Before you begin reading, take a moment to check in with how you’re breathing right now. Notice your shoulders - are they hunched? What is the emotional quality right now? What would help you clear your mind or replenish your energy in this moment?
Well done, you’ve just practiced self care! Looking after yourself and recharging your batteries isn’t about an expensive gym membership or a regular massage. While self-care might be sold to us as a weekend away with friends, it’s actually much simpler than that.
Self-care is nourishment for our mind, body and energy levels. It’s about using small windows of opportunity in our day to recharge - reading a book or practicing mindfulness for 10 minutes, instead of scrolling on social media; taking a relaxing bath or mindful shower rather than a quick wash; throwing a yoga pose while the kettle boils; getting outside and tuning into nature’s beauty or simply enjoying three long deep breaths.
When we are rushing about all day, without a moment to stop and check in with ourselves, we can easily run out of steam. It can help to think of self-care like paying into your mental and energetic bank balance, to prevent you from getting overdrawn and running on empty. By spreading small ‘me moments’ for your mind and body across the day, you are more able to deal with the daily demands of life, more energised and more focused.
How to practice self-care in your 30s and 40s?
1. Make a personal self-care toolkit
The chances are that you have developed a good sense of what works for you and what doesn’t, what pushes you over the limit and what brings you back into balance.
So rather than creating more “I shoulds” related to the latest fad or trend, write a list of familiar things that nourish, replenish and elevate you. You can include quick-fixes and some longer activities in your tried-and-tested list.
Having this list top of mind will help you go towards one of them at the moment that you need it. You can also write it down and stick it somewhere that you’ll see it, for a visual reminder. You can try writing, “when I feel X I can try Y”.
For example, when I am feeling low, lethargic and like snacking in the evening, I will go for a 10-minute walk around the block. Or when I feel stressed, I will practice alternate nostril breathing. When I’m exhausted in the middle of the day, I’ll lie down and listen to classical music for 5 minutes.
We recommend choosing up to 10 self-care exercises that you really love and can turn to in different situations.
2. Support yourself to create habits that stick
Creating new habits can be hard! It’s so much easier to carry on as before, after all change takes energy too. Here are a few tips for supporting yourself through the transition.
Firstly, it’s important to find a time that works for you, for example at the beginning of the day when your willpower is at its highest, or at a moment when you have a natural break. This might be just after a meal or as soon as you finish work.
Next, celebrate even the small wins. Just doing 5 minutes of self-care a day can dramatically change the course of your wellbeing. Little and often is so much better than all and then nothing.
Lastly, investigate your beliefs about self-care. Is there a lingering feeling that self-care is selfish and if so, how is that belief serving you right now? Updating your beliefs whenever you are looking to improve something, can help your healthier habits stick around for longer.
3. Involve others
Another way to make self-care easier and more enjoyable is to involve others. Sometimes it’s easier to motivate someone else than to motivate yourself!
You may want to encourage others to take part in easy activities with you, like your friends, children or partner. Or perhaps notify close family about your intention and ask them to support you to take more time out for yourself.
Sometimes we struggle to give ourselves permission for self-care, so feeling supported by others, who will naturally give you a thumbs up for taking time out for yourself, can give us the boost we need.
4. Get inspired
Once you have built up the self-care muscle with a few tried-and-tested favorites, it’s time to branch out and get inspired.
There are many great resources for self-care. The Nourish App is a multidisciplinary self-care toolkit for parents, jam packed with practical bite-sized self-care tools and inspiration and is free to download and explore , or try Suzy Reading’s brilliant book “The Self-Care Revolution” with loads of quick tips and inspiration for integrating self-care into your life.
Try a range of self-care tools, like poetry, meditation (in different forms), positive affirmations, dancing to music, breathing, puzzles, knitting, mindfulness techniques and yoga - or whatever nourishes you.
5. Remember your why
In order to prioritize self-care, it helps to remember why you want to do it. I don’t mean listening to external pressures (more “shoulds”), but finding that inner sense of why.
Personally, I find it really useful to remember how I feel when I’m replenished, balanced and energized and on the flip-side, how my view of the world, my behavior and my health is impacted when I neglect my needs for too long.
Finding the right balance is a constant juggle, so remembering why you’re making those positive choices and how your wellbeing impacts others, helps you remember that self-care isn’t selfish, it’s essential.
About the author
Dot Zacharias is COO of the Nourish App, Co-Active Sleep Coach and iRest yoga nidra teacher. The Nourish app is an on-demand, self-care toolkit, tailor-made for mums, giving mums permission to proactively look after their mental health, to destress, relax & reboot. There is something for everyone - from advice on nutrition to yoga, affirmations, mindfulness, yoga nidra and breathing exercises. The Nourish app is free to download and explore.