What is self-care?
As one of the top buzzwords circling the wellness and mental health communities, most of us have been reminded regularly to incorporate some sort of self-care into our routines to promote an overall healthy wellbeing. But in recent years, the term ‘self-care’ and its purpose has been muddied by consumerism and the beauty industry, portraying beauty treatments as the only form of self-care. I’m here for including a nice hair mask and a bubble bath as part of my self-appreciation routine and if beautifying yourself is your idea of self-care, you do you and rock it. However, there is so much more to self-care than pampering yourself.
Self-care isn’t just a modern luxury and the way it is currently portrayed is far from its origins. The term traditionally comes from the 1950s, coined for institutionalised patients as simple tasks that helped nurture a sense of self-worth, such as exercising and personal grooming. It was then carried into the 1960s by academics and medical professionals as a prescribed treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in the first responder’s industry, to combat the high levels of stress and pain in their jobs. Advice ranged from addressing physical needs such as nutrition, physical exercise, and regular medical care; to psychological support including journaling, meditation and enjoying nature.
So, what can real self-care look like? It’s very individualistic and will vary from person to person. The bottom line is, it is anything that leaves you feeling nourished in some way. For me, self-care can be anything from watering my plants and getting my chores done so that they do not clutter my mind, to enjoying a bubble bath after work to de-stress and having a hot cup of cacao before bed while I read. Sometimes, self-care will be giving yourself a rest to recuperate, and other times it will be getting yourself off your butt and getting things done.
I believe that personal grooming, practices for your mental wellbeing, and tending to your physical needs all play a role in our journey to self-love and caring for ourselves. It is an intuitive practice of identifying your requirements and tending to them with love and kindness. What is on your mind and what could you do to ease that burden? When was the last time you felt relaxed and happy, and how could you find time to do that again? When was the last time you truly rested? Have you been nourishing your mind and body recently?
I hope this article has given you a little food for thought around what self-care looks like to you and maybe it can give you a little inspiration for your day-to-day. As always, if you ever need any support – Tranceform is here for you.
Sending loving kindness your way,
To help feed your mindfulness practice, I've put together a small collection of poems that have inspired me to live with more awareness. Much like meditation and our other practices that lead to a life with more intent, reading poetry can be a reflection of our own expression. Sometimes a poet has a beautiful way of finding the right words that say what we're really feeling. As you enjoy each of these short poems, think about how you interpret them and identify which ones really spoke to you.
Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Bring the Earth your love and happiness.
The Earth will be safe
when we feel safe in ourselves.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Be empty of worrying
Think of who created thought
Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open
Move outside the tangle of fear thinking
Live in silence
Flow down and down
Into always widening
Rings of being
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
If luck you chase, you have not grown
enough for happiness to stay,
not even if you get your way.
If, what you lost, you still bemoan,
and grasp at tasks, and dash and dart,
you have not known true peace of heart.
But if no wishes are your own,
and you don’t try to win the game,
and Lady Luck is just a name,
then tides of life won’t reach your breast
and all your strife
and all your soul will rest.
I was recently listening to a great meditation on Insight Timer by Alex Dudgon, Gratitude - 11 things to be grateful for. It struck me that each prompt he gave me challenged me seek gratitude where I wouldn't usually go looking. It's still very rewarding to show my gratitude to more typical areas of my life - my partner, my doggies, my home, the nature around me - but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of digging around to find gratitude in mundane objects and forgotten interactions too. So, to shake up your gratitude practice and challenge you to think harder, I'd like to prompt you with the 10 topics below. You can either comment your answers below, or write them down in your journal as a reminder. Grab a warm drink, get cosy and let's get started.
Sending good vibes your way,
Setting boundaries can feel very uncomfortable and usually its that discomfort with voicing them, that ultimately leads us to not follow through with them. But setting boundaries can be done in a kind and considerate way, that makes both you and your peers feel heard. Below I've outlined some guidelines I've picked up along the way on how to establish and follow through with my personal limitations, that have left me feeling more in control over my life.
