For International Self-Care Day 2018, the theme is “Feel Good 7/24” which means that self-care shouldn’t just take place on one single day but for life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We couldn’t agree more! Today we want to share some of the ways you can easily make self-care something you prioritise every day.
Self-care is something that we all should be doing, whether it’s International Self-Care Day or not, and whether we are in eating disorder recovery or not. Unfortunately, many of us do continue to neglect this. We still see it as selfish or unimportant.
Self-care isn’t an occasional treat or something we should only visit when we’re burnt out. It is about intentionally crafting time into our day to do things we love, be around people (or animals) we love. Or perhaps it’s simply just holding space to sit with our own thoughts and make conscious choices from a well place. It doesn’t have to be about creating our own self-care routine. It can be as simple as just pausing for a few seconds to be more mindful. Have you tried acknowledging the sights and sounds around you or how something feels on your skin? What about identifying each flavour on your tongue or each bite you take? Or maybe most importantly, why you are feeling a certain way?
“Self-care for me is not about isolated moments of kindness but being kind, patient and compassionate with regards to everything I do. Having said that, after a hard days work or travel I really value a warm bath with essential oils.” – Marissa-Catherine Carrarini, Nutritional Therapist
The mind and the body are very powerful. We should listen to what they are telling us as they are continually generating and communicating messages to us. This is important for both our mental and physical health and wellbeing. Self-care should be treated as a priority. If you fail to make time for it, especially when suffering from an eating disorder, you run the risk of becoming ill, fatigued, stressed, anxious or depressed (or exacerbating existing conditions and feelings). This results in the position where it will take you longer to recover.
As the name suggests, self-care is something that we should be doing as individuals to take care of ourselves. There is no set list for a self-care routine as different people relax or are energised in different ways. You have to find and do what suits you best. Sometimes during recovery, this can be challenging as you learn what comes from a well and unwell place.
Below you will find some of the basic principles of self-care. Here we are sharing things you can remind yourself of each day. They apply no matter what stage of your journey you are at…
- Do things which make you happy. Schedule some fun activities into your diary or be spontaneous and just go out and do something you enjoy. If you love flowers, go out and treat yourself to some. They will make you happy whilst brightening up your environment and providing a gorgeous scent at the same time. Have a lazy day where you perhaps invite friends over for coffee and a chat. Or maybe you would prefer to sit and watch your favourite films/TV shows. It’s perfectly okay and acceptable to do what makes you happiest. We can find ourselves so consumed by eating disorders that we forget what truly brings us joy. Rediscovering these things empowers us as we move forward.
“Meditating is always helpful for me and I am always glad when I make the time for it. I also really enjoy switching off my phone and watching a good film with my feet up, taking time to immerse myself in something that I enjoy and not being distracted by social media leaves me feeling very relaxed afterwards. In this sunny weather a short mindful walk where I take in all the beauty of nature is very energising and helps me to ground myself in the hear and now.” – Nadine Doran-Holder, Clinical Treatment Advisor
- Make time for yourself. Buy some new beauty products or an essential oil and have a spa day at home. Sit around the house in your bath robe and read a book or do something creative that you enjoy. Take up a new hobby or re-instate one that you used to do but don’t make time for these days. You are not your eating disorder, so discover what you truly want and need, then prioritise those.
- Go on holiday or day trips. The saying is “a change is as good as a rest.” A change of environment will do you the world of good and usually helps you feel re-energised. If you love sunshine destinations you can relax by lying on a beach whilst benefiting from the Vitamin D which the sunshine provides. Holidays or day trips also provide the opportunity to go exploring to see new sights. Perhaps you can meet new people and try out different food too. For eating disorder sufferers, it can be daunting to get away. With preparation and a purpose behind the trip, this can be beneficial to your recovery. It can be an opportunity to reconnect with yourself or experience different cultures, often giving you more perspective.
- Food is fuel. Are you listening to and nourishing your body and eating when you are hungry? With illnesses like Orthorexia, the individual restricts themselves under the guise of being healthy. With other eating disorders, the individual may restrict or binge and purge. Obviously, there are many food items out there which we either enjoy eating or absolutely dislike, but it is vital (even with certain diets such as vegan or gluten-free) to achieve balance and receive sufficient nutrients. One of the biggest things we work on in clinic is empowerment. We encourage clients to make food choices from a well place rather than listening to their ill voice. We work to be mindful of all the benefits certain foods can provide to your body – skin, hair, nails, bones, immune system, hormone balance, energy levels. Food also benefits the mind – moods and concentration levels. But these are only true when you consistently receive enough nourishment and variety to fuel yourself. Being self-caring is seeing that food is not the enemy but something that you can build a kind relationship with.
