I’ve been really busy lately and it has made me think a lot about self-care. Why do we make time for everyone else but ourselves? Why is it more important to finish that project, go to that meeting, study for that exam, than it is to go for a run, meditate, eat a healthy dinner, read a book, or watch your favourite show? Our lifestyle has become so high stress that people often run from one activity to the next all day every day and don’t stop to think about what they need for their body and mind to stay healthy.
If my last 6 months in clinic have taught me anything, it’s that stress is the root cause of most symptoms/diseases. I haven’t seen a single patient without some level of stress in their lives. It isn’t always bad stress, people are often stressed by the things they love to do, but it can still be stressful on their body.
With our high stress lifestyles, we have become really good at telling ourselves that we can do everything and we don’t need a break. I believe this is why a lot of us suffer from certain physical symptoms/diseases. It is the only way our body knows how to make us slow down and take some time for ourselves. Everybody has their own unique stress signal. Some people get migraines, others have diarrhea, and the list goes on and on – acne, sinus infections, sore throats, asthma, back pain, painful periods, loss of periods, generalized fatigue, chronic pain, heart burn, etc. What is your stress signal? Have you figured it out yet? Sometimes it is hard to figure it out because we are chronically stressed and it isn’t so obvious that your physical symptom is actually correlated with stress.
Obviously stress isn’t the only cause of disease but it is a huge contributor! Just working on my stress wouldn’t have miraculously cured my celiac disease but I know I wouldn’t feel as good as I do today if I had completely ignored the impact that stress has on my digestive system. Before I started working on my digestion, it was bad all the time and I couldn’t figure out any correlations. As I started to get better, I noticed more and more how it would get worse around times of stress. Finally, I was at the point where I had done everything I could to help my digestion but it still wasn’t getting better and I couldn’t figure out what else to do! This is when I started therapy and mindfulness and everything improved significantly! Now it is very clear to me that when my stress levels get out of control, my stomach tells me to slow down. It gets worse and forces me to eat better, take a break, get better sleep, go for a run. I won’t listen to my mind telling me to slow down but I always listen to my stomach!
So now I’m thinking, why do I have to wait until my digestion gets bad before I listen to my needs? I’ve had a lot going on this semester and have felt really overwhelmed at times. These are the times when I need self care the most, but instead I don’t make time for it and I start feeling even more stressed and sick.
This is a constant work in progress for me but I wanted to share with you some of my favourite easy self care tips and maybe help you find motivation to prioritize your self care!
- Close your eyes and take 3 mindful breaths. Set up reminders for yourself to do this throughout the day. For example, place post-it notes around your home so you remember to take a few mindful breaths when you see these. For me, I have followed HeadSpace (my favourite meditation app) on social media so whenever I sign into Instagram or Twitter, I’ll see posts from them that remind me to be mindful! I also follow the The Center for Mindfulness Studies because they post a lot of great reminders and articles on Facebook. Decide what will work best for you!
- Workout. Run, swim, bike, do whatever you love to do! If you don’t have time to fit in a 30-60 minute workout do you just skip it completely? I know I used to but now I try to fit something in each day even if it is just 10 minutes of yoga when I wake up or this awesome seven minute workout!
- Sleep. If you find it hard to get 7-8 hours of sleep, at least be consistent. Your sleep quality will be significantly better if your body knows it goes to sleep at 12pm every night and wakes up at 7am every morning.
- Buy yourself a treat. If you don’t have enough money to do this, it doesn’t have to be expensive! Buy yourself a tea, a new nail polish colour, or a new book! Whatever it is that will put a smile on your face and feel like a special treat. Retail therapy really works and doesn’t have to cost you hundreds of dollars!
- Laugh. Go out with your friends, watch a funny show, read a book/comic, or find a blog that makes you laugh. Just make sure you keep smiling.
- Hug a friend. Sometimes you just need to feel a little love with a kiss, a hug, or a cuddle from a friend, a partner, or a parent! The feel-good benefit of touch is huge! (your furry friends are great for this too!)
- Unplug. This is VERY hard to do with smart phones, computers, TVs, social media, and all the ways we stay in touch with each other. You can get emails 24/7 so it feels like you need to respond to them 24/7. I’m totally guilty of this! But choose an hour a day (or whatever amount of time is feasible for you) to unplug and do your own thing or spend that time with your friends/family without your phone in front of you. Feeling like you have to constantly be checking in with your phone can be exhausting.
Do you do something for yourself every day? I challenge you to make a list of all the things you do that make you happy and make it a goal to do at least one of them every single day! I completely understand that this sounds easy but is actually incredibly hard! But if you want your physical body to be healthy, you need to override your mind when it tells you to keep going and let yourself take a break! I bet that prioritizing self-care will significantly improve your physical symptoms!
And if you have tried these tips and you still feel like you need a little more guidance, maybe you should consider seeing a naturopathic intern at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic! I’m accepting new patients and I think I would be a great option! 🙂 There are so many things we could do together that would help you feel better now!
Finally, stay tuned for my next blog post, which I’m very excited about – Digestive Health for the Holidays!