Stress Less: Why self-care is a necessity
Life can be hectic.
You wake up at 5am and hit the gym (if you’re motivated enough), followed by a quick shower, breakfast, and then rush off to work. You spend the day running between meetings, answering emails, and trying to get everything ticked off your to-do list. You leave work, rush to the shop to grab something for dinner, get home and have to start cooking. You serve dinner, clean up the kitchen, and its already 8pm. Exhaustion hits, and you have just enough energy to hit the shower and plop down in front of the TV to catch up on an episode of your favourite show (Hello, Masterchef Australia!).
This may not be what everyone’s weekdays look like, but for so many of us, our days are packed to the brim with busyness - whether it’s taking care of your kids, trying to run a business, or working in a corporate environment - that by the time the day ends, we are so exhausted that we actually just don’t want to do ANYTHING.
Work-related stress is real and a huge problem in South Africa and globally. Although I work from home and my “occupational environment” doesn’t include the hustle and bustle of a corporate office, there have been times where I’ve felt totally overwhelmed by the lack of time and the amount of work that needs to be done. At times like these, its so important to take a moment to stop, breathe and understand that in order to be your best self, you have to put your self first.
Self-care is punted by psychologists as a really useful way to deal with stress and anxiety, and for good reason. By stopping and becoming aware of how you feel and having a little “me-time”, you can avoid burnout AKA running your own health and mental well-being into the ground.
There are loads of ways to practice self-care, but I’ve highlighted a few of my faves below:
Just say “No”
This one is hard at first, but with a little practice it becomes easier. Know your limits and know when your plate is full. Remember the straw that broke the camel’s back?
The above is also relevant for straws in restaurants - unless they’re the biodegradable kind (I had one the other day made from cornflour - how weird?!).
Have that glass of wine
We all know why this is here. If you feel like you need the glass of wine, have the wine. Enjoy the wine. Be grateful for the wine. Everything in moderation. If you’re a tee-totaller, having that much needed cup of coffee or tea is just as good.
Sleep like a baby
JK, because they are notorious for sleeping pretty badly. But seriously, most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night to function optimally (cue all the moms reading this laughing at me). If you are a night owl and struggle to get to sleep at a reasonable time, talk to your doctor about options. A supplement could help. You could also try taking a warm bath and adding 2 cups of Epsom Salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil to the water. I love this bath salt from Dr Teals (available at Dischem for R120 a bag) which combines the two. Magnesium is great for helping muscles to relax. I also find that if I read a book for about 1/2 an hour before bedtime, I fall asleep more easily.
Sometimes in order to relax, we actually need to move our butts. Exercise has been proven to reduce stress and has a myriad of other health benefits (including improving sleep quality for the night owls reading this). I know a lot of people hate being out of breath and sweaty (I’ve been there), but as your fitness levels increase, it does get better. I remember at my most unfit, I actually thought I was dying after doing a 5 minute jog (seriously, I was gasping for air and felt like my legs might give out under me). I can now run a 5k pretty comfortably, and I can literally feel the tension creeping up on me when I haven’t exercised for a few days. There are so many different things you can try - exercise is not limited to running or pumping iron at the gym. Try things. Find something you enjoy. Try to do it a few times a week. Reap the rewards.
Primp & Preen
Go and have a facial. Get a massage. Get a mani and a pedi. Or, if you are short of the time/cash, go the DIY route. I even count shaving my legs as self-care (gone are the days of shaving religiously twice a week - now my husband is lucky if I get around to it on a weekly basis). I try to do a face exfoliation and mask at least twice a week. When I get it right, my skin is amazing. When I get too busy, my skin ends up feeling like coarse grained sandpaper. You win some, you lose some.
Meditation has been shown to increase productivity, improve coping skills, reduce/control anxiety and enhance self-awareness. It also helps reduce stress. There are a lot of apps you can use to get you started (Headspace, Calm etc.). To be honest, I haven’t been great with this aspect of self-care, but I can say that when I have done it, I have definitely been more productive and better able to do my job. A caveat - the first time you try it, you may think you are useless/incapable of getting it right. It requires a bit of practice and patience, but you will get there!
Something which is a different to the pop culture description of meditation (i.e. sitting cross-legged and breathing deeply with your eyes closed) is spending time in prayer. This can be really useful in helping to ground you and give you focus, purpose and direction, no matter what your religious background is.
We all have our go to comfort food. Mine is an enormous bowl of pasta with a nice glass of vino on the side. While it is 100% healthy to occasionally indulge in a food we love but know isn’t the greatest from a health perspective, it’s also super important to nourish your body with whole foods (yes, that includes vegetables), and to be aware that what you put into your body is 100% going to affect the way it feels. Feed yourself nutritious, whole foods that are full of nutrients and see how your body responds. And if you need any cool recipe ideas, check out Jessica Sepel’s recipes, which are also good for ladies with food intolerance’s.
One aspect of self-care that’s really important to be aware of is that its not a one-time thing. For it to really have an impact on your well-being, it’s important to be relatively consistent with it. Also, self-care looks different for different people. #differentstrokesfordifferentfolks
Remember that you can’t pour from a cup that’s empty. Take the time to be self-aware, recharge and then go out there and smash your goals, whatever they are!
I have only listed a few of the ways we can practice self care. I’d love to hear your comments below on other ways we can do this, and what your experiences are…
With all my love,