One of the most common themes in this Q&A series has been how to soothe the mind and body and create a feeling of calm. We turn our attention today to self-care for anxiety. Anxiety is so prevalent that we can all relate to a sense of a jittery, reactive mind or the physical tension that creeps into our neck, shoulders and jaw by the end of the day. The modern world is jam packed full of stimulation and busyness that even our downtime often tends to involve more screen time and striving. We have lost the art of relaxation and worse, relaxation is often seen as lazy and luxurious. I want to challenge that notion and empower you with the tools to soften and soothe both your mind and body at any time throughout your day. Learn to do this and you will sleep better at night, wake feeling more refreshed and have greater willpower reserves to make life-giving choices more often.
To address an anxious mind and body, our self-care needs to focus on calming activities that promote the functioning of our parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and digest part of the nervous system. These are my go to tips for soothing anxiety:
- Time spent in Nature where you are noticing the beauty around you with all your senses. Just a few minutes will do.
- Taking a mindful walk, immersed in the sensation of moving and feeling a tall spine and open chest. A simple 5 minute walk around the block can be enough to boost your mood.
- Gentle and supported movement like swimming or restorative yoga poses like the sequence in this video
- Being with the breath and feeling the sensations of it – inhalation, pause, exhalation, pause. Aim to make your exhalation longer than your inhalation. Try the guided breathing exercise in this short video
- Lie down with your legs up the wall or over the sofa for 5 minutes and use the mantra: ‘I give myself permission to rest’
- Earth your brow: either in childs pose on the floor (you’ll see this in the yoga sequence above) or if seated at a table, rest your head on your hands. If standing, make two gentle fists and press the base of your thumbs into your forehead. Feel how this allows your mind and body to relax.
- Use the mantra: ‘I soften into this moment’ whenever you feel tight or reactive and allow your breath, mind and body to release.
Dot these micromoments of calm throughout your day and let me know how you go! Do you have a question you’d like to ask? Let me know by emailing me at email@example.com.
Wishing you peace and ease.
Self-care is such a buzz word at the moment but while awareness and appetite to engage in it are strong, it can be hard to do! If you’re find it tricky, go gently, you are not alone and there are valid reasons for it. In a nutshell, we all know what we need to do to feel healthy and happy, but it’s another thing to make it happen. Welcome to being human! Let’s explore why it can be tough and see what we can do to overcome the challenges:
- Self-care is wishy washy.
One of the reasons it can be hard to commit to self-care is because it feels nebulous and poorly defined. What exactly is it? Let’s be crystal clear: self-care is nourishment for the head, the heart and the body. The mantra is: self-care is health care. To further clarify the concept, self-care is an action or skill that nourishes you in the moment AND the person you are becoming, your ‘future self’ if you like. One glass of wine savoured in the evening can constitute self-care, but if that one turns to two or more and a late night, your future self is hardly going to be thanking you for your choices the next day. This practical definition will help you to understand self-care better and make more life-giving choices.
- One size does not fit all.
Another reason it can be hard to get clear on self-care is that what someone else finds nourishing may not float your boat. In fact, what you find nurturing in one moment might not be the tool or strategy you need in the next. We all have different needs, goals and natural preferences and this also changes over time. The solution here is to have a broad toolkit from which to draw, so there is always some kind of boost when you most need it.
- I don’t have time.
Neither do I. No one has spare time just waiting in the wings! The key here is to know that you don’t need extra time for self-care. Many self-care tools don’t take any more time, they are things you are doing already or it’s a way of harnessing your mind while you are doing everyday things! For example, your morning shower. You can ruminate on your worries or to-do list, or you can take a meditative shower where you choose to focus on the cleansing properties of the water or the scent of the gel. It is in how you use your time and parcel it out. You’ll find two whole sections of my book dedicated mood boosters and coping tools – these are all skills and activities that don’t take any added time.
- I don’t have the energy.
