My Guide to Ultimate Self-Care

There are many ways to live this life, but I choose to live it as genuinely and as authentically as I can. In the past few years, I have learned so much about myself but the most important thing I have learned is how to properly take care of my mind, body and soul. It was something I had always put on the back burner. Other people were my number one priority. I would always put my relationships before myself. Wounded people and hurt souls attracted me and I wanted to nurse them back to health. I slowly but surely learned that this was no way to live my life. Of course, it is okay to be there for people – but always remember that your life is just as important. You deserve time to grow and learn about yourself and most importantly, you deserve the love that you are always trying to give everyone else.

Life gets busy and in the way of your ability to properly care for yourself. Excuses are made and promises of “me-time” are broken. People who prioritize taking care of themselves are thought of as selfish or full of themselves. This stereotype needs to end! I am here to tell you that taking at least 30 minutes out of your day to focus on yourself will gradually improve your mind, body and soul. You will become less tired and more focused which will give you the ability to work more efficiently. I am living and breathing proof of it. Set out time for yourself – turn off your phone, put down your laptop and just unwind. I promise the world won’t change that much while you’re gone for awhile. If you can devote time to your career, your family, your education, your friends, why not yourself?

The things I do to care for myself may not work for you, so do some sets of trial and error and figure things out for yourself. It is important to find balance in your life. It took time to figure out “self-care” by reading various articles, learning from mentors, friends, and professors but I finally found things that work for me. Before you start reading what I do for myself and my body, please be advised that I am not a registered dietician, nutritionist or doctor. So before doing anything out of the “body” category, talk to your physician.

To care for my mind I meditate, read and journal. 

  • Meditation is truly an art. It takes practice, but once you’ve got it… you’ve really got it. It is a connection with the universe that many people are not even aware of. I suggest starting with iPhone apps like Headspace or Calm. They are great for beginners and include guided meditation where you can start your practice. I practice mindfulness meditation. The book I started off with was “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It gave me a great resource to start my practice and reflect on what the self really is. Mindfulness meditation is really about taking in and appreciating the present moment. The goal is to leave your judgements behind. A lot of people who attempt to meditate, usually give up within the first 2 or 3 minutes because their minds start to wander. Don’t punish yourself for that. It’s human nature for that to happen because your mind has been trained a certain way. Be gentle with yourself. Allow this to happen and focus in again. Focusing in on the breath is the key aspect to being mindful. What I really love about meditation is that it gives you the ability to truly be one with yourself and the current moment despite what might be going on around you.
  • Reading has always been a big part of my life. My love for reading started when I was seven. I begged my parents for a library card and would get them to take me there every weekend to take out new books. I read all types of books – mystery, romance, educational and even biographies. I never really saw it as a form of self-care. I just saw it as a distraction and to really immerse myself within the book’s setting. Books took me places I could never go. I just loved getting away and forgetting about things for awhile. Just recently had I learned (or just realized) the benefits of reading. Not only can reading be informative and educational, it also improves memory function. Reading has led me to expand my vocabulary and language skills. It has also taught me how to be a better writer. I try to read at least 30 minutes a day, if not more. If you’ve always treated reading as a chore, this might not work as a self-care ritual, but I suggest trying something light like a magazine and gradually work your way into books.
  • When I journal I pour out my whole heart. I started to use a journal as a therapeutic aid after my first heartbreak and ever since then, I’ve been hooked. After I journal, no matter how long or short my entry, I always feel calm and centred. It definitely improves my mood. It is a way to release my feelings and thoughts. I clear my mind, I practice gratitude, I forgive myself and most importantly, I envision my hopes and dreams. I know it’s hard and intimidating to be given a notebook with a ton of blank pages. You’re not sure where to start or how to put your feelings into words, but fear not, I have some questions that might help you reflect:
  • 1) Define what happiness means to you.
    2) Are you happy right now?
    3) What could be changed in your life in order to create a more positive environment?
    4) What do you see yourself doing in 5 years? Does this align with the path you are on right now?

To care for my body, I exercise, eat nutritious foods, drink water, and use great skincare products. 

