The emotional roller coaster we’ve all been on in the last 3 year along with current cost of living crisis, means every one of us feels the effects of this stress. So the start of a new year is a great time to focus more on looking after ourselves to better manage our stress. Professor Gabor Mate states that women are the “stress absorbers” of their families and for society as a whole. It’s little wonder then that auto immune diseases affect more women than men. Therefore everyone, but especially us women need to focus on therapeutic practices and activities that we find restorative, healing or calming.
Well what is self-care? A lot of people think it’s the same as being selfish or self-indulgent. But those people would be wrong! Self-care, a term coined in the 1950’sand has deep feminist and political roots (see article below). Ultimately, it is anything that makes you smile or feel nurtured and cared for. Whatever helps us deal with the stresses of daily life; looking after your family, around work, managing health issues and money worries. It means taking care of yourself so you can be healthy, well and able to deal with all the necessities of life. But also to have energy and enthusiasm to achieve the other things we want to do in a day, a week, a year or in life. We know that our emotional and physical health are linked, with one often affecting the other in a feedback loop. Therefore we have to take care of our whole self, mind, body and spirit.
Mindfulness is a term used for practising focussed present awareness in whatever activity you are doing. Many studies have shown that practising mindfulness regularly lessens feelings of anxiety and depression. Focusing on our breathing is one of the easiest self-care practices we can do to slow down and manage our racing thoughts, which cause us so much stress. You could practice gratitude by keeping a journal and recording all the things you’re thankful for on a daily basis. Try meditation, yoga or chair yoga, go for a massage or better still do self-massage on hands, feet and head. The local swimming pool is a great place to go for a swim and or sauna.
Eating healthier non-processed foods, drinking more water, getting good uninterrupted sleep and doing some form of daily exercise are important ways to practice self-care. Getting outdoors into nature and away from the noise and busy pace of life has tremendous regenerative powers to soothe the mind and calm the body; also my favourite. Positive self-talk is really important as we are our own harshest critics. Treating yourself to a nice long shower or bath if possible, getting your hair or nails done or meeting up with friends for a cuppa or a long walk, are other great ways to practice self-care.
Acts of kindness to others, random or otherwise, is another great source of self-care because we benefit greatly by also feeling good. Any act of kindness that you can weave into your daily life whether it’s to yourself or others can make a massive positive impact. Engaging in self-care regularly is linked to many positive health outcomes; reduced stress, improved immune system, increased productivity, higher self-esteem and an overall increase in feelings of wellness.
Plato said “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Self-care is therefore not a luxury it’s a matter of survival. For women’s rights activists to sustain themselves and the work that we do, self-care is fundamental to our wellbeing. Soon after she was diagnosed with cancer for a second time, the radical feminist author Audre Lorde stated “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Blog written by Kara Evans - Information Development Worker, Wise Women
Links to further information to get you started:
· Article: www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/
· Article: www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/zhvtbdm
· Book: ‘Breathing The Master Key to Self-Healing’ by Andrew T. Weil
· Book: ‘The Pocket Book of Mindfulness’ by Jane Maple
· Video: Headspace - youtu.be/Mqqxi8mt4t0
· Free Apps: www.smilingmind.com.au/
· Free Apps: Healthy Minds Program