it’s not hard to see why. Bringing structure to how we begin our day has proven to have a positive impact on health, happiness, productivity and success. But, occasionally it feels liberating to rebel against routine and mix things up a bit!

Altering your behaviour will bring you to attention and ensure you’re not on auto-pilot. Do as you feel instead of following a pre-defined plan or try something out of character, you might discover new habits that stick.

Hide

When I was a kid one of my favourite ‘games’ (being the introvert I am) was to build a den by placing a big sheet over two upturned chairs and then filling the space with cushions, fairy lights and a few of my favourite things.

At 34 it feels a bit silly to hide away beneath propped up furniture, but the desire to create a special space where I can shelter in my own sanctuary remains.

The space around you influences your ability to renew at home so it is worth de-cluttering, cleaning and decorating your surroundings in a way that reflects your personality. You should have at least one room that you can escape to and feel at ease in easily.

When it’s time for some uninterrupted ‘me time’ prepare your environment appropriately. Blankets, big pots of tea, piles of magazines, candles, plants and a good book are my top choices for inducing a mellow mood.

Use touch to tune in

A cliche perhaps, but creating a home spa experience never hurt anyone. Whip yourself into a healthy lather and opt for nice products that feel luxurious to show yourself a little love.

You might also like to invest in a good quality oil and nourish thirsty skin with a self-massage, using long, smooth strokes and applying a little more pressure to places that feel they need extra attention. Touch is a great way of tuning in.

Immerse yourself in experience

Self-care isn’t just about stillness, pampering, and relaxation. It can feel just as good to rev the endorphin engine and even activate adrenaline. Look for an activity that is stimulating and immersive as a way of replenishing your energy and refreshing your mind, that limits too much cognitive thinking. The options are endless, so don’t be afraid to try something new just for you.

Feed yourself soul-food

Feed yourself tummy-friendly-good-mood food to feel fine. Shopping for and preparing nice ingredients can be a really soulful experience. I like to head to my nearest farmers market and pick up produce that inspires me when I’m in need of some nurturing.

Become digitally detached

For a day a week or an hour a day (whatever works for you) take yourself offline and out of circulation. Modern life has a way of making us available all the time, but it can be exhausting responding to the demands of every little message or notification. So unplug the phone, disconnect from the wifi and detach from the digital world to induce peace.

Introduce a gold star reward system (seriously!)

Recognise your accomplishments by giving yourself a gold star every time you do good. It helps you track small steps on the journey towards achieving bigger goals and provides you with a framework to celebrate success. 10 stars can be celebrated with small rewards, while 100 should be marked with something more significant.

When I first moved to Holland and found integrating with a different culture challenging I gave myself a gold star for every ‘first’ I faced and each time I forced myself outside of my comfort zone. It helped me to feel more positive about my progress.

Dress to express

Paying attention to how you dress is non-negotiable when it comes to self-care. Style yourself in a way that represents how you want to reveal yourself to the world. Express yourself through fabric and fashion, it’s fun! When you think you look good, you feel good.

I know, when life is busy self-care can be the first thing to slip but it doesn’t always have to be time-consuming. Start small and simply notice how it feels to turn attention towards yourself. In the beginning, it can be uncomfortable, especially if we are pre-programmed people pleasers. Don’t let this put you off. Simply bring a little celebration and ceremony into everyday actions and recognise that by looking after yourself you’ll also have a positive impact on others.