Stress is the feeling of being under too much pressure and lacking the resources or time to cope with the situation. Stress does not always have to stem from an acutely stressful situation. It can also arise from a traumatic past or a chronic, busy schedule. Stress can lead to an array of physical and mental symptoms, such as low energy, headaches, indigestion, and a weakened immune system. Interestingly, Lauren Roxburgh, a holistic trainer from the US, found that stress also stores as tension in the certain parts of the body. Since nearly all the cells in our body have protein receptors - called glucocorticoid receptors - that easily absorb the stress hormone cortisol, it is no wonder that stress can show up in so many areas of the body. Lauren discovered that stress manifests as tension in five main areas of the body.View Post
Self-care has become a millennial buzzword and there is probably not a single lifestyle blogger left who has not yet shared their tips, insights or thoughts on practicing self-care. Yet within the midst of a generation looking after itself, there is also a more critical voice emerging. The concept of self-care has been called meaningless and some people have complained about the fact that self-care has been taken hostage by commercialism. With self-care kits, mason jars and scented candles roaming the market it is no wonder some might take issue with yet another commercial wellness hype. Still, I believe, that self-care is timely important and deeply valuable. When separating the wheat from the chaff and zooming in on the core of self-care, we can realize that self-care is not just an indulgent ego-trip. It is a practice necessary to be able to serve others.
Self-care is selfless
Granted, the commercialisation of self-care makes criticism of the concept well-grounded. But anyone who has ever struggled with a burn-out, stress, low energy, illness or mental health issues will know that when you are consistently not feeling your best, this greatly impairs what you can do for others. Self-care is, therefore, a simple necessity in our hectic society that will prevent us from getting to a place where we are not only doing ourselves a disservice, but also those around us. Feeling healthy, rested and vital means you can direct enough energy and attention to helping others. In this way, self-care is not an indulgent, ego-driven privilege of the few. It is instead a necessary requirement of the many to be better lovers, friends, parents, colleagues and general members of society.
Self-care is individual
How much self-care you need will depend on the type of person you are and what phase of your life you are in. A general rule of thumb to remember is that the busier you are, the more self-care you will need. This may seem counterintuitive at first but being busy will tend to rob you from a lot of energy. It is therefore important to replenish this energy consistently and proactively.
‘You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.’
What type of self-care will benefit you most is also highly individual. The important point is to be still for a moment and listen to yourself and your own needs. One person might feel recharged after reading their favourite book with a cup of tea, whereas someone else might be able to unwind best by going clubbing with their friends (I am just putting this in here for inclusivity – as an extreme introvert this is hard for me to believe).
My self-care routine
Below you can find my daily and weekly self-care practices. As you can see, they are vague and intentionally so. I know that moving my body, eating healthy, finding quiet time and respecting my own boundaries makes me feel good. I also know that setting myself strict goals, checklists and self-care quotas will only leave me feeling more stressed. Keeping my self-care habits intentionally broad, means I can approach them in a way that feels authentic each day.
Listening to my body – by now I have become quite good at understanding what my body needs. Giving into exhaustion and just resting or going for a restorative walk when I have a lot on my mind are just some of the ways I listen to my body.
Respecting myself – respecting myself means saying no to whatever does not serve me that day (within the realms of reality – quitting a nice job or happy relationship because I am having a bad day does not count). It also means respecting myself enough to say yes to things I know I will enjoy.
Movement – I walk to work, so on weekdays I know I am getting at least an hour of movement. But beyond that, I like to move my body as much as I can because I know it will make me feel healthy. Hard exercise is too straining for me since my ‘burn-out’, so I usually keep my movement to long walks, pilates, and yoga.
Quietness – Each day I like to take a moment for quietness. I have attempted strict meditation schedules in the past, but I could never stick to them. Now I just like to be quiet for a while every day, whether it is in meditation, during a walk, laying in bed daydreaming or taking a bath.
Nourishment – Healthy food is such an important part of the wellness equation. I have always eaten moderately healthy, but since going vegan I have become really intentional about my food to ensure I am receiving all the nutrients needed to feel energised and fit.
Digital detox – Once a week or at least once a month I like to completely switch off from my computer for a day. That means no social media, but also no Netflix or blogging. I find so much stillness in these days that they have become an integral part of my self-care routine.
