Self-Care is Essential – but how do we manage it?

We are well into the first quarter of 2020 and there have been many vlogs, hacks and articles out there helping you to set yourself up for an awesome 2020. For many, starting out a new year with good intentions, can seem like an overload in itself. One theme that always pops up is the aspect of self-care, and how much we should emphasis this in our lives. I often read about New years resolutions to climb Everest, upgrade your car or home or go for a new job as ways to take care of you, but I feel that implementing these can be potentially overwhelming, especially if you are already reaching your limit with pressure, and not practicing easier self care goals more regularly.

Self-care is simply a few basic habits that are crucial to your functioning. Many of us grew up believing that the more you sacrifice, the bigger the reward. It’s easy to take the “hard work pays off” saying too far, to the point that it becomes counterproductive. Your abilities are worn. Your skills aren’t as sharp. You lose focus. You might think you’re functioning intensely, and maybe you are in some ways, but you’re not performing efficiently.
Self-care is truly essential if we want to have wellness, feel a sense of balance in our lives or be high performers. Research coming out now demonstrates how crucial sleep and recovery are to performance and resilience (Germain, 2016; Pedersen, 2015)
Self-care prevents getting to the point of burnout, when you push yourself to the point that you can’t take anymore so you just give up. This can be both mentally and physically.
Self-care reduces the negative effects of stress. Repeated high amounts of stress breaks down your mind and body. Taking care of yourself means keeping your stress from taking over so you can function at full capacity.
Self-care helps you refocus. By taking a short break from any task, going off to the toilet, making a drink or a walk around the home or office. Breaks are the epitome of self-care, and studies show they’re great for helping you perform better.
Self-care could be exercise, taking time for yourself, going for a walk, getting a massage, taking a holiday, getting your favourite drink from the local café, but self-care still gets a bad rap. It’s seen as an indulgence or a reward after working hard. It’s seen as time consuming, expensive and a chore. I can admit that it can be one of the first things cut from my day when I get busy or overwhelmed; but that’s exactly when I need it the most. My preferred recovery activities include exercise, having a soak in the bath, getting massages, and walking in nature, and good chocolate.
Self-care is one of the things where knowing better doesn’t necessarily lead to us doing better. To have balance, to be a high performer, to be able to give to others, we need to practice self-care. So, what are we to do?
If you are delaying self-care by waiting for a holiday or the weekend, telling yourself you don’t have time for self-care until you’re able to completely get away, there is another way.  To combat barriers and excuses to engaging in self-care, I recommend the strategy of micro dosing.
In medicine, a minimum effective dose is the lowest dosage of a medication that provides a clinically significant response. In self-care, a minimum effective dose might be a 20-minute walk, a 30 min bubble bath, 2-hour nap, or a 60-minute workout. If that’s the minimum effective dose, what’s the point of trying if you can’t set aside the full allotted time?
In medicine, the concept of micro dosing is gaining popularity. A micro dose is a “sub therapeutic” dose of medication. This dose isn’t high enough to produce noticeable changes, but still has a cellular impact. Applying this principle to self-care, a micro dose might not produce the same noticeable positive impacts that a traditional “dose” of self-care would, but still has a positive impact on your body. It’s more effective to do a micro dose of self-care than to do no self-care at all.
The advantage of micro dosing self-care is that any recovery strategy can be micro dosed.
Therapeutic Dose: 60 minutes of meditation in the morning.
Micro dose: doing a mindful breathing check in whilst checking your emails
Micro dose: spending five minutes mindfully enjoying your morning herbal tea
Therapeutic Dose: a 75-minute yoga class
Micro dose:  15 minutes of yoga stretches
Micro dose: do 1 yoga pose and hold for 5 breaths
Therapeutic Dose: full 60-minute massage.
Micro dose: 15-minute scalp or foot massage
Micro dose: 5 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation focusing on your neck and shoulders
Therapeutic Dose: a 50-minute bubble bath.
Micro dose: lavender essential oils inhaled on a tissue
Micro dose: A foot spa – use your washing up bowl and add some bubble and soak for 10 minutes.
Therapeutic Dose: A good night’s sleep
Micro dose: a high-quality nap
Micro dose: 2 minutes of rhythmic breathing following the 4-7-8 cycle
Therapeutic Dose: A half day art workshop
Micro Dose: 20 minutes of mindfulness colouring
Micro Dose: Sketching, sewing or knitting for 30 minutes whilst listening to your favourite relaxing music.

The true power in micro dosing self-care is the compound effects of multiple micro doses spread throughout the day. Maybe I can’t go for a massage as often as I would like, but I can take better care of my body if I do 5 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation 1-3 times per day for my neck and shoulders than if I do nothing.

See my top tips below for self-care and enjoy! Love Nina xx


Keep reading: