A: Self-care tips to boost confidence in an instant.
While robust self-love and confidence can take time to build, we genuinely can change how we feel in an instant with these 5 tools. None of these things take much time but their impact on your mood, subjective energy levels and self-assurance can be potent. Try them yourself and see the dividends ripple out.
1 Posture – research has shown that how we hold our bodies has a significant impact on our sense of self-esteem, energy and optimism. Google Erik Peper if you’d like to learn more. Become aware of how you are holding your body through your day and consciously soften your eyes, jaw, neck and shoulders. Feel a sense of elevation through the crown of your head and broaden your collarbones, whether you are standing or seated, and you will feel more resourceful in the face of challenges.
2 Breathe – this is so simple, when you breathe better, you feel better. As a psychologist and yoga teacher I am passionate about raising awareness of the therapeutic power of working with the breath. Nothing elaborate is required here, just a smooth, relaxed breath. It can be helpful to feel the four phases of your breathing: the inhalation, the moment after you breathe in, the exhalation and the moment after your breathe out. Allowing these natural pauses to be there can be very soothing for your nervous system. Bringing your hands into a mudra can also be powerful – helping to focus the mind on the sensations of breathing. Try this one: curl your thumbs in towards your palms and wrap your fingers around them, making a gentle fist. Bring the back of your fingers with the wrists facing upwards to touch, just in front of your navel. Hold the mudra for 6 relaxed breaths. Feel how this makes your breath feel more spacious, tapping you in with your inner strength and resilience.
3 Movement – use your body to feel empowered. Amy Cuddy is your go to resource for power postures and you will find plenty of them in yoga. When I need to stand firm and feel resolute I opt for mountain, tree or warrior poses. These shapes connect you with the strength of your legs, core and spine and help you feel the support of the earth beneath you. Break out into one of these poses whenever you need to feel strong. Perfect pre-meeting preparation.
4 Mantra – harness the power of your mind by using mantra or primer statements. How is it that you’d like to feel? Simply add that quality to an ‘I am’ statement. Repeat it to keep your mind from rumination or less constructive thoughts.
5 What’s your WHY – when life gets tough, your purpose will galvanise you. If there is something coming up that causes you anxiety, remind yourself WHY you are doing it and this will help you dig deeper. Reflect on your strengths and values and call to mind those qualities that will help you navigate this challenge. It will all be worth it.
Got a question for me? Fire away! Please drop me a line via firstname.lastname@example.org.
A: Whether you’ve woken up feeling a little bleary eyed or you’re experiencing that familiar ‘post-lunch dip in arousal’, these simple micro moments of self-care will help top up your energy bank. Read on for some good alternatives to that second coffee! Try these tips whenever you need a boost to your get-up-and-go.
Scent – spritz some zesty room spray, use your favourite perfume or savour some hand balm. Give the experience your full attention and feel it lift your mood in an instant.
Posture – research clearly shows that an upright, open-hearted posture boosts our subjective energy levels and outlook. You can do this wherever you are, seated at your desk, driving, waiting in the post office queue or at the kitchen sink. Simply elongate your spine, drop your shoulders away from your ears, soften your eyes and your jaw and feel the breadth of your collarbones. If this feels different to normal, ask yourself how you normally hold your body? A daily yoga practice of as little as five minutes will help you maintain better posture throughout your day.
Breathing – when you breathe better, you feel better. Often our habitual breathing pattern becomes short and tight. Expansive breathing will energise you. Imagine your rib cage is a barrel. As you breathe in, the barrel expands in all directions and as you breathe out, the barrel effortlessly retracts back to its centre. Allow your inbreath to fill up all those internal nooks and crannies, feel a little pause, enjoy a long, smooth and effortless exhalation, followed by another pause. Just 5 conscious breaths like this will help you tap into greater vitality and resourcefulness.
Mantra – rather than repeatedly telling yourself how tired you are, harness how you want to feel by using a mantra. Think along the lines of I am energised. I am vital and abundant. I am resolute. Or if the monkey mind gets in the way, simply repeat ‘I’ on your inbreath and ‘AM’ on the outbreath.
Movement – take a quick walk around the block to blow out the cobwebs or use some yoga poses to top up your energy bank. Any side stretch will do the trick. The simplest version would be a mountain side stretch: standing up with your arms down by your sides, breathe in and reach your right arm skywards. Breathe out and slide your left hand down your left hand side. Breathe in and come back to upright. Breathe out and lower your right hand back down by your side. Repeat on the other side. Notice the difference after you’ve taken this a few times to each side.
Sleep – Schedule in an early night! Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Our culture of ‘you snooze, you lose’ is seriously unhelpful. Prioritise getting the sleep you know you need to function and when that’s just not possible make sure you are engaging in regular self-care to compensate. Check out the blog for other recent posts on how to relax, soothe and promote better sleep.
Got a question for me? Fire away! Please drop me a line via email@example.com.
We all know we need to engage in self-care to keep our energetic bank balance happy, but what do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed or fatigued? The key is a broad and well-articulated self-care toolkit from which to draw, so that we have options that lift our energy without requiring any! This will serve you best when that toolkit is written down because when we are low on energy we are also least resourceful and creative to come up with a course of action. Write out some self-care activities, look at your list when you’re feeling frazzled and be reminded of something effective and accessible to you in the moment. This is how we keep self-care on the radar even when we are feeling at a low ebb.
When we’re tired mentally, emotionally or physically, we need a soothing toolkit of practices to turn to – a feeling of receiving rather than having to strive to add another thing to our ‘to do’ list. Healing modalities like massage or acupuncture can be a beautiful way to revive without any effort on your behalf. It is worth writing down on your self-care toolkit some forms of bodywork and make an appointment like an MOT – even if it is only every six months. I appreciate that this does incur some cost but at what cost do we not tend to our health?
There are also lots of other ways that we can receive energy without the expense of paying for a treatment. A meditative shower, soak in the bath, massaging in some body oil, a good stretch out on your yoga mat or just a simple lying down twist on the floor before you hop into bed for the night. Listen to a TED talk, a podcast or an audio book on a subject you find uplifting. Mindfully choose your visual diet and amount of screen time because we can be depleted by what we watch. Instead of watching the evening news or the movie that you find viscerally stimulating, choose something that soothes your nervous system instead, maybe a documentary or something that makes you laugh.
Being in Nature is another potent way to re-energise and connect with what is most important to you – and this doesn’t cost a penny. My favourite way to reboot when I’m feeling overwhelmed is to ‘earth my brow’ – it is a hard wired way to soften and soothe. Either sit at a table and rest your head on your hands or take to the floor for a child’s pose – I hope you find this instantly calming too. Use the mantra ‘I soften into this moment’ whenever you want to access this state of equanimity.
When we are feeling low, the priority in our self-care needs to be soothing activities that promote the functioning of our parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and digest part of the nervous system. Sleep, rest, relaxation, time in Nature, gentle and supported movement like swimming or restorative yoga poses, meditation and feeling the sensation of your breathing will all help restore balance and top up your energy bank.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com …