Establish your garden
I picked this tip up recently in a copy of Psychologies mag. Finding a middle ground for your boundaries is difficult. Often we say no too brusquely in fear of pushing our limits or we say yes too eagerly, directed by our anxiety of upsetting others. A useful way to tackle this dilemma is to imagine a fence around a garden. Within this garden, is your safe zone - what you are comfortable with doing. Around your garden is a fence, tall enough that people cannot just step into, but low enough that people can see your boundaries. And at the edge of this garden, is a gate for you to communicate and let people in if you'd like to. Healthy boundaries are kind and flexible, communicated clearly and enforced firmly when they need to be.
Own your limits
This is something I struggle with oh too often. If you're not firm with your boundaries, people will push them. This leads to your resentment and blame on the other party. But, it's not their responsibility to honour your boundaries. There's no such thing as someone violating your boundaries. The responsibility is with you alone - not your pushy friend, annoying co-worker or overbearing partner. Next time you break your own rules, think about why you did it. Why did you check your emails at 8pm at night when you set your working hours as 9-5? Is it because you were worried you'd miss something important and come across as unreliable?
Disappointing people is OK
Remember to not catastrophise. How likely is it people will think you're unreliable if you're not answering emails late? Does it really matter if they do? We take on so much responsibility for other people's reactions and moods. But, how other people act is not our burden to bear. Stay in your own lane and focus on yourself. You can do what you want, say no and let people down if it's necessary. You will not always please people but that's ok.
Your boundaries shouldn't make you feel restricted and enforcing them doesn't need to fill you with dread. You may sometimes have to be a little firmer with people to communicate them, but that's ok too. We're all different and some people like to try us or they may take a little longer to hear to us. Engage with these interactions with kindness and compassion. Stay true to yourself, remember to listen to your body and be mindful.
Sending loving kindness you way,
If the thought of having a good rant to your friend or colleague fills you with dread in fear of being called a ‘moaner’, you’re not alone. In the safe space of our mind, we can freely express our opinions without fear of judgement. But when it comes to voicing those grievances, the thought of putting yourself into an uncomfortable situation, or cause yourself to be labelled as a negative nelly, usually forces people to stuff those thoughts deep down where no one will find them.
Self-expression is an integral part of your wellbeing and can be very cathartic. Whether that’s journaling, talking therapy, different forms of artistic expression or exercise, having a daily outlet to externalise your inner dwellings will let that energy flow out of you and be released. Think about the last time you were upset with something that happened to you; how did you tend to that discomfort? Did you rant about it? Was it at the forefront of your mind for the rest of the week?
However healthy it is to get those feelings off of your chest, there is a fine line between expression and letting your emotions steer the wheel. There are plenty of instances where communicating how you feel to others is important, but these situations should be handled with care and ideally after you have had the opportunity to process your reaction first.
I personally like to express myself through journaling and exercise. This is where I get to the nitty gritty of how I’m feeling and why I’m responding in that way. I find in the morning is where I benefit from an early run, to reset my mind and body, and to work through any negative residue from the day before that I haven’t slept off. This is also the best time for me to adopt a positive mindset and to set good intentions for my day. In the evenings, after a long day of interaction and obligation, is when I take to my journal to digest every little detail I’m holding on to. I think of journaling as a way to unload luggage off of my shoulders. Taking one situation at a time and turning it over until I’m sure I’m ready to put it down.
If you’re having difficulty sleeping because you’re replaying trauma over and over again or are finding that you’re often reacting in ways you are not proud of, you might not be expressing yourself enough. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your feelings. Every emotion you experience is valid. But for your own sanity, finding an outlet to shift some of those sticky emotions will make you more resilient.
What do you need to be honest with yourself about and how will you deal with it?
Sending loving kindness your way,
I just want to start by dispelling a big misconception about minimalism. Minimalism does not mean purging away all of your belongings and living with enough things to fill a suitcase. Minimalism at its core has always been about living with intention and removing the excess. No matter what life you lead, your likes and dislikes, what you hold value to or your cultural preferences; minimalism could help you lead life with more intention. I started my own minimalism journey back in Autumn 2020 and would like to share how stepping away from consumerism has helped my mindfulness practices.
