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,
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,
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!
Do you often feel drained by the end of the day but still struggle to get a restful night's sleep? Do you often feel like life is a constant struggle and you do not have enough time for activities you enjoy? Then your energy ratio might be unbalanced. In mindfulness when we talk about nurturing and depleting activities, we simply mean activities that give you energy (nurturing) and activities that take your energy (depleting). Now, we can't pretend we live in a paradise land where we only engage in nurturing activities. Unfortunately we all need to partake in depleting activities. But with a little bit of adjustment, we can get the balance right and leave the day feeling fulfilled. So, what are we waiting for?!
Regularly checking in on your energy ratio is a great way to get a better picture of what you spend your time on and brings a lot more awareness to your day-to-day. It will also encourage you to prioritise those wonderful nourishing activities that leave you feeling a boost in energy. Self-care is really important so make sure you find some time for yourself.
If you need some help finding nurturing techniques to practice throughout your day, I'd love to help! Get in touch directly on email@example.com to find out more on what I can offer.
Most adults experience insomnia at some point in their life and, in this day and age of technology and increasing pressures, it can feel impossible to shake. Sleep thrives on a regular routine, so how do we get our routine down so that we can hit the pillow and our brain stops? The secret is in those few hours before bed. I'm going to share my top tips for creating an easy and relaxing wind-down routine that will have you asleep in no time.
Dim the lights
Before the invention of lights and set routines, people used to stay wake when the sun came up and sleep when it was dark. Simple, right? Unfortunately we still have to get up at 6am and get ready for work whether it's sunny or pitch black. But, we can still use light to our advantage. Our brains still react in the same way, so try dimming the lights about 2 hours before bed to start the wind down process.
Turn off the screens
This goes for your technology too. All of our technology uses LED screens and can trick our brain into thinking it's daylight, especially if they emit a blue light. Although many modern devices boast of their 'warm screen filter', we still recommend you switch the devices off at least 2 hours before bed. Whether the warm filter works or not, our phones and TVs are filled with distractions and are designed to engage you.
Cut the caffeine
Coffee is great right? But you really shouldn't have it before bed. Even if your bedtime choice is milder such as a cup of tea, any stimulant isn't good to have before bed. Why not opt for a milky hot choc or a cup of peppermint tea? Both are naturally free of caffeine and relaxing. Some people may be very sensitive to caffeine so you may need to cut the caffeine in the early afternoon to get it out of your system.
Try a relaxing exercise
There's such thing as a relaxing exercise you ask? Of course! Activities such as evening specific yoga or a wind down meditation are a great way to start slowing your central nervous system down. Spending some time on exercises that focus on stretching and working with your breathe will quieten your mind and body quite rapidly. They will also bring your awareness to the present moment and stop your mind wandering off. There are lots of free resources on YouTube and in apps to get you started.
My final tip is to approach your routine in a "non-striving" attitude. It's all good and well planning these relaxing activities into your evening but, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed to complete them or disappointed if you don't, this will impact on their effectiveness. Why not try just one of them for a few weeks and see how it impacts your sleep?
Something I’m often asked by clients in our sessions is “how do I incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life?”. We often have plenty to fit into a day as it is, and the thought of cramming in another task for the to-do list can feel overwhelming. Mindfulness isn’t about committing to an hours meditation everyday, but how we bring intention and presence to each activity. I teach my clients techniques and tools to use throughout their day, so that they’re always being mindful. Whether it’s taking 5 minutes to set your intentions, using breath work to keep us grounded or bringing our concentration to individual tasks - let’s talk about how we can bring more awareness to our daily routine.
1. Set your intentions
There’s a lot to be said about starting your day with intention. As the unconscious part of our mind does a lot of the steering, we can bring a richer experience of fulfilment if we set intentions for our day. Whether our intention is to eat healthier or simply to take our full lunch break, you will already be starting your day off with more focus as you work towards actioning it. Sometimes our intentions can just be to be kind to ourselves when we have a busy day ahead. Remember, intentions are not goals and are there to bring us more clarity, not to be punishable if they’re not achieved.