I hear you. I have experienced energetic bankruptcy too. There are times when we feel absolutely floored by life – grief, loss, change, relationship breakdown, parenthood. No one is immune. If you feel like your nervous system is fried or you are burnt out, then you need a specialised self-care toolkit, one that is healing, soothing, restorative, so that it tops you up without any further depletion. Self-care strategies what come to the fore here are Nature, listening to music, eBooks, TED talks or podcasts, or working with the breath, meditation, visualisation, mantra and the relaxing yoga you will find in my book. There are many options to explore, they just need to be the appropriate strategies to meet you where you are at right now.
- I can’t afford it.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that self-care requires an investment in expensive products or services. Self-care needn’t cost a penny. Gratitude, kindness and compassion cost nothing but are all potent mood boosters. You don’t need to join a gym, just take some shoulder rolls at your desk and savour a walk in Nature at lunch. Connect with a loved one, enjoy a hug, stroke the cat. All effective, free and easily accessible.
- I feel guilty.
Please, please let this one drop away. Well-nourished people are kinder, more compassionate, more resourceful and more resilient. This is what the whole world needs. When you commit to regular self-care you become a better version of yourself. Everyone your life touches benefits and this is the most sensational win win. Engage in self-care and you give yourself the best chance to be the person you aspire to be, to do the things you aspire to do. If guilt still pops up, use the mantra: ‘It’s not me first, it’s me as well’. Just take a moment to think of what self-care facilitates in your life… for me it’s to be the kind of mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, neighbour and coach I want to be. See that version of you and take the action required to nourish this ‘best self’. Watch those dividends ripple out well beyond you.
- Self-care turns into self-sabotage.
We’ve all been there, the brain fade on the sofa is more alluring than the run you have planned. Again, this is the Nature of being human. The answer is to spend time getting to know who you want your ‘future best self’ to be. Really see them, feel them and hear them. Ask yourself what choices would this ‘future best self’ make? Make the same choices more often than now and you take steps closer to being this version of you. When faced with a choice, check in and be clear on what takes you towards or away from your best self. This often dials down the volume of temptation. And it’s useful to acknowledge too that not every choice has to be ‘self-care’. There is a time for a late night with mates, there’s a time for champagne, there’s a time for a lie in, there’s a time for chocolate cake’. Just pick your time wisely and if you are trying to engage in self-care make sure it fits the definition of nourishing you now and your future self. And if you choose to let your hair down, let the mantra be: If I’m going to indulge, then I will savour it…
So these tips help us get clear on what self-care is but we still need to take further steps to make self-care happen. My best advice here is to use my Vitality Wheel framework set out in my book, ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ to write out your own self-care toolkit. We need it written down so there is a reminder when we’re feeling stressed out or too fatigued to think straight. Small incremental change works better than grand sweeping change and there needs to be balance in our self-care pursuits. The Vitality Wheel will help you carve that balance. With one micro moment of nourishment at a time, enjoy creating your future best self!
We’re in it together!
A: We need to engage in self-care every day because just like a car needs petrol to go, we need daily nourishment to keep our energy bank balance healthy. Do we incur stress on a daily basis? We all know the answer to that one… our daily work commitments, the pressures of commuting, the demands of parenting, the dishwasher that beeps until you turn it off, the energetic suck of social media, screen time – stress is a normal part of everyday life. We need daily self-care to mediate the effects of these ever present burdens on our health and wellbeing. And it’s not just the negative events in our day that can have us feeling stressed out – it’s much desired things like scoring a promotion, buying a house, a renovation project, booking a holiday or simply planning a celebration that can tax our energy bank too!
The mantra is: ‘self-care is health care’. Do we brush our teeth daily? Yes! So we also need to tend to our mental, emotional and energetic health daily. We need nourishment, head, heart and body, to keep us topped up and resilient in the face of life and all its stimulation, and we need it EVERY day.
How do you know that you REALLY need to get self-care on the radar? Look for signs of burnout. We all have our own individual triggers, and it can manifest in our body, in our thinking, in our actions and choices. Get to know your early warning signs and take action before overwhelm sets in.
What are the signs to look out for?