Clearing my space to clear my head
My first step into living a life with less was to declutter all of my spaces from things that didn't serve me. Decluttering is different to reorganising. It's a lot harder and can sometimes be a bit emotional. Our aim here is to only invite things into our life that have their purpose. Taking it one room at a time, you'll lay out everything you own in that space and ask yourself some eye opening questions. Do I really need this? When was the last time I used it? Do I have something similar to this? Am I only holding on to it for sentimental value? You're likely to find that you own multiples of items, hold on to things because they may one day be useful and have kept gadgets because you're not sure what to do with them. This may take you some time to complete but once you're done, your home will be much easier to keep tidy and your mind will feel a whole lot calmer.
Strengthening my intention
Now we've got a little less stuff to worry about, it's time to look at how we're spending our time. In both minimalism and mindfulness, consciously assessing where we use our energy is integral to supporting our overall wellbeing. By embracing minimalism, owning less and simplifying, in turn we create time and space to be more mindful. One way I practice both, is by cutting down my commitments and my schedule. By choosing what I give my full attention to and how much of my energy I'm willing to use on such responsibilities, I'm able to create more space in my life and give myself more freedom. Write down everything you do in a week - no matter how mediocre - and start asking yourself one by one, if that activity serves you. Is it essential to your wellbeing? Is it just a luxury? Are you doing this for the better of yourself or because you feel obligated to?
This has been by far the trickiest stage for me and is something I have to practice hard at on a daily basis. It's all well and good decluttering your life, but if you continue to bring just as much stuff back in then you'll be back at square one. We live in a consumerism age with advertisements everywhere we turn. Marketeers are paid thousands of pounds to find out the best ways to infiltrate our lives with brand's products and its not easy to break away from that. I adopt a couple of strategies.
To me, minimalism and mindfulness have a circular relationship. Each creating conditions to facilitate the other. The more present you are in your life, the easier it is to recognize what adds value and what doesn’t.
Sending loving kindness your way,
There is no shortage of people who look to nature to find their answers in times of suffering. Solidarity with mother nature and her creations can be a wonderful time for reflection and grounding. Although not widely talked about, many people also venture into the great natural wonders of our earth for mental health support. Our resident blog writer, Jess, talks a bit about why she spends so much time outside and how it helped her find herself.
There’s nothing like toughing it through a hailstorm on a hill or trudging through a bog you’ve accidentally wandered into to knowing that once it’s over, you’ll be back to the glorious high of being outside. ‘Embracing the suck’ as it’s often known to outdoor enthusiasts, I find spending my down time in the Scottish hills teaches me a lot about how to endure discomfort for a greater purpose and shows me how resilient I am when I put my mind to it. After all, life isn’t a wonderful ride down the yellow brick road and learning how to endure as well as thrive is a big part of living life.
Something I’ve always struggled with in my life is conforming within the judgement and opinions of others. I’m no stranger to having a bit of an identity crisis because I’ve realised, I’ve been dumbly following along the paths of others without stopping and thinking, “wait, do I want this?”. Taking time out by myself - or with my adventurous canine companions, Caesar and Ed - gives me time to shake people off of my back and go into myself to figure out who I am again. As much as I am a people person, I’m also a lone wolf. There’s a balance between the two for me and ensuring I spend plenty of time in the countryside with my own thoughts never fails to remind me of my intentions.
My partner says to me a lot, “you’re fitter than you think you are”. This used to really bug me when he was trying to make me do more push ups or run further, but now I can really appreciate what he meant. Whether I’m running, hiking or even just going for a walk, it’s just as much about my mental fitness as it is my physical fitness. How easy is it to talk yourself out of leaving your cosy bed to go exercise? Far too much so! I find the same sometimes when I’m out, trying to give in to my mind telling me I’ve done enough and should go home. I surprise myself often at how far I can go and how capable I am in different environments out there, so when I’m in a rut – I remind myself of what I’m capable of. I’m much stronger than my mind leads me to believe.