  • Exercising has become an essential part of my self-care routine. Working out and moving my body significantly changes how I feel about myself and just changes the way I go about my day. Even on days when I am feeling off, I make sure to move for at least an hour whether that be walking around, jogging, or cycling. I don’t follow any workout programs, but I do organize my own schedule of what body part I’ll be working on each day. It is a mix of cardio and strength training. If you are a beginner, it is important to have a plan before you enter the gym because if you don’t, it’ll leave you feeling intimidated and stressed and that is the last thing you should be feeling. I bet you’ve heard this a million times, but when you exercise your body releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body. The gym should be your happy place! Also…don’t forget to foam roll! It helps with the recovery of your muscles and aiding them to return to normal functioning.
  • I like to be aware of what I put in my body therefore, I eat nutritious foods. If you can’t read the first five ingredients on that list (unless it’s in a different language), you mostly likely shouldn’t be eating it. When I started out, I used food/calorie trackers like MyFitnessPal or just simply documented my eating habits in a food diary. I don’t follow a strict diet, I simply eat mindfully. I choose to eat whole foods, not processed. Eat those veggies (because I really didn’t). But remember, it’s also all about balance. Don’t be scared to treat yourself, but also don’t go overboard. It’s okay to have that piece of chocolate, or that slice of pizza. Go for it but keep in mind, a healthy body starts in the kitchen! 80% of it is really what you put in your body, so make the best of it and eat mindfully.
  • People really underestimate how much water they should be drinking. I drink water constantly throughout the day. I drink 2.5-3L a day to stay hydrated through my daily activities. Usually if I’m working out, I up my water intake because while we sweat we are becoming dehydrated. Research says that drinking water before your meals and substituting water for sugary drinks can lower your caloric intake and improve weight control. So stay away from those “diet” pops, and stick to the plain jane of liquid we like to call water. Replenishing your body with water is one of the easiest things to do!
  • I have a full post about my all-natural skincare products on my instagram which I will post below. My face is oily and it was really hard to perfect a skincare routine that worked for me but I think I finally nailed it. I use a lot of LUSH products – face masks, cleansers, and exfoliators. I love how their products use natural ingredients and it really works with my face to strip away excess oils. Some of my favourites are ultrabland, ocean salt, and angels on bare skin. As a night time moisturizer, I use coconut oil. It is a natural product that helps to keep your skin hydrated and repair it while you sleep. My day-to-day go-to’s are definitely Clinique’s dramatically different moisturizing gel and Ole Henriksen’s Truth Serum. This combination has done wonders for my skin. Don’t forget about your skin! Show love to it and it will glow.

To care for my soul, I sing, dance, listen to music, and surround myself with GOOD VIBES.

I’ve always loved music so much. My parents were such big advocates of using music as a positive mood enhancer. My dad would play the 60’s-80’s and my mom would sing Shania Twain and Celine Dion on repeat. Music has always been a big part of my family. I love to sing and despite not being the greatest dancer ever, I dance. I use music to soothe my soul. I love all types of music, so I’m not very hard to please on a long car ride. I work with individuals who have intellectual disabilities and seeing the kind of impact that it has on them and how much it helps them has been really impactful on my journey of self-discovery. Researchers at McGill University took fMRI’s while people listened to their favourite songs and they found that when the music hit its peak moment – their brains released dopamine. Dopamine is a hormone that is linked with the feeling of reward. So when you’re feeling down, stressed out, or anxious – put on your favourite chuuuunes and GET JIGGY WITH IT.

In caring for myself, I choose to surround myself with people who radiate positive vibes, encourage me, support me and help me grow. Life is way too short to be anything but happy. You have to surround yourself with people who will make you laugh and lift you up, not people who create drama and are stunting your growth as a human being. Love the people who treat you right, and pray for those who don’t. Meggan Roxanne says it best, “please don’t jeopardize your well-being by choosing to remain loyal to those who constantly drain your energy.” In order for you to maintain a positive aura, you don’t have to be happy-go-lucky all the time, you just have to be strong and self-aware of your emotional state and be responsible for what you do in this world.

What I’m saying is, take care of yourself, no matter how big or small the action. Put yourself first, love yourself and just be kind to your body because we’re not perfect, we’re human.

Self-love always,

S

P.S. If you’d like to follow along with my fitness/health/wellness journey…follow @smprogress on instagram.

References:

https://psychcentral.com/library/id105.html

https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/what-is-a-foam-roller-how-do-i-use-it-and-why-does-it-hurt

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/big-benefits-plain-water-201605269675