Self-care is a priority and not selfish. The simple reason is if I don’t care about me, how can I care for my loved ones? If I don’t cater to my emotional and physical needs, then how will I cater to other’s needs?
But, then, in reality, you are driven by your responsibilities, to push yourself more and more. There are personal, professional, family, societal pressures and commitments which makes you push yourself to the extreme limits to fulfil all the demands and responsibilities. In the process, you forget yourself and do not even realise that you have your share of emotional and physical needs to be taken care of for your overall wellbeing.
Realisations come very late when we are knocked down by chronic stress, complete burnout or end up in a diseased state. Therefore, self-care daily is very important for both physical and mental wellbeing.
Scientifically speaking, there are several areas and dimensions of self-care.
Here, I have tried giving 4 small different steps towards self-care.
1.Spend some ‘me’ time alone: Everyday, give yourself a few couples of minutes to cut off from the routine grind and the hustle-bustle. This is your ‘me’ time entirely. Do whatever you enjoy doing, go for a short walk in nature, practise a hobby or listen to a piece of music. Meditate and observe your emotional feelings and acknowledge them. Understanding and acknowledging your both positive and negative thoughts are important so that you can let go of unwanted thoughts. Remember, thoughts are always associated with your feelings and experiences. Always, love and praise yourself for what you are and how far you have come in this journey. In self-care, self-love is important.
2. Control your stress level: Understand that when stress persists, your cortisol level shoots up. This adrenal gland hormone not only increases your blood sugar level but also elevates inflammation in the body which is responsible for various diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, cancers. So, when you feel you are at stress in the day, take a break. Practise relaxation like breathing exercises, stretches so that cortisol comes back to balance. Another simple way of letting stress go is to practice mindful moments, being present at the present moment. Sit quietly and notice your breath for some time. Feel the wind, air, smell around. Engage yourself in imagery exercise like walking down a beautiful forest, walking down a sandy beach, hearing the sounds of waves.
3.Practice gratitude: In the daytime, practice gratitude several times, being thankful for your existence, for your loved ones around, and for a beautiful life you have. These moments are important because whenever you feel gratitude and joy, there is a release of endorphins and serotonin which are happy hormones and which are necessary for your physical and mental health wellbeing.
4.Physical health: Lastly, as we all know, self-care remain incomplete if we do not care for our body. Eating healthy, routine exercise, sleeping well are essential steps towards physical wellbeing. For the normal wear tear of the body, giving enough rest helps in the healing and repairing process.
Like fashion, health trends keep changing with every passing year. There are a craze for particular diets (like keto, paleo, vegan ) and particular fitness techniques (Zumba, Equinox, pilates) which reaches a peak and slowly die down. In spite of each year coming up with a new concept of diet or fitness method, interestingly people are more leaning towards basics.
The concept of a simple basic diet comprising of fresh local produce and ample amount of physical activity which was never a part of the trend nor sounds fancy is timeless and considered the healthiest. This remains the basic key to healthier life irrespective of new health trends coming and going.
Certain health concepts which were never a part of the trends are here to stay forever.
Ayurveda: An ancient Indian form of healing about 5000 years old, has the concept of holistic healing when there is collective healing of mind, body and soul. Hence, the ayurvedic herbs and spices have become so popular across the world for their tremendous health benefits and immune-boosting properties. Off late, it has been very popular in the Western world.
The other day, I went into an organic store to get my organic green tea. I was quite surprised to see all ayurvedic herbs powder like Ashwagandha, neem, Brahmi, cumin, moringa, amla, turmeric powder and even more, some of which I am not even aware. This wasn’t an Indian store. This was quite unusual for me, as the city in Europe where I live, there aren’t too many Indians.
Again turmeric is one spice, which has become so popular now, worldwide, for its magnificent health benefits and is no longer limited as a cooking ingredient in Indian cooking. It has been a common ingredient in smoothies, milkshakes and even ice creams.
Back to basics: Though gymming and workouts have been very popular, people are leaning more towards the simple physical activity of walking, running, swimming, cycling. The importance of plant-based fibre diet is a timeless concept which not only helps to maintain lean body weight but also helps to prevent lifestyle diseases.
The importance of Mother nature is the best healer has gained great momentum in recent years. Nature, the hills, trees, rivers, the very sounds of birds chirping are very soothing and rejuvenating not only for the wellbeing of physical health but also heals the mind from the day to day stress and routine anxieties.
