The Ultimate Guide To Self-Care

From Christiane Northrup M.D., Author of Making Life Easy

If you are like many women, you may find it difficult to care for yourself, especially while you are caring for others. This is due to the programming of self-sacrifice, which you probably received starting at a very young age.  The problem is self-sacrifice feels wrong on a soul level, and can actually make you sick because it leads to health-destroying sentiments such as guilt, resentment, anger, and other emotions linked to high levels of stress hormones.

How well you care for yourself as an adult woman is determined, in part, by how well your mother cared for you — and for herself. Ultimately, however, it’s your responsibility to learn how to optimally care for yourself regardless of what happened (or didn’t) with your mother. And, you may find that you need to refine this process throughout your entire life.

I’ve spent a lifetime studying self-care. I’ve come to the conclusion that good self-care is the single most important aspect of our health. Plus, when you take care of yourself, everyone benefits! Read below for my fifteen easy ways to practice self-care…

Receive the healing energy around you. Your body is connected to a healing stream of energy (also known as chi, Prana, light, Source, and God) that you can absorb at will. All you need to do is be aware of it and be open to receiving it! This is the basis for the healing power of prayer. One particularly powerful way to absorb this healing energy is through Divine Love petitions as taught by Robert Fritchie, founder of The World Service Institute. Divine Love is the most powerful energy in the universe.

Treat yourself like a precious child. Treating yourself the way you would a precious child connects you with your Divinity. You can practice this by doing simple things such as using the rest room when you have the urge, or eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. You can also try acting as your own ideal mother. One way to do this is simply by speaking kindly to yourself.

Experience pleasure every day. Pleasure and fun decrease the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin, which over time, are responsible for heart disease, cancer, and most chronic diseases such as arthritis and high blood pressure. Plus, when you take time for enjoyment, you’ll will have more energy and better outlook when you have to tackle mundane or arduous tasks.

Breathe deeply. When you breathe fully through your nose you instantly engage your rest and restore (parasympathetic) nervous system. This helps your body metabolize stress hormones. One way to remember to breathe fully is to put Post-It notes around your house and office. Write “BREATHE” in large, beautiful letters that uplift and remind you to breathe fully.

Get good sleep. It’s best to get sleep on the earlier side of midnight, so go to sleep around 10 or 10:30 pm.  Also, try to develop a good sleep routine. Take a warm bath or read a book before going to bed.  Don’t watch TV or use social media. And of course, make sure you don’t eat a huge meal or consume alcohol or caffeine before bed.  Finally, make sure your room is dark, quiet and cool.

Accept support. Having a support network is scientifically proven to improve your outlook and your health.  That’s because, when you connect with friends, your brain produces oxytocin—a hormone that calms your nerves and prevents surges in stress hormones. Even when you are busy, take time to send e-mail or phone friends.

Say “no.” When someone asks you to do something you don’t really want to do, say “no!” This is especially important if saying “no” makes you feel guilty or unworthy. In most cases this means you’re letting the needs of others overshadow your own. Only you know how much you can handle without over-committing. Over time, you’ll strengthen your “no” muscle and also attract friends who support your need to set healthy boundaries. Remember, saying “no” to someone else usually means saying “yes” to yourself!  Here’s how to say it, “ Thank you so much for thinking of me.  But I simply can’t.”

Don’t ask permission. When it comes to taking care of yourself, no one is going to give you permission.  Don’t bother asking, just do what you need to do to care for yourself.  Remember, taking care of yourself regularly takes courage in our society. Far too many women get sick because it’s the only socially acceptable way to get the self-care they require. This does not need to be your story!

Change your beliefs. Optimal care of your body begins with your beliefs. Every thought you think is accompanied by biochemical signals that move throughout your body. Serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine are neurotransmitters that affect all areas of your body, and their production is based on what you think and feel. Stressful thoughts filled with anger, fear, or sadness increase stress-hormone levels in your body, which ultimately leads to cellular inflammation—the root cause of osteoporosis, depression, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. But this isn’t the only way your thoughts affect your health. They can literally determine which genes get expressed! It’s important to know and believe that your body was designed for health, vitality, and well-being for your entire life.

Love and honor your body. We are all beings of light. But we are living on Earth — the densest, darkest part of the universe. When you see your body as a temple for your soul, and treat it with love, and kindness and respect, you are bringing light into the darkest area.

Get moving. Sitting for more than six hours a day increases your risk of disease including heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. In fact, even if you exercise regularly, prolonged sitting (or standing) cancels out a lot of the good effects. You need to move your body through the gravitational field of the earth. Every time you move your body through gravity your body goes through thousands of minute physiologic changes in blood pressure, fluid exchange, hormone secretion, and stresses on bones and joints that help ensure health. So, if you sit at a desk, get up at least six times per hour. But if you can, it’s always best to add in something more such as stretching, knee bends or even squats. And remember, since the soul knows no timeline, it’s never too late to try some activity you have always wanted to do – dance, ride horses, ski, hike – whatever will keep you moving.

Take care of your fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that runs throughout your body. It connects skin to muscle and muscle to bone and every organ in the body. Our fascial network is a secondary nervous system. It can become dense, scarred, and thickened as a result of physical, emotional, or mental stress. Working your fascia regularly through body work, resistance flexibility, yoga, fascia blasting, and other exercises can help you release old patterns that are stored there.

Feel your emotions fully. Being a spiritual being on a human journey requires that we feel human emotions. But, with spiritual practices becoming very popular, so too is the practice of taking a “spiritual bypass” to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds and developmental needs. A spiritual bypass looks something like this: “It’s all good.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “If you feel sad, you’re not spiritual enough.” While this may seem better than using alcohol or drugs, it has the same effect. Being a human being on a spiritual path requires that you are present in each moment for all of your feelings without letting those feelings define you.  Now, this does not mean that you want to stay in a perpetual state of anger, victimhood, grief or sadness.  These emotions lower your vibration.  It simply means you allow your emotions to surface and embrace them fully without judgment, and then allow full expression of those emotions safely.  That is the only way to deal with them successfully. Your soul actually learns from this process of deep awareness and release. (Every other approach — drugs, alcohol, spiritual bypass — just digs them in deeper.)

Eat a balanced diet. It’s easy to get into the fast food rut when you are busy and stressed. But, eating whole, nutritious food is one of the best ways to maintain your health and energy. You will feel the difference in your body immediately when you substitute sugar and processed foods with a delicious smoothie, soup, or steamed vegetables and grass fed meat, wild fish, eggs, or other protein.  And, there are many great resources online for preparing quick and healthy meals. No matter how many people you are cooking for, prepare extra food and freeze it. That way, you have some quick meals on hand for when you really feel too tired to make the extra effort to cook.

Let love flow. You have an electromagnetic field around your heart that is thousands of times bigger than your EEG (brain wave) field. That means your heart is really in control, even though your mind thinks it is. So, take some time to quiet your mind. Sit still and breathe deeply. Imagine opening a gate to your heart and letting love flow both ways – outward to others and then back to you. You can do this whenever you feel like life is moving too fast and you need to take care of yourself.

For more health tips from Dr. Northrup, sign up for her eNewsletter here.

Check out the best snacks for the office and make the switch to healthy hot beverages.

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All content on The New Potato (even when supplied by a medical professional) is intended for educational and conversational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any new diet, exercise regime, or wellness routine.