Self-care is subjective; how do you take care of yourself in the world today?
It could be monthly massages, eating and living well, taking time out alone, setting boundaries and practicing discernment…to be completely and utterly compassionate and kind to yourself.
We live in times of absolutely unprecedented choice and opportunity; with that comes a zealous drive to do more, achieve more and accomplish more. Life can sometimes become chaotic; therefore it has never made more sense to embody a self-care approach to health and wellbeing.
The fact is we operate the best when we take care of ourselves; everything is constantly changing around us. If there is a time to become more mentally, physically and emotionally agile, it is now. Resourcefulness is key, and an investment in a preventative approach to wellbeing could be our greatest asset.
The health and wellness industry isn’t going anywhere or slowing down. It is now estimated to be worth almost £3 trillion globally, and in the UK the Spa and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) industries are estimated to be worth over £1.5 billion.
With access to an infinite number of wellness trends and valuable strategic health and wellbeing insights online, it is a great time to embrace a self-care attitude.
‘I self-care so that I can treat and serve and I serve so that I can continue to self-care’
As a practitioner, I willingly give a lot of energy to others; subtle sensations produced as a feedback mechanism during a treatment. As a friend, colleague and person in the world today; a sort of energy exchange is happening here too and can sometimes be responsible for how I feel.
In the past, I had abandoned my own self-care due to work stress, relationships and even because of a reoccurring injury that was preventing me from being as active and agile as I once was only a few years previous. This was a huge anxiety that I was unwilling to put up with, so by implementing daily practices and weekly rituals – if you like; a commitment to myself, I was able to shift this and learn ways of challenging the status quo. I have since become much more aware and appreciative of the importance of self-care and keeping that proverbial cup full before having nothing left to give or share with others.
Some of my self care practices
Massage and Movement
As a teenager, I was always quite active and spent most of this time as a gymnast, so lots of back bending and tumbling. During my 20’s I was still relatively flexible but I developed a slight Spondylolithesis (where a bone in the lower spine slips forward out of position) which caused years of persistent compression and dull achy pain locally. This was exacerbated more recently by long periods of sitting at University and so I started working with a massage practitioner who specialised in lower back and hip pain. This coupled with my own functional movement practices, yoga and Pilates practice; it has given me much more movement, and the mobility back in my hips, back and legs.
Acupuncture was an essential part of my recovery. There were times when massage and stretching just wasn’t able to reach the areas that needed to relax i.e. piriformis and hip flexors. Because these are such deep structures the needles were perfect for reaching the belly of the muscles, softening and relaxing them and allowing for more fluid movement.
When it comes to food, I find having a balance works best for me. I’ve been a pescetarian for almost two years and I try to avoid wheat and sugar (I notice that my body aches in response to eating a lot of sugar) as much as possible. Unless it’s the weekend and brunch is involved!
I think moderation here works well.
Knowing what is for me and what isn’t. I sometimes get it wrong, but it’s a practice I continue to cultivate through connecting to and listening to my body.
For me, a job that wasn’t serving me well was the trigger for a recent change in my career. I have come to realise that not every person or every situation is going to resonate with me perfectly…and that’s OK because I have found that saying no to things that don’t feel right more often, has presented me with more aligned opportunities, such as this one.
As a result, I feel better energetically, I’m learning more and I have a lot more energy to put into other areas of my life.
Spending Time Alone
I’m a pretty confident solo traveller. I’ve been doing it since I was 21 when I moved to the US. Of course I met people and made some amazing friends but as the timing of my trips never always suited other friend’s schedules, I got comfortable being on my own.
Now that I live in London, there’s never an excuse to be bored or without things to do. I spend at least once a week on my own; at the cinema, at an exhibit, in the park, out of town (preferably close to a beach), wandering…there is an undeniable solace in solitude, and without exception, I feel better because of it.
How can you practice self care?
- Move more to prevent stagnation – no more sitting for longer than an hour at a time. If you can be away from your desk more often, do it. Take time to walk around and contract and stretch the muscles in your legs. Your hip flexors will thank you for it!
- Take time for monthly bodywork, even if you only have time and a budget for a 30 minute back, neck and shoulder massage. A deep tissue massage can do enough in that short time to counteract the discomfort of sitting for such long durations.
- Never underestimate the importance of a good mattress. Invest in one you could potentially spend a whole day in without feeling any impact on your posture. Your body does most of its healing whilst you’re asleep.
- Take regular time out alone to recalibrate and get to know yourself.
There will be days when you are at your best and can take anything on and there will be days when you feel overwhelmed and want to withdraw into yourself…everything is progress. Like, love and be kind with yourself through the dark as well as the light times.
Hayley Van Emmenis Resident Massage Practitioner & Acupuncturist at Shine