The Importance of Self Care
Self Care Habits
February is the month of love, and what better way to show that this month by spending the time to love yourself. Not enough people spend time engaging in self care habits. Self care habits are helpful because actively engaging in your own personal health, both physical and mental, gives you an immense sense of wellbeing. Not only this but it also gives you confidence and a sense of appreciation for yourself. This blog post will outline some of my favourite self care habits that I often share with patients visiting us at our Chiropractic Clinic in Surrey.
1. Sleep Hygiene
We all fall asleep, but some of us sleep a lot more soundly than others. There are certain habits that will lead to your sleep being restful or restless:
Our body and our brain like routines. If we have a regular repetitive bedtime routine our brain will learn that it is time for bed and you will therefore be able to get to sleep much faster.
The increase in electronic technology has unfortunately led to a decline in the quality of our sleep. Electronic devices emit a blue form of light. This blue form of light stops our body producing melatonin which is a sleep hormone. Without enough melatonin in our body we will struggle to fall asleep.
To counteract this, we need to limit the usage of electronic devices in the evening, particularly for the hour before bedtime. Other ways to help are to download red / yellow light filters onto your smartphone. These will automatically shift the tone of light emitted from your phone to a yellowish / reddish hue in the evening, which will help your body to produce melatonin and you will sleep much better as a result.
This one is perhaps a little more obvious, but you really need to try eliminating stimulants from your diet altogether, or at least after midday. Stimulants include things like caffeine which is prevalent in coffee and tea but also in energy drinks and dark chocolate. You also need to avoid nicotine if possible.
2. Relaxing Breathing
If I said to you that breathing was important, I doubt you would be very surprised. However, the importance of breathing often gets misunderstood, and not all breaths are equal. Our body has developed two main types of breathing – Fight or Flight breathing, or Rest and Digest breathing.
Fight or Flight Breathing
Fight of flight breathing developed because in the prehistoric times, when we were chasing prey or being chased by predators, we needed a way to pump our muscles full of oxygen. This allowed us short term increases in strength and speed. This type of breathing involves short, shallow breaths, an increased heart rate as well as the release of adrenaline through our body. This is a very stressed state and very hard for the body to maintain for a long time.
Rest and Digest Breathing
Rest or digest breathing on the other hand developed to allow us to feed our organs with all the oxygen they need. This type of breathing is very relaxing and involves long, deep, quiet breaths and a reduced heart rate.
In the 21st century we don’t have as many life or death stressors but we have lots of micro-stresses that we experience on a daily basis. This includes urgent calls or emails, tight deadlines and anxiety in the workplace. This build up of micro-stresses causes us to become stuck in a Fight or Flight mode. This means our breathing is also stuck in a Fight or Flight mode, resulting in our bodies to get overly stressed and fatigued. When this happens, our muscles and joints start becoming more sensitive. It is at this point where we are more likely to experience chronic pain problems.
To counteract our stuck state in Fight or Flight mode, we need to have a way to change our breathing to a Rest or Digest mode.
To achieve this, we need to practice breathing every day as follows:
- Breath in and out through your nose only (breathing through the nose helps to warm the air which then relaxes the airways)
- Breath as slowly and as quietly as you can
- Rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your top set of teeth.
- Have your lips together but your teeth slightly apart.
Applying all these points at once will allow you to switch from a stressed breathing state to a relaxed breathing state. This will help you to recover from pain and injuries but also help you to deal with mental stress that might build up. It will also allow you to achieve a deeper, sounder sleep.
If you’re anything like me, you often go through phases of great organisation and then phases of sloppy organisation. For me, journaling is a great way to stay on top of this and to keep my organisation as good as it should be.
I don’t do anything crazy for my journaling. Most evenings I’ll spend some time reflecting on the day just gone, and spend time planning the next day. Once youve done this for a few weeks in a row you will have a much greater sense of what you have achieved. On top of this you will find it easier to plan your tasks for the day and the week ahead.
You could also spend the time writing gratuities and things you are thankful and grateful for. Whenever I spend time doing this it always improves my mood and allows me to think of positive things before bedtime, rather than obsessing over minor negative things that may have happened that day.
There are so many other things I could write down in this blog post about self care habits. The habits mentioned above are probably the best “bang for your buck” self care habits to opt for. None of them require much of a change but you will notice a huge change if you start applying them into your life. Out of all of them, sleep hygiene is probably the most key. If you can get that right, you are 75% of the way there!