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!
I am over the moon to say that my first book, ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ is out now! If you’ve already pre-ordered, I hope you get as much of a thrill as I have to hold it in your hands. It is the culmination of all my learning: personal and professional, and the silver lining to some really tough times. I hope you find it an uplifting and deeply nourishing read – a self-care activity in itself!
What’s it all about? In a nutshell: I share with you my definition of self-care, take you through my own healing journey and an exploration of the nature of stress and burnout to get clear on why we need self-care. And most importantly, I share with you ‘The Vitality Wheel’ framework that shows you how to actually make self-care happen.
It has been such a labour of love, writing the first draft while baby Teddy slept. Three years later, here it is! I am so excited to be able to share with you the self-care toolkit that has helped me weather my personal experiences of grief, international relocation, adjustment to becoming a mother and all the twists and turns of everyday life. Thanks to you for walking the path with me over the years.
To order your copy, simply click on this link! The book is out in the UK on December 28th, in Australia on January 11th and in the US and Canada it is under the title ‘Self-Care Solutions’. I so welcome your thoughts, so please leave me a review!
We’re in it together!
All my love,
January blues getting to you too? Reality looms large and the thought of the school run tomorrow morning has me shuddering. And I think I’m finally understanding the allure of tea… it’s 4pm, 3 degrees, dark already and a third cup of coffee would not be my friend. So these are the little rituals to which I’m turning to get the happies flowing. I hope they give you some light relief too.
5 Ways to Return to Normality with Vigour…
1. Plan one thing you really look forward to and enjoy the anticipation of it. This can be as simple as looking forward to a solo walk on the weekend or something more grand like a planned holiday (Australia, you are on my radar!). Feel how just the thought of this buoys your spirits. I am really looking forward to settling in with Dave and the kids and watching his new TV show, ‘Let it Shine‘, on Saturday night! (more…)