- Extreme tiredness, trouble sleeping despite feeling fatigued, difficulty in switching off and a sense of being overstimulated.
- A general suppression of the immune system evidenced by frequent bouts of minor ailments or infections like cold sores, headaches or common colds, or lingering illnesses.
- Muscular aches, pains and physical tension.
- Mental signs include: low mood, supressed appetite, poor concentration, or diminished enjoyment from life, work, or relationships. A sense of feeling stuck and overwhelmed. Anxiety, anger, reactivity and irritability. A tendency to generalise about problems, to catastrophise or lose perspective and to take things personally.
Self-care will help you heal your system from burnout. If you’re in a state of overwhelm you need to tailor your self-care routine, prioritising soothing activities and life choices that gently restore balance to your life. I will guide you through that process in a future blog post so please keep checking in. Even if you are not feeling energetically low, engaging in a regular self-care practice will protect you from the ravages of stress, reducing the risk of burnout. Either way, we all need to nourish ourselves because no-one is immune.
Got a question for me? Just email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org …
I’m loving my collaboration with Life + Me. Here is the first post in response to the Life + Me, ‘Ask Suzy’ series. If you have a self-care question, fire away at email@example.com
Q: WHAT IS YOUR NUMBER ONE SELF-CARE TIP THAT I CAN MAKE PART OF MY EVERYDAY LIFE?
A: Is there one thing we can all do, every day to boost our wellbeing? Sounds like a tall order, right? But yes, there is! The one self-care tool I use every day of my life is savouring. It is such a simple skill that even my three year old son has mastered it… in fact children are naturally the masters of savouring – just watch them while they’re immersed in something they find joyful!
Savouring can be defined as thoughts or actions that create, amplify and sustain enjoyment. Basically, it’s the ability to suck the life out of pleasurable experiences, giving it your complete attention and yourself the full permission to relish it. There are three different components to savouring – past, present, future. You can savour the past by reminiscing, you can savour the present by immersing yourself in the pleasure of the moment at hand and you can savour the future by joyfully anticipating and visualising what might lie ahead.
Savouring is a skill that we build with practice and as our competence grows it is as if we see the world through a different lens, always on the lookout for something uplifting, engaging, awe-inspiring or the silver lining so to speak. It takes just a moment to cultivate and is such a potent mood alchemist, I urge you to try it. We all have time for this kind of self-care!
Exercises to develop the skill of savouring:
- Savour the ordinary.Choose to savour two enjoyable experiences per day – this can be something ordinary such as your walk to work, (we even do it on the school run!), or you could choose to relish something from your daily routine that you might normally rush through. Spend at least a couple of minutes reflecting on the experience, trying to feel it as intensely as possible and let the experience linger as long as possible.
- Savour with your senses. Indulge in your senses and be alive to the joy available to you whether it is in your morning coffee, the scent of your newborn, your favourite piece of music or the natural beauty available to you. Pay close attention and filter out any extraneous thoughts or stimulation that interferes with you taking delight in this moment. Train yourself to be on the lookout for beauty around you and don’t miss an opportunity to derive pleasure from it.
- Savour with friends. Take the time to get together with friends and family and reminisce about shared pleasurable memories, revel in the joy found in this moment and share your visions of future events that you are excited about. Make sure also that you never miss out on celebrating achievements and successes with your friends and family and similarly sharing in their good news.
- Hit the “replay” button– choose a happy event or experience and replay it in your mind, or in conversation with someone. Don’t analyse the event, just relish it.
- Create a savouring album – think of this as your ‘happy journal’. You can include photos of your favourite people, places and things, quotes, cuttings, notes, letters, drawings. Keep adding to it to make sure it stays fresh and turn to this journal whenever you need a boost.
I hope you enjoy seeking out pleasurable moments to relish, recalling past ones and imagining future experiences. This should be the best homework you’ve ever been given and best of all, it is sure to pay dividends.
