When I opened my Simple Year 2017 email for the month of August, I devoured the content on Self-Care, a topic that is very close to my heart.
The author started with two questions:
  • When was the last time you did something to care for yourself?
  • Does question number one make you feel uncomfortable?

Luckily, question number one doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable anymore, as I made a conscious choice a few years ago to look after myself and to nurture my body and soul on a daily basis. My commitment to yoga and meditation for seven years this August has resulted in a higher state of consciousness in all areas of my life, and I notice that more and more often I make decisions from a place of awakening rather than logical arguments. I have learned to listen to my body, and the more you practise it, the better you become.

 

What does self-care look like for you?

Since the beginning of this year, I read several books on the topic of self-care (see my recommendations at the end of this post) and discussed it with a group of women during the six-week workshop Menstruation & Menopause I attended from March to May. As women, we are wired to put ourselves behind other people. We dedicate our life to look after our children, our husband, our parents until we come to a point where we start wondering if that was it. This workshop, which was facilitated by the College of Universal Medicine, manifested the importance of self-care on a daily basis.

But what does self-care mean? As the author of the Simple Year programme put it "You can’t care for yourself if you don’t know yourself.” She differentiates between universal and individual self-care. There are some basic needs we have to meet in order to function as humans. The basics are:

 

Nutrition

What we put into our body is crucial to our health and wellbeing. Poor nutrition is one of the main stressors for people according to medical research in the US. If we keep filling our body with junk food and toxins, our elimination organs have to work harder and harder to detoxify our system. We gain weight, feel unfit and unhealthy. To make us feel better, we consume more toxins (aka coffee, alcohol, sugar). A vicious circle.
To get started with a healthier lifestyle, analyse what you are eating every day. What are your choices when it comes to food? What do you crave when times get tough?
At the end of 2014, we had a German student teacher staying with us, who was vegetarian. In conversations with her, I explored the possibility to start eating less meat. It felt right at that time, and I embarked on a journey of reducing my meat consumption. The longer I resisted eating it, the better I felt, and the less I had the desire to order a steak at a restaurant. I arrived at a point where I even couldn’t cook red meat any longer. It almost made me sick. Now, two and a half years later, I eat fish and chicken (in low quantities), I have discovered the simplicity of vegetarian meals (read my post A Simple Year: Cooking), and I practise a holistic approach to conscious living, one of the reasons why I decided to become a consultant with Arbonne a few months ago.

Exercise

Our bodies are made to move, not to sit or stay immobile for a longer period of time. Unfortunately, our daily routines often force us to sit, at our desk, in meetings, on public transport, or in the car. The amount of hours I have spent sitting in the car since we moved to Sydney nine years ago is ridiculous. When I am stuck in the traffic, I often do stretching exercises with my arms and upper body at least. If you work in front of a computer, a standing desk can be a healthy alternative to sitting all day. I added a foldable desk on top of my working desk, one of the best investments in my business and health in the past years.
Seven years ago, I started practising yoga once a week. These days, you will find me in the studio almost daily, usually at 6 am. Yoga and meditation have become a part of my life that I don’t want to miss anymore. They make me happy. In times of travel or illness, when I can’t practise as often as I would like, I feel unbalanced and get grumpy easily.
I recently read the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, which promotes a 60-min routine of six habits that can change your life before 8 am, one of which is exercising for 10 minutes every morning. As with everything, start small and be consistent. Establishing routines is the most powerful lever to achieve results.

Rest

How often do you neglect your body when it needs rest? In times of technology overload and being online 24/7 taking a break or having a rest even if it’s only for ten minutes can be the hardest task. The fear of missing out, aka FOMO, seems to be omnipresent.
Just like nature follows the cycle of the seasons, our body follows the cycle of the moon. There are phases when we are alive and shine bright and there are phases when we need to recover and rest. If our body is constantly deprived of sleep, we will get sick. And another cup of coffee is only a short-term fix.
Practising stillness and mindful living is one of the best things you can do for your body. Schedule ten minutes in your day of doing nothing. Being bored. It sounds easy but is one of the most challenging things to do. But, again, the more you practise it, the better you become. If you wonder how to get started, I recommend reading Silence - How to be still in a world full of noise by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.
Mahatma Gandhi

Align body, mind, and spirit
These three basic things are pretty straight forward and clear, however, so many people seem to forget these basics when we experience physical or emotional stress, when life throws us in the middle of a fire, when things go wrong.  We start eating junk food, self-medicate with drugs, caffeine, or alcohol, which leads to bad sleep patterns or insomnia. Instead of having a break, we push ourselves harder because we can’t show any signs of weakness. How would that look? What would others think of us?
I’ve been on a journey of exploration and self-discovery for the past seven months. These are the three things I have learned in terms of looking after myself:
  1. Only when body, mind, and spirit are aligned can we start living consciously and be the best version of ourselves, which will also benefit everyone around us.
  2. You have to make the time to exercise and rest. You have to make it a priority and let go of something else. That ‘some day’ when you think you will have the time will never come.
  3. It takes 10,000 hours to mastery. No matter what you want to achieve, learn, or change in your life, you do you have to show up over and over again. Be consistent and persistent.
My recommendations for further reading:

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