Did you know that self-care as a search term has doubled since 2015?
And it just makes sense. I think of it as an extension of Functional Medicine, where the idea is to prevent disease by adjusting lifestyle factors before things actually go wrong. So to do it properly, I think we need to look at all 3 components of our being - our mind, body and spirit.
I visited Yeotown, a retreat in Devon a while ago, a place that so immerses you in self-care that you leave after 5 days as a completely rebooted human. It’s so powerful, it even convinces you to maintain some of their practices far beyond the trip. And there’s no doubt that some of these practices have been sanity preservers after the rollercoaster of a year we’ve just been through. Here’s what’s working for me.
I think that the phrase “happiness is an inside game” is utterly true. As I’ve diversified my work and gotten busier, I’ve found my natural tendency to overthink, become anxious and ultimately give myself a hard time has increased exponentially. So in the last year I’ve tried lots of different approaches to see if I could rewire my brain, knowing what we now know about neuroplasticity. I’ve attended the Hoffmann Process which I’d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking to get unstuck in their lives. And I’ve very much enjoyed the approach by Shirzad Chamine who has developed a book and an app around his concept of Positive Intelligence as a mechanism for shifting out of ‘survivor brain’ mode in order to enjoy your life more. Currently I’m reading Dr Joe Dispenza’s Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself and it’s quite remarkable - I’m committing to his daily meditation programme for 4 weeks - starting your day from such a place of calm has been transformative so I’m excited to see where this takes me.
I’ve also recently joined The Supper Club, an entrepreneurs network which is already becoming a great support - as a founder, it can be quite lonely as every day presents new challenges so having a network of altruistic individuals facing the same sorts of struggles that I can access is fantastic.
My Reading List
Start With Why - Simon Sinek
How To Do The Work - Dr Nicole Lepera
The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin
The Highly Sensitive Person - Elaine Aron
Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
Love Factually - Laura Mucha
How To Fail - Elizabeth Day
The Obstacle Is The Way - Ryan Holliday
The Truth - Neil Strauss
I think for many, their skincare routine is self-care. Personally, I’m quite pragmatic - my products are there to do a job. But when I need to unwind, like many I head for the bath. It’s the fastest way to hit the reset button when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’ll put some classical music on (anything by cellist Yo Yo Ma), I’ll light a candle from Astier de Villatte (Delhi usually) and apply a soothing, hydrating mask. This is especially necessary if I’ve been wearing a face mask a lot at the office or if I’ve overdone my actives (rare, but it does happen.)
This is the big one for me. Good quality sleep is essential. And it has been ever since I recognised how much I suffered in terms of my mood and wellbeing working the hard years as a junior doctor. I need a routine to get my brain to wind down and I find yoga nidra can really help when I’m a bit too wired but need to get my head down. I’m also very particular about sheets, pillows and my mattress - if you're not in your shoes, you’re in your bed so invest wisely in both!
When I get busy, there’s no doubt my Deliveroo ordering goes up. But when I’m in the zone looking after myself, I’m very conscious of getting my fill of skin foods. After my first visit to Yeotown, I stopped drinking caffeine and it’s one of the best health decisions I’ve ever made. And I watch my alcohol intake - when you socialise a lot as part of work, it’s easy to end up having a glass of wine or 2 most nights. So I enjoy a Seedlip and Tonic when I work and save alcohol for my down-time with friends.
If there’s one thing this last year has taught us it’s that meaningful time spent with your partner, friends and family is the most important. I make sure to put my phone away and schedule in dinners - I love cooking as it’s one of the few activities that truly empties my head, so booking a cottage in the countryside with my close people where I can take time and feed them is a real joy giver! I also know myself better now when it comes to vacations that restore me - travel to remote places with amazing scenery is something I’m really looking forward to. Arizona and Utah, South Africa and Costa Rica are all recent destinations that made me feel incredible.
At the end of the day, we’re all here for a breathtakingly short period of time. So with these practices the ultimate goal is to live a meaningful life and find your purpose, to take as much joy as you can along the way and live in alignment with your values. These are the practices that keep me on track and I hope that some of this resonates with you and is perhaps of use.
Let's use the comments to share the practices that make the biggest impact on you, so we can help those of us who are dealing with overwhelm right now.