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  • Writer's pictureJenny Whitfield

Self-Care and Why It Matters

Self-care: is it a fad? A luxury? One more thing to squeeze on to the to-do list? Absolutely not!

Self-care should always be part of our daily routines. It's vital for releasing the stress that builds up in our busy lives and it's something we all deserve. It's not a treat, it's not a chore, it doesn't have to be time-consuming or expensive. It's also not just for when we feel it's all got too much.

The more we practice self-care - the more we value our mental, emotional and physical health - the more we can enjoy life and be there for our loved ones.

So why is it so important?

The truth is, our brains and bodies just weren't designed for the fast-paced, over-stimulating, complicated world we live in today. Our ancestors were perfectly adapted for occasional, massive threats, but otherwise lived comparatively simple lives in close-knit communities.

Now we are constantly bombarded with demands, decisions, distractions, deadlines and never-ending to do lists. All these things constantly trigger our stress response. So instead of the occasional need to actually fight, flight or freeze, we now have a constant alarm bell ringing and our adaptive response isn't really appropriate. Because the context is different we rarely get to complete the stress response-stress relief cycle, so we don't get to resolve the stressor or shut off the response, and we have to live in this perpetually alert, tense state.

Obviously, that isn't good for us. The more that alarm bell rings, the harder it is to shut it off. And it diverts the body's energy from the important tasks it should be doing, like optimum digestion, immunity and hormone regulation. Our nerves jangle, our minds race, and we end up anxious, restless, unfocussed, or even numb and unmotivated.

No one wants to live that that.

So the whole point of self-care is to rebalance and regulate the nervous system. It's about taking positive actions to return to a calm state where were we feel safe and the body can perform to its best.

Taking time for ourselves can be really hard. But self-care is not selfish. It's essential. Especially when others rely on us. We can't be there for others until we've been there for ourselves. When we're in a stress state we tend to be reactive, impatient and irritable. Self-care helps us become relaxed, present, joyful and able to make good decisions. We deserve to live like this, and we need soothing self-care practices to help us get there.

Self-care practices come in all shapes and sizes, and looks different for everyone. It will change with your mood, the seasons, what’s going on in your life. Self-care only works if it feels good to you. But all self-care practices have these things in common: they restore, sustain and improve your health; they leave you feeling replenished and nourished; they empower you to become the best version of yourself.

Daily self-care practices can be really quick and easy. Things like a positive affirmation that you repeat while getting ready in the morning, a playlist that cheers you up on your commute, a few minutes of deep breathing when you start to feel stressed, a quick walk in the fresh air on your lunch break, meal planning nutritious food. I really like using a technique I learned from Mel Robbins in a podcast with Fearne Cotton. She calls it ‘high fiving the heart’ and it’s a simple, grounding practice that releases oxytocin and tones the vagus nerve, which my clients know I’m obsessed with! All you do is place your hands over your heart and repeat ‘I am safe, I am calm, I am loved.’ Very quickly you feel all those things in abundance, it’s lovely!

There are also the things that take a bit more effort but have huge benefits when done regularly – whatever movement and exercise appeals to you, a phone call with a friend, journaling, some kind of mindfulness or meditation, time to enjoy a craft, great book or music, walks in nature, long baths, a massage or reflexology treatment.

Reflexology is wonderful because it is so soothing and relaxing. It is incredibly powerful for switching off the alarm response and putting the body into its parasympathetic nervous state. In this state the body is able to function in its most effective way. Our bodies and minds are incredible at healing themselves, as long as they are given the right conditions. Using the power of reflexology to relax the body, along with a nutritious diet and plenty of sleep, gives the body the opportunity to heal, repair, and rebalance its complex systems. The more I see it in action the more I believe this is why it’s so effective in supporting people living with chronic conditions and chronic stress. It’s wonderful when clients report a reduction in pain and other symptoms and increased energy. Our bodies are amazing!

The first and hardest step of building a self-care habit is letting go of the guilt and prioritising that time that is for you. But believe me, you deserve it, you need it, and you can give yourself permission to take the time and space you need. You’ll be happier, more relaxed and healthier, and everyone in your life will benefit from that!

I'd love to know what self-care looks like for you so please drop me a comment. And do get in touch if you want to make a reflexology treatment part of your plan. Jenny x

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