Why it's so important to practice self-care for your physical health
Scroll through instagram and you’ll see an array of face masks, bubble baths, glasses full of red wine or candles, all in the name of #selfcare.
Self-care has always been different for me and something that I have prioritised and realised the importance of as I got older.
The background story
At the age of 7, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in every single one of my joints. I was physically disabled and for many years I had to take monthly visits to the hospital to see rheumatologists, physios, occupational therapists, practice hydrotherapy exercises and partake in trials for new heavy prescription medications including chemotherapy agents that suppressed my immune system. At the age of 21, I was diagnosed with my second auto-immune disease; Lupus. This combination means that at any given time, my body can turn on itself and start attacking its own joints, muscles and vital organs.
To keep my body physically able to move and function as ‘normal’ as possible, I need to keep my body happy. This means nothing that will inflame it, shock it, strain it, or basically stressed it out.
So here’s where self-care comes in. Self-care for me has never been about taking a cute selfie for the gram, I literally have to practice self-care because if I don’t look after myself it’s not just a case of being mentally fatigued (although I do also attempt to manage my anxiety), I physically won’t be able to get up the next day from the severe pain my body creates for itself. Now as a 27 year old, by looking after myself and acknowledging what my body likes and doesn’t like, I now don’t take any form of prescription drugs, I go to the gym 4+ times a week and I’m generally in the low pain spectrum and what I consider probably the best remission-wise I’ll get.
Do I have any auto-immune sisters out there? According to Bonnie Feldman, auto-immune diseases are most prevalent in women, and are the 4th largest reason for disability in women.
“Self-care is nothing more than a good set of health habits, regardless of your age or state of health. It’s all about self-love…For chronic disease sufferers, especially those with auto-immune disease, self-care is a key tool to combat life’s daily obstacles.” Bonnie Feldman | TEDxACU
You may not have auto-immune issues, but the need for real self-care is important across all health spectrums.
Perhaps you have anxiety or depression? Hormonal imbalances? Gut issues? Science has shown that by introducing an effective self-care regime, you can manage your flight-or-flight response which can do major damage to a number of our systems.
We need to understand that we can’t combat months and years worth of stress, poor health and lack of self-care with a monthly massage. It’s the consistent, everyday ways we take care of ourselves that creates a deeper impact of healing and maintaining good health over time.
Below is my list of regular self-care activities. Perhaps this can serve as a reminder for your own rituals or spark some ideas on how to give back to yourself.
Self-care for me is…
Taking my daily supplements: This an array of supplements to reduce inflammation, assist in healthy gut health and to balance my hormones. I don’t want to get into specifics because each body is different, but if you really would like to know my personal suggestions for the above (not a medical professional) then feel free to email us here.
Exercising to be strong and to support my body: It’s not to judge myself on my weight/tone/shape of my body or to compare with others. It’s literally to build my strength so that my muscles and joints are the strongest they can be. Also enjoy the endorphins.
Knowing when to rest: making the call to go to bed early , understanding that I’m not great at having back-to-back social activities (the introvert in me also gets exhausted), learning how to reschedule things with my friends so that it’s not a hard ‘no’ or me purely bailing but balancing my needs with my friendships’ needs.
Being mindful: acknowledging my anxiety and how it can affect me physically (I get shakey, headaches, my fingers start to ache). Trying to be mindful and in the moment has definitely helped with my stress levels. I’ve written a couple of articles around mindfulness for various situations, read: Modern Mindfulness For Beginners, Modern Mindfulness: Habits for your best holiday, Modern Mindfulness: tools for stressful situations
Eating nutritious meals and staying hydrated: I want to give my body the most support I can, this means eating the most diverse nutrients (e.g. lots of broccoli/cabbage for hormones, oily fish and avo for inflammation, reducing gluten/dairy/caffeine and alcohol).
Incorporating essential oils into my routine: I use oils in a number of ways. I use them as natural cleaning products with vinegar and bi-carb soda as chemical cleaners make my joints start to ache within 30 minutes of contact. I use ClaryCalm on my neck and ankles every day for hormone support, Frankincense in my face oil to de-stress (and it helps with acne scars), lavender in our house diffuser and more.
Changing jobs: a huge moment of self-care was leaving my stressful corporate job because it was serving me. I had to work through my ego of being proud of a certain role title, working for a prestigious brand or a salary because at the end of the day, the long hours and high stress situations were causing my body physical harm. I also practice specific self-care activities at work, which you can read about here.
Set boundaries : I put my phone down by 9pm every night. My friends and family understand this and know I’ll get back to them in the mornings. I do this to let my mind wind down before bed and I try to limit blue light before sleeping.
Practice kindness: it’s about not giving myself a hard time if I don’t do all of the above. We’re not perfect, I’m definitely a work in progress, so it’s about supporting yourself on this journey. Yes I try to eat healthy, but sometimes I love nothing more than an almond chocolate croissant from our local french bakery, because sometimes you just have to eat that f*cking delicious baked morsel.
Written by Lucy Green; founder of Homebody Club, obsessed with coffee, the moon, deep conversations, nights in and any form of personality test (she’s an Aries / INFJ / Generator / Pitta Vata / Type 1).