2. Mindful eating
One of the most pleasurable experiences for us as human beings is eating food and hydrating ourselves. But how many of us gulp our coffee down and scarf our morning toast on a regular basis? One way to bring mindfulness into our day is to practice eating mindfully. Take some time out to enjoy your hot beverage. Feel the warmth in your hands as you hold the cup and how the liquid warms you up as you drink it. Turn your devices off at lunchtime and focus on identifying each flavour as you enjoy mouthfuls of your food. Sometimes it feels like we do not have time to be with our food, and sometimes that may be the case; but when you can find the time, take a moment to awaken your senses as you have your morning porridge.
3. One thing at a time
It’s estimated that 95% of our brain runs on autopilot. Living in a fast-paced world, we’re taught to be successful multi-taskers and the more you do - the better you are! But I’m here to tell you, being the multi-tasking wizard you strive to be, isn’t all it. Like the tabs open on your computer browser, all of this distraction is cluttering your mind and you will not be giving each task the full attention it deserves. So close down all of the tabs on your computer (or the metaphorical ones in your mind) and bring your focus to one task at a time. You’ll find you’ll awaken some creativity, your memory will improve and you’ll feel less overwhelmed. Win win!
4. Pause and reset
Our brains are magnificent machines that keep on running even while we’re asleep. But they need a rest too! Whether you need to bring a refreshed perspective to an old problem or struggling to get yourself into the right mindset - try taking a mindful pause or take 5 minutes to walk away and enjoy a cup of tea. I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro method which is a popular time management technique and widely used to boost productivity. Simply pick a single task, remove all other distractions, set yourself a timer for 25 minutes and work away on that task until your time is up. Once the timer goes off you should take a short break to ‘reset’ your mind. I often use it to break down big tasks and have found it really effective.
5. Exercise awareness
Whether it’s on your lunchtime walk, daily run or your Zumba class in the evening - try bringing your awareness to physical activity. How does your body feel as you take each step? As you lift and place your feet on the ground. Can you notice how each individual muscle contracts and relaxes as you shift your weight around? What smells and sensations can you notice? Try making a mental note of the colours you see on your walk or how your heart rate shifts as you speed up and down. You may even notice you feel more invigorated!
Mindfulness doesn’t need to feel like a chore and should be used to bring you fulfilment. It’s different for each individual and should be made personal to you. Maybe try sitting down and thinking about your typical day to see what little mindful habits you could drop in to your regular activities. If you have any questions or need some guidance, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d be happy to help!
We all seek a reduction of stress, anxiety and negative moments and by reducing these we manage to have a more balanced, somewhat happier life. The pace of modern life has an important impact on our wellbeing and our sedentary life is one of the main cause of the stress we feel regularly. That's where getting out in nature, is one of the simplest and most intuitive activities to improve these increasingly important parameters for happiness and well-being.
We spend too much time in the office, in front of screens with artificial light: all conditions that make us feel tired, off- centre and bored. Interacting with nature in nature is one of the best tools for self-improvement. I mean get out, take a walk, breathe in that clean, fresh air and look up and out to what is in front of you. This interaction with green spaces offers other therapeutic benefits. For example, by appreciating the sounds of nature or the silence outdoors, you can lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol, the stress hormone and acts like it's own little meditation.
Bring nature in to your own life whenever you can. Time spent in nature has in its entirety a great deal of beneficial effects, regardless of the activity in which it takes place: a daily walk in a park or a Saturday afternoon on a local path, is as beneficial to clocking up the miles on a training run.
Go with friends, go alone, put the right clothes on, take your furry friend and get out there in the green. A study in 2014 found that walking in a group in nature is as effective as hiking alone in terms of reducing depression and stress and improving overall mental health. Nature can have a powerful effect on our mental state and there are many ways to draw on it. The best (and only) way to experience the effectiveness of eco-therapy is simply to spend more time outdoors, trying to interact with other living beings.
Among the proven effects on wellness of eco-therapy here are some more from the clever people out there studying such things:
It can be difficult in Scotland to get out there when the weather is bad and the snow is coming straight at you. But as my favourite comedian, Billy Connelly says, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little."