Often, I look up the meaning of a word in order to confirm the original intention and remove any preconceived ideas. According to the English Oxford Dictionary, self-care is the practice of taking an action to preserve or improve one’s own health 1(2018). It goes on to say that it is an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress 1(2018). Supporting the importance of not having a one-off self-care routine when the burnouts happen, or working your butt-off until the holiday, the once a month bath time, massage or pedicure but instead having a dynamic yet somewhere regular routine in order to protect one’s health consistently. As the flight attendants say in their safety demonstrations you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can start helping others.
I realise this is easier said than done, but it does not have to be hours out of your day in order to bring some calmness, happiness or focus back into your day. Here are some of my own self-care practices that can be done in the time you listen to a song.
1) Ease up on yourself – we can be our own worst enemies driving ourselves into the ground to do list after to do list pressuring ourselves that if we do not get the washing folded, or floors mops that hell will freeze over. You are the only one putting that pressure on yourself and it is completely unrealistic. Ask for help when you need to it, or at least communicate to your partner, house mates, or whoever you need to talk it out with. You cannot do it all and no one expects you to.
2) Three things you are thankful for – I like to do this first thing before getting out of bed or after exercise. You can take a moment to silently acknowledge this, write it down or use the Five Minute Journal app. There are three sections to complete in this app 1) I am grateful for… 2) What will I do to make today great? 3) Daily affirmations. For me using all three of these sections ended up doing more harm than good. I would beat myself up if I didn’t stick to what I put down for making the day great, and to be honest I think it is over kill. I now only filling out “I am grateful for” section. Either in the morning or at night. Amy Morin author of “What Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” goes on to explain how a leading researcher, Robert Emmons, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression (2015)2. Try it for 21 days and see how it might influence your life!
3) Favourite tunes – a childhood favourite of mine was when we put on Shania Twain, Reservoir Dogs or Tina Turner and busted out some moves in the lounge room, it was an instant stress and worry relief – still is! As explained by Raymond MacDonold (BSc (Hons) PhD CPsychol AFBPS) research continues to show the profound effects of listening to music and the affect it has on our emotions (Hargreaves, Miell, & MacDonald, 2012)3. He goes on to say that music may be “suited to managing or regulating emotions and stress in everyday life since it has the capacity to both distract and engage listeners in a variety of cognitive and emotional ways” (DeNora, 2010; Mitchell & MacDonald, 2012; Saarikallio, 2011; Sloboda & O’Neill, 2001)4. How do you want to feel in next few minutes? What music will help lift your mood to that?
4) Breathing exercise 1 – counting breath. Find a comfortable seat. Inhale through your nose for a count of three, hold the breath. Then exhale through your nose for a count of four. Repeat this process six to eight times. You have now put on your break system – parasympathetic nervous system that restores your body to a state of calm 5(2016). The more you practice this, the more your brain will remember how to access it.
Stresses, life worries and mishaps are all, natural occurrences in our lives, we cannot hide from them nor should they be removed because there are benefits for having them. What is in our control is how to better manage it by understanding our body and brain so that we can act rather than react. I am by no means an expert or have this down pack, like a lot of things it is a practice. It can take months, years or even a life time, but I will leave you with a quote from Ratatouille movie:
“You can’t change nature, son!”
“Change IS nature, dad, the part we can influence. And it all starts when we decide.”
1) Oxford University Press (2018). Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/self-care
2) Morin, A. (2015) 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude
3) MacDonald R. A. (2013). Music, health, and well-being: a review. International journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being, 8, 20635. doi:10.3402/qhw.v8i0.20635
4) Hargreaves D. J, Miell D, MacDonald R. A. R, editors. Musical imaginations. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2012.
5) MacKinnon, M. (2016) Psychology Today – The Science of Slow Deep Breathing. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/neuraptitude/201602/the-science-slow-deep-breathing
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