Got a question for me? Just email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org …
Sound the klaxon! Announcing a fantastic give away with the ULTIMATE SELF-CARE PRIZE: two signed copies of my book, The Self-Care Revolution and a spa day for two at Champneys, the perfect oasis of calm in which to nourish your head, heart and body.
To enter, simply email me at email@example.com with your favourite self-care activity.
Competition closes at: 9pm Sunday 28th January 2018. The winner will be drawn at random, contacted via email within 24 hours and must respond promptly to verify. Please note this give away is only open to UK residents and any personal data from entries will not be shared.
Remember to share with all your friends!
Here are the details:
Spa Day at Champneys for two people (worth up to £208)
After arriving at one of our beautiful spas at 9am, you’ll be welcomed with refreshments and are free to relax, however you like. You’ll experience the delights of a full day of pampering with a delicious three course buffet lunch to enjoy half way through.
Get comfortable in the cosy Champneys robe and flip-flops that you’ll be given for the day and try out the spa facilities, including swimming pool, steam room, sauna, and whirlpool. It really is the perfect way to unwind.
If you have the energy (and can tear yourself away from the spa) you’ll have a choice of over 20 exercise classes, ranging from dynamic aerobics and indoor cycling to more relaxing yoga, meditation and pilates.
Choose from Tring in Hertfordshire, Forest Mere in Hampshire, Henlow in Bedfordshire, Springs in Leicestershire or Eastwell Manor in Kent. Each resort offers sumptuous accommodation in elegant surroundings, delicious cuisine, treatments and therapists focusing on both inner health and outer beauty, not to mention the latest fitness trends.
Spend a day with us, and you’ll get a feel for how much we have to offer. A Day to Remember.
Arrival at Resort from 9am, Healthy arrival snacks
Complimentary robe hire and flip flops
Nutritious three course buffet lunch
Full access to Champneys range of fitness classes and Spa and Relaxation experiences.
Departure from Resort at 6pm.
For more information visit: champneys.com
Terms and conditions apply. Valid Monday to Thursday only. Prize must be booked and taken within 6 months from the date of issue, subject to availability. Prize value dependent on location. Guests must be 16 years or over, non-refundable and non-transferable. Travel to the spa is not included. Prize cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.
I wish you the best of luck!
1. Repeat after me: self-care isn’t selfish. Why? It comes down to the true definition of self-care. Self-care is any act that nurtures your head, heart and body. Self-care is health care. Still feel a pang of guilt? Think of what self-care facilitates in your life – what does it allow you to be and do. When we are well nourished we are best placed to respond to life’s challenges with clarity, compassion and resilience. It truly is the ultimate win win.
2. No time for self-care? Seek out ‘micro moments’ of nourishment. Self-care needn’t take large chunks of time. It’s about imbuing every day actions with a feeling of tenderness and care. A meditative shower, where you savour the scent of the shower gel and the cleansing property of the water, will set you up for the day better than one spent ruminating on your to-do list. We all have time for this kind of nourishment.
3. Not sure where to start? Get quiet, still and listen to your mind and body – it will tell you what it needs. We often habitually turn to the same types of self-care but we benefit from varying our approach to nourishment. The most effective self-care is a bespoke response delivering the mind and body what it needs in the moment. Having a broad toolkit from which to choose will serve you well. You’ll find plenty of inspiration in my book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’.
4. Seek balance in your self-care activities. There is a time for stillness and a time for movement. We need social connection as much as we need time in solitude. We need stimulation and we also need rest and relaxation. We need to plan and take action but we also need space for an absence of striving. Cultivating balance is how we create maximal effectiveness from our self-care rituals.
5. Write it down. The simple act of writing down our self-care toolkit forms a powerful priming action for that behaviour, helping you to make a life-giving choice more often. When we are feeling frazzled, stressed or fatigued it can be hard to put your finger on something constructive. Having a well-articulated self-care toolkit will connect you with a form of nourishment accessible when you need it the most and help you get back on track swiftly.
Need a little more self-care inspiration? My book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ is out now in the UK and Australia and to follow shortly in the US and Canada. Leap over to Amazon to get yours!