Self-Care: The Acts That Nourish
SELF-CARE THAT GOES BEYOND THE HAIR SALON
Growing up in the Caribbean, the only form of self-care I saw many women practice was painting their nails or shampooing and putting their hair in roller sets every Sunday. Most of the women I knew spent their time taking care of the home and family with very little time left for themselves. After I left Jamaica as a teenager and came to Canada, I noticed there wasn’t much of a difference between Canada and Jamaica regarding how women cared for themselves. The only difference was that my aunts went to the salon on Saturdays to have their hair services done.
DISCOVERING WHY SELF-CARE MATTERS
While attending the Institution of Holistic Nutrition, I discovered what self-care practice was. I began to fully embrace how I cared for myself through food, rest, exercise and how I spent my quiet time. It's not easy making time for yourself when you have only twenty-four hours in a day and are often divided. For them, finding time for themselves may seem next to impossible. The truth is, it doesn’t matter who you are, self-care habits are important, and we should make it a priority.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant.
SELF-CARE TAKES WILLPOWER
Willpower is like a muscle that takes time to build. Start by asking yourself what is important and what your expectations are of yourself. Creating habits that are long-term and sustainable takes time. If you have habits in place that are working for you, build on them.
There is a term called Habit Stacking which is defined as Attaching a new habit to an existing healthy habit to make it stick. Habit-stacking is the fastest way to build a sustainable routine. This brings me to my go-to self-care habits.
DAILY SELF-CARE PRACTICES I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
Essential oils in the shower –Before I go in the shower, I choose two or three scents based on what time of the day it is. In the morning, I go for oils with energizing properties. At night I go for oils with a calming effect, my go-to being lavender, ylang-ylang, patchouli and glory sage. I start by splashing 2-3 drops of each oil on the shower wall, then turning the shower on and pulling the shower curtain to let the scents fill the shower before I enter. When I step in, I sometimes close my eyes and imagine being in a spa.
Walking in Nature – Walking through nature has always taken me to my happy place ever since I can remember. There is a kind of peace and serenity you find being in nature, unlike anywhere else. I remember reading an article about the therapeutic practice of walking in nature. The term used for it was forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, which is simply spending time outdoors under the canopy of trees. In Japanese, “shinrin” means forest and “yoku” means bath or immersing oneself in the forest and soaking in the atmosphere through the senses.
Breathing Exercise – I find a comfortable place to sit, ensuring my spine is straight, and my heart is open. I relax my body from head to toe, close my eyes, and take a deep breath in for four seconds through my nose. I hold the breath for four seconds and then exhale through my mouth for four seconds. I repeat this for 4-8 cycles, allowing my body to focus on the inhale and exhale. I find this exercise helps me to focus, decrease stress, and feel rejuvenated. The best part about it is that you can do it anytime, anywhere, and it doesn’t cost anything.
Meditation (Calm app) – A friend told me about the Calm app, and I can’t say enough about it. If ten minutes is all you have to spare, sometimes that’s all you need. I love this quote “we meditate to get good at life, not to get good at mediation” – Emily Fletcher.
Cooking (my favourite stress releaser) – Everyone who knows me knows how much I love to cook. I consider cooking to be therapeutic. During the course of the COVID pandemic, I took up baking, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as cooking. I love to create without the rules and limitations that come with baking.
Being Honest with Thoughts & Emotions – This is a big one for me and took a long time to embrace and practice. This is hard for many of us who grew up in homes with West Indian parents where we weren’t allowed to have a voice and when we spoke up about how we felt, it was frowned upon. And so, for most of us, showing vulnerability requires a whole lot of trust, time and patience, but it is necessary. Speaking our truth is an important part of not only self-care but also self-advocacy.
Those are the self-care practices I can’t live without. What do you do to nurture your mind, body, and soul?