Recently I read an article in a yoga magazine about how self-care can become self-indulgent and superficial. With a focus on expensive spa treatments and “me-time,” I can understand why it could seem that way. But I see self-care in a completely different way, as a way to be kinder not only to ourselves, but to the important people in our lives.
Most of the people I work with in my sleep and yoga business struggle at times to keep up with the demands of every day living. Self-care is often the first item that drops off the list when things get stressful or busy. The needs of children, partners, elderly or unwell family members, demanding jobs and housework all seem to take precedence over self-care.
Often it is only when a crisis, or near-crisis occurs, that my clients realise they need to do things differently. Sometimes this is a health crisis, an accident, or just a state of burnout where a tired body or exhausted mind rebel and say “No more!” Through working with me, over time, they realise that taking time for self-care means that they not only sleep better, but that they enjoy their lives and the people in them much more, and vice versa!
In my experience, it is much better to develop and maintain self-care routines BEFORE we get to the point of crisis. Small actions such as taking a walk in nature every day and developing a relaxing bedtime routine may seem unimportant, but these kind of habits contribute to good sleep, and good sleep forms the basis of a healthy body and mind and therefore life.
Especially important is the skill of being able to “switch off” from things we are concerned about. Turning things over and over in our mind, mentally berating ourselves, and worrying extensively, can all contribute to feeling anxious and under pressure, which can in turn lead to overwhelm during the day and sleeplessness at night.
Learning how to relax our body and refocus our mind is the basis of the sleep training I do with my clients. But these skills are beneficial to everyone, because by learning how to relax at will, we have more power and control in every situation that affects us. While we can’t always control what is happening around us, if we can learn how to relax and switch off, we not only get the rest and sleep we need, but we can also respond more effectively and skilfully to the things we can’t control.
So why is it that self-care is often the first thing that gets dropped when we feel stressed and overwhelmed? One reason could be that at these times our emotional brain takes over, and this leads us to behaving and feeling in a “default” or patterned way. Our default is usually what we learned in our family of origin, based on what we saw our parents doing. The value of practicing regular self-care such as meditation or relaxation is that we can actually create a new and better default, which can reduce our stress and make us more effective participants in our own lives.
If you feel like there are times when a switch gets flipped and you are suddenly flooded with emotion or urges, for example sudden anger or fear or the urge to escape, this is a great opportunity to use self-care as a way to re-pattern and learn a healthier way of being. You can start with something as simple as taking a walk when you feel like yelling or running away. Explain that you will be back to talk about things in half an hour, and use your time walking as a change to calm down, rather than as a time for feeding the flames of your anger by thinking about everything that bothers you.
If we practice these kind of healthy self-care routines when we are not stressed, we will then be able to turn to them consciously instead of to our default behaviour, sort of like a pattern interrupt. However if we wait until we NEED these techniques to use them, then it's likely they won't be effective. You wouldn't wait until a triathalon begins to learn to ride a bicycle! Practice your relaxation skills daily, and then when you're put to the test, you will have the skills you need.
Because my speciality is helping people train themselves to relax, I have a few special gifts to help you do so this holiday season. The first is free access to my 10 minute Bali Relaxation Video. You can watch it or download it for free by registering on this link:
If you’re looking for a gift idea for yourself or a loved one (or they are looking for ideas for you), consider my Bali for the Day Sleep and Relax Kit. This collection of 5 videos contains all the meditation, breathing, and sleep techniques I use with clients to transform their sleep, PLUS bonus morning and evening gentle exercise practices based on qi gong and yoga. The Bali Sleep and Relax Kit has everything you need to develop a powerful self-care routine that can reduce your stress, improve your sleep and help you manage challenges in a resilient and healthy way.
For December only I’m offering this kit for half-price. So click on this link, and give yourself or someone you care for the gift of relaxation and resilience in 2021:
To make sure you get the most out of the sleep and relax kit, and the next year of your life, my next blog post in January will be focussed on the 5 secrets to an effective self-care routine, based on the techniques and practices in this kit. Click here to get started for just half price now:
Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season, and before we meet again I hope you find some time to reflect on how you have practiced self-care in 2021, and what you might like to do differently (or the same) in 2021.
with best wishes always,