- Exercise and meditation. This will help both your physical and mental health when coming from a place of enjoyment. Again, we are not all the same. One person might enjoy something super energising like Zumba but for others, they detest this. You must do something that you want to do – because it’s fun or stimulating – otherwise it will be a chore or a further trigger to your eating disorder voice. You will see it as punishment rather than self-care. Exercise for self-care is pleasurable and can bring you more in touch with your mind, body and soul. Meditation extends this, often leaving you feeling more grounded with more clarity too.
There are many activities you could do but here are just a few of our favourites:
- Aquaphysical classes
- A few moments acknowledging your thoughts and/or environment
- Guided Meditation
“To me self care is a time when you are ‘being’, allowing oneself to just be in the moment. Music is a very impactful form of self care, one which we use in the clinic especially during meditation.” – Romy Wakil, Psychodynamic Therapist
- Stay away from toxic people. Having negative people around you will drain you. You need to work out which people have that effect on you and be okay with letting them go. Be around and stay in contact with people who are positive, uplifting people who you trust and make you happy. In eating disorder recovery, it can often feel quite lonely or you might make poor decisions as to who you allow into your life. It usually takes a lot of time to be open about the struggles you face and to find your core support network. Once you can identify who should be a part of your recovery journey, keep your communication open with them. Only allow people to take up space if they make you feel good about yourself. This goes for who you follow on social media too.
- Love yourself. Talk to yourself how you would talk to others. We love the quote “only grow thoughts in your brain you would grow in a vase”. Identify what is important and meaningful to you, and what you feel confident about or are good at. Although it’s always great to hear praise from other people, it is also necessary to give yourself praise. Even if it’s just an achievement like getting through a tough day or for using positive self-talk. Use affirmations and write down things that make you feel good and refer to these regularly. Keep using them until they are entrenched in your mind. If spending time in front of the mirror is a habit you have got into, use this time to say something positive about yourself. You could even add a post-it note of something you love rather than looking for flaws. During recovery, we can feel unworthy of love, but it must start from a place of self-compassion. Being kind and gentle to our minds and bodies is something we can do anywhere, anytime.
- Don’t be afraid of showing your emotions. “Laughter is the best medicine“. Yes, another well-known quote, but it’s true! There may be a funny situation which has arisen or you have heard somebody say something funny, then laughter is good for the soul. If you are happy, sing along to your favourite songs when you are doing the housework/your homework. Also, if you are feeling in a low mood or feeling sad, let go of your feelings and cry if you want to. Make time to be alone and reconnect with your feelings and inner thoughts. Sit quietly and think about how you are feeling physically, emotionally and spiritually. Use journaling, meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises to help you to find that clarity. Breaking through the barrier of disconnect is self-caring. It opens you up to discovering what you need and what you want from life, allowing you to put those first.
- Be grateful for what you have. Don’t keep worrying about what you haven’t got or where you aren’t. Focus on the things that you do have, where you are and the people who are important in your life. Gratitude plays a big part in recovery as it encourages us to accept how far we’ve come and how much we have survived. Try writing a gratitude list you can refer to. Or perhaps think about one thing you are grateful for where you are sitting/standing right now. Its’ role in self-care is as a reminder that you do not need to push yourself, have or strive for anything more than you truly want to.
- Let go of things that are beyond your control. There is nothing you can say or do to change things that are out of your control. Allowing yourself to move on from these is a self-caring act you can do whenever you need to. Although this may be extremely challenging, try to clear your mind before going to bed so that you can start the following day afresh. Writing your feelings down in a journal is a good release mechanism.
- Sleeping. It is important to try and establish a regular wake up time in the morning and a getting ready for bed routine. An adult should aim to get 7-9 hours sleep per night but as we age, that amount seems to decrease. Sleep deprivation has many negative effects, even more so alongside eating disorders. Feeling drowsy, fatigued, having decreased concentration, experiencing mood changes, irritability, reduced stress tolerance, muscle tension and lowered immunity levels just to name a few. The less we sleep on an ongoing basis, the more it impacts our recovery. You can read more about this here.
Remember, self-care is a ongoing process which is full of benefits. Listen to what your mind and body is telling you every day – only you can hear this so only you can act.