Japanese Healthy Lifestyle: Japanese concept of living have been quite popular too because it is known to have some of its longest living citizens. They live with a simple concept of happiness, living with small joys of life which result in fulfilling life. Their unique method of cooking with the all-natural ingredient with very less oil and minimum cooking restoring the flavour and nutrients. People old and young lead a very active physical life.
Some concepts which are also seen to have been quite popular and are pretty much in are :
Gut health: People have understood the importance of maintaining a healthy gut. About 70% of our body’s immunity depends on gut health. So, the food containing pre and probiotic bacteria like yoghurt, saurerkraut, khimchi and kefir have become very popular. You can find these items in every other food outlet. Buttermilk has been a popular drink. Other forms of milk which are here to stay for their soothing health benefits are oats milk, almond milk and rice milk. Coconut and coconut milk has been very much in.
Other methods of maintaining gut health are tongue scraping and oil pulling. This was an Ayurvedic morning ritual but now has become a mainstream recommendation for its tremendous benefits. During night time, while the body’s digestion progresses, the undigested toxins and bacteria are deposited in the tongue to dispose of as wastes. So, it is important to clean the tongue properly otherwise, the toxins might get reabsorbed.
Mind healing: Mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing for holistic health. Our thoughts, emotions and feeling do count for a whole well-being state. Routine workouts and healthy eating are not enough for overall wellbeing, it is very important to have a healthy mind as well. So mindful practises, yoga and meditation are some important practices which are here to stay forever.
Cortisol conscious workouts: This is a conscious step which has been given much importance off late as routine heavy workout can result in peaked level of cortisol. Since most of the workout techniques involve a high level of stress and exertion, the cortisol ( stress hormone) level is pumped up at a continuous elevated level. This is important to be regulated as high levels are very harmful to the body. So, the choice of workout, clubbed with simple routine activities and how far you can push yourself needs to be regulated to keep the body cortisol in balance. (details in one of my previous post https://healthhappinesshealing.org/2019/08/07/post-cortisol-vigilant-workout-3-important-reasons/)
Cortisol or hydrocortisone is a naturally occurring stress hormone which is secreted by the adrenal gland. It is naturally produced during the fight and flight response to pumping up the extra energy to confront the situation. Under normal circumstances, the cortisol level fluctuates throughout the day as we are on the run through the day.
Since it is a hormone, it is circulated throughout the body by blood and affects all the organs of the body. Keeping aside the adrenal gland abnormalities where the cortisol level is very high (Cushing’s syndrome) and very low (Addison’s disease), the level should be appropriate for normal body functioning and well being. Irregularities in the cortisol level can affect the body’s metabolism and vital functions like blood pressure regulation. When cortisol is raised, the person may have weight gain, high blood pressure while a low level can lead to low blood pressure, weakness and weight loss.
Since most of the workout techniques involve a high level of stress and exertion, the cortisol level is pumped up. This is important to be regulated as high levels are harmful to the body. So, the choice of workout, how far you can push yourself or whether your body is ready to take up physical stress are some queries that should be considered.
So how can I be conscious about my workouts and also be quite vigilant about my cortisol level?
- Doing high-intensity workouts for long hours, not paying attention to the pain and injury to the body is no good to the body at all. Long hours of high cortisol level might slow down the body’s metabolism. High intensity workouts should normally be done for 30 -40 mins in a day. Going for low-intensity workouts like walking, swimming, yoga, skating, cycling are better options. Low intense training like resistance bands, gliders are also better choices. Following such workouts are more useful and restorative for the body and the cortisol level is also quite maintained.
2.Listening to the body’s need is important. Whether your body can perform a certain exercise is important. If you do have any injury, pain, skip the day with another form of physical activity. Scheduling the week with different forms of workouts and physical activity is wise and beneficial. Mix matching with Yoga, stretching, gliders and rest of the days with other forms like walking, swimming, cycling, aerobics are wise.
3.Help your body’s natural healing capacity. To maintain the cortisol level, prevent it from rising, some days rest your body, go for messages, physical therapy and other forms of relaxation techniques. Go for relaxation yoga poses like Balasana (child pose), Matsyendrasana (reclining fish pose) or savasana (corpse pose). Meditation with relaxing music is healing too. All these practises are restorative and bring out overall wellness.
Thanks for reading.
Happy workout ! Take care,
Much love to all 💐