Modern living in the western world brings with it jam-packed schedules and information overload. Do you ever stop to stare out of the window? Do you drift off while you’re queuing in the post office or do you get your phone out? Do you eat your food mindfully at a dinner table or do you eat at your desk and multitask?
But being mindful is hard. Having a regular mindfulness practice (ie. daily meditation) really helps. It also allows our nervous system to take a break. When we are constantly on the go and when we are stressed, we spend much of our time in the sympathetic state of the nervous system, otherwise known as ‘fight or flight’. This mode allows us to act fast in a crisis and respond quickly and it could save our life. But the alternative mode is equally important. The parasympathetic nervous system (‘rest and digest’ or ‘rest and repair’) is where loads of good stuff happens: growth, healing, good digestion, good immunity and reproduction. And these body functions are simply not considered as important when we are in fight or flight mode.
The upshot of this is that we need to consciously get ourselves into this ‘relax’ mode as often as possible, if we lead a relatively busy and stressful life. The simplest way to do this is by doing some deep breaths. I suggest to clients to set a timer for a deep breathing break of 2 minutes two or three times a day. Breathe in for a count of 5, and out for a count of 7. If you like, say ‘I am’ as you inhale, and ‘at peace’ as you exhale. I find it brings another dimension to the breaths and grounds me faster. This is a good little trick for anyone to use but to really nourish our nervous system we need to take a little more self-care. I’ve made a list below of 30 ways you can indulge yourself, although indulge is not really the right word, as for the sake of our health, it’s essential. Your list may differ because sunbathing or stroking a pet could make you come out in hives but it’s a starting point. And remember the idea is that you become relaxed, so skydiving and rock climbing don’t count and eating or drinking anything that stimulates you don’t either.
30 ways to self-care
1. Get into nature
2. Phone or meet a friend
3. Reflexology or just a foot massage
5. Read a book or the Sunday papers
8. Sound / gong bath
9. Gardening or nuturing your house plants
10. Let someone brush your hair
12. Baths, especially Epsom Salt ones
15. Pamper yourself with a face mask or similar
16. Paint or draw
22. Research things that interest you
23. Go to the cinema alone in the daytime
24. Make a vision or mood board
25. Do a visualisation (loads on youtube)
26. Have a cup of tea
28. Stroke a pet
30. Listen to music
Let me know if you have any good ones. We always need more of this stuff.