Creation – Creating rather than consuming can be a cathartic experience and often releases emotions. I like to create every single week, from baking creations and drawings to furniture upcycle projects and blog posts. My favourite way of creating is through writing, so besides blog posts, I also enjoy writing essays and short stories just for myself.
Nature – This is an absolute must for me, particularly in winter. In the summer months, I will usually go on a day trip to the surrounding countryside most weekend anyway. But in winter I have had to become intentional about spending time in nature regularly, even if it is just a little stroll in a nearby park.
Connection – Authentic connection with the people I love is, of course, an important way to boost my vitality. Even though I live with my boyfriend, on a day-to-day basis we do not always connect authentically. So I make sure that at least once a week, we spend a few hours to just focus on each other. When I see friends and family, I also try to be in the moment as much as possible.
Reflection – Each week I like to reflect on my goals and habits to ensure I am still heading in a direction that feels good for me. Seeing where I can improve my life and what needs a little more attention ensures I stay on top of feeling healthy and happy. Equally celebrating what is working well is a great way to add a little happiness to life.
I track my self-care habits in my bullet journal and sometimes might add a few specific habits to a monthly tracker, such as taking certain supplements. As I am human, I fail at self-care sometimes. There might be times where I feel too overwhelmed or busy that I forget to do all the things that I know will make me feel better. But whenever I return to these habits and practices, it does so much good for me.
What are some of your favourite self-care habits?
A few weeks ago, on a lazy Sunday afternoon in October, I made my way over to our local urban farm. A colleague of mine had recommended the place to me. When she told me they had some cute little piglets, I was sold. I was also excited to get out of the house for a few hours, not the least to snap a few images of my current favourite outfit. This outfit could not be more up my alley. It consists of long-loved pieces combined with items that have only recently made their way into my closet. All items have come from sustainable and fair-trade origins, which makes me love the outfit even more.
The top I am wearing is my current favourite and I wear it at least once a week. (It also made a sneak appearance in this and this post). It was made by the brand People Tree, which is known for its sustainability and fair-trade credentials. What I enjoy about this brand though is that their clothes are fashionable and their prices are reasonable. They really try to make ethical fashion mainstream, which is why I already own quite a few of their pieces. This particular top is made of a thick and sturdy cotton fabric, which gives it a more luxurious feel. And am I right in thinking striped are just the best?
I paired the top with my new jewelry from Smoke and Ash, which I purchased through the shop Wearthlondon. Both the necklace and ring are by this brand and made of recycled sterling silver right here in the UK. The packaging is made of recycled materials as well, making this brand a front-runner for sustainable jewelry. I love the simplistic style of the pieces and have been wearing them non-stop since receiving them a few weeks ago.
On my legs, I am wearing my new jeans by Everlane. I had been looking for a sustainable and fair-trade pair of jeans for almost two years, but couldn’t find a single one I liked. ‘Eco jeans’ tend to look a bit ‘eco’ in my opinion. I had heard about the American brand Everlane before, but their prices and shipping costs had always put me off. In a ‘let’s treat myself’-moment I decided to order two pairs of jeans. After years of not owning jeans, I am now the proud owner of two beautifully fitting skinny jeans that go well with basically any of my tops.
Lastly, I am wearing my all time favourite pair of shoes. I bought these shoes two years ago and wear them five days out of the week. No kidding! I even had to get them resoled, as I am unwilling to part with them. They are by the brand Bourgeois Boheme and are completely vegan. (I also own a pair of heels by the same brand.) More importantly, they make every outfit look put together.
On to the farm experience. I made a life-long dream come true that day! Pigs are my favourite animals and I can spend hours watching videos about piglets on YouTube. These little piglets were just a few weeks old and already very playful and curious. They all came right up to the fence and I could pet their little hairy backs. It was absolutely incredible! However, I did learn that day that perhaps I don’t want a pet pig after all. Seeing how much energy and curiosity these little animals have, made me realise that owning a pet pig is a full-time job. Honestly, puppies are nothing compared to pigs in terms of engagement needed.
After spending way too long playing with the piglets, my boyfriend and I wandered around the rest of the farm. The farm had some sheep, adult pigs and three alpacas. The alpacas were (surprise, surprise) my favourite among the adult males, as they were equally curious about their human visitors as the piglets had been.
Overall, it was a lovely day out and a great way to get in touch with nature (says the city girl who has never worked on a farm…). I love finding little spots like this in the city. Leeds is quite an urban city (much more that London or Edinburgh), so finding greens spots like this is just wonderful.