Self-care; more than just bubble baths

Photo by Ann Dalinina

When talking about self-care it seems as though there is a predetermined list of things people do which include having a bubble bath, going for a massage or a manicure/pedicure. But what does it mean to feel good and how do we know we are doing the right activities? There is more awareness on the importance of getting help and looking after your mental health, which I won’t deny is important, but mental health is just one aspect of self-care. Indigenous medicine wheel teachings talk about practicing self-care from 4 quadrants which include connecting with your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Activities which promote and improve physical self-care include paying attention to your diet, exercising, and taking time to rest when you are feeling unwell. Eating a balanced diet helps to fuel your body with nutrients, maintain strength, and stay healthy. Studies have proven that eating well helps prevent diet-related illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers. Ensuring you are drinking enough water each day is beneficial in flushing toxins out of your body, and preventing dehydration and constipation. Exercising such as going for a walk, dancing, or yoga stimulates chemicals in your brain which leave you happier, and more relaxed, and can reduce stress. Exercise has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety and can provide an emotional boost or feel-good feelings. Ensuring we have enough sleep is also part of physical self-care and allows our bodies to heal and recover from illness faster.

With mental self-care, we look to find ways to support our minds in processing and understanding information. This could be participating in meditation, reading a book, or learning something new such as a new language, musical instrument, or another new skill. Engaging in mindfulness activities allows us to pay attention to the present moment and acknowledge how we are feeling in that moment, accepting ourselves for who we are, and focusing on or becoming aware of our breathing to slow us down and find beauty and grace in our surroundings from a place of non-judgment. Spending time in nature is a great way to disconnect with technology and reconnect with the environment surrounding you. You might find it grounding to sit and watch the water moving through a river or stream, close your eyes to hear the sounds of nature around you, go for a hike in the mountains or even hugging a tree can all benefit your mental health.

Emotional self-care refers to how you manage and express your emotions from learned experiences. When we practice from this aspect, we are recognizing and accepting our accomplishments, understanding and being tolerant towards ourselves and others, and finding love in the things we do. When we care for our emotions, we are doing things that make our hearts feel happy. Activities could include calling or spending time with a loved one, laughter (watching a funny movie), listening to your favourite music, journalling (writing down what you are grateful for), engage in healthy activities. It is okay to hold space for your feelings and acknowledge that all emotions and feelings are acceptable to have.

Spiritual self-care does not have to be religious, but it is comprised of activities we can do to deepen our connection within ourselves, and who we truly are. When we practice spiritual self-care we are striving to achieve inner peace and live in alignment with our core values and what matters most to us. Activities we can do to tend to spiritual self-care include meditation, sitting outside in nature for 15 minutes (this also helps you get your daily Vitamin D), being still and listening to the sounds around us, reading a prayer or sacred text, colouring a mandala or doodling. Spiritual self-care can also be participating in religious or cultural activities. When we practice gratitude with our spirit we are making a daily ritual to reflect on what we are grateful for, or going out and thanking those you appreciate. When you focus on positive things you increase the likelihood of more good being revealed in your life. Spiritual self-care is about honouring and valuing yourself and your self-worth.

As you can see, there are activities you can do that overlap in each quadrant such as getting out for a walk in nature and listening to the sounds around you with an open mind and an open heart, or there are activities which connect you with one aspect of self-care you might be feeling low in. There is no right or wrong way to practice self-care as long as you are doing what feels good for you and fills your heart up. There is nothing wrong with a bubble bath or a massage if that is part of your self-care rituals, but hopefully reading this has offered you additional ideas you can incorporate into your daily self-care practice.