Whether you live in the countryside or the city, there’s so many ways to introduce outdoor activities into your routine and your wellbeing will thank you for it. There’s also some fantastic podcasts out there where people open up about how their mental health took them to somewhere more wild. Here's some I recommend:
Do you find it difficult to understand the values of others without forming judgement if they do not align with your own? You're not alone in finding open-mindedness to be difficult. Our minds have evolved to analyse everything in order to make sense of the world around us. Because of our conscious freedom, we each uniquely have our own opinions, values and priorities that make us who we are. The trouble lies when we encounter someone who is so varyingly contrast to us. We can't understand them. If we feel the need to vocalise our discomfort, this is likely to end in a disagreement. Being close-minded can negatively impact our lives as we shut off a multitude of possibilities and culture, so how can we become more comfortable with being open-minded instead?
Open-mindedness can lead to greater creativity and innovation, as well as strengthen the relationships around you. It may take a little bit of work, but with this effort you'll see an abundance of growth and development.
The use of essential oils dates back to 5500BC with evidence of the Sumerian culture practicing and recording plant-based medicine. Jumping forward to the 21st century, the practice of aromatherapy is often used in holistic medicine but has gained recognition in science and western medicine in recent history. But what really is aromatherapy and how can we use it to support a healthy lifestyle?
Aromatherapy is the use of natural and potent essential oil fragrances. Extracted from plants, the therapy is based on using aromas to help stimulate our limbic system – also known as the ‘emotional brain’. Essential oils go hand in hand with mindfulness as a way to explore and control our emotions. Often used in meditation or other ritualistic practices, scents are used to stimulate states of mind such as relaxed, focused, uplifted and confident. I’ve put together some suggestions below to get you started.
It’s not a surprise that when we think of relaxing aromas, our mind jumps to lavender. Used in candles, pillow sprays, bath soaks and other self-care items; lavender is wonderful for inducing restoration and relaxation. Other scents such as camomile are also well known to be soothing and calming in the body. Try using some in your bedtime routine on your pillow or rub onto your pulse points.
To encourage a quiet mind and promote mental clarity, frankincense is your guy. Found often in meditation style blends, this warm spicy aroma is great to have on hand to balance your emotions throughout the day. Keep some on hand to smell in between meetings or rub into your temples before you start your to-do list for the day.
With so many responsibilities, it can be easy for us to get bogged down trudging from one task to the next. For a sprinkle of positivity and a spring in your step, reach for trusty citrus oils such as bergamot or lemon zest. Apply some in the shower to boost your mood in the morning or drop some drops into your cup of tea. Please ensure you use oils safe for consumption.
Sometimes our faith in ourselves wavers leaving us to feel uncertain and uncomfortable. When you’re in need of a little assistance in the self-confidence department, reach for oils like sandalwood and cedarwood. Both are very grounding, earthy scents that can bring your assurance and strength. Add some drops to your diffuser while you work or apply to your palms and inhale directly.
The quality of your essential oils is important when you consider whether you will ingest them and the longevity of the scents. At Tranceform, we highly recommend the use of doTerra essential oils for the pure grade certification which means they contain no nasties and can be consumed. Find out more about doTerra over here and if you want to order any, let us know!
Think about the last time you had dinner with someone else. How much of it do you remember? Do you remember the textures and tastes of the food you had? Do you remember what you spoke about? Or maybe you were not fully engaged, checking emails, social media or even thinking about other responsibilities. You’re not alone if you can’t answer much of the first few questions. We live hectic lives, and we juggle so many responsibilities it’s not easy to stay present when we’re engaging in things that we do every single day. But you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t – like me – trying to find ways to be more mindful and grounded, in a distraction laden world. So, I’d like to share some of my go-to practices for when I just feel like I’m not being present enough with those around me.
At the end of the day, showing up with your presence is the best way to show someone you love and care for them. Hopefully you can take a little bit of something from any of these practices, not only to your valued relationships, but to everyone you meet.
Enjoy your practice,