By Suzy Reading, author and Chartered Psychologist specialising in wellbeing, stress management and facilitation of healthy lifestyle change.
Journaling is one of the best self-care practices – writing things down relieves stress, helps to process emotions and express feelings, clears the mind and improves sleep. We can also set our goals and ambitions in motion and check in with our commitments such as nourishing ourselves through food and movement.
What is self-care?
Simply put, self-care is nourishment for the head, the heart and the body. I always say that self-care is health care – because without our health, what do we have? By health, we are referring to physical health, emotional health, energetic health and mental health. If it’s ok to brush your teeth and hit the gym, it is equally ok to give yourself permission to stop, rest and top up your energy bank. I urge you to take a look at your self-care practices and make sure there is something in there for every aspect of your well-being: mind and body.
Please don’t equate self-care with pampering: it can be pampering but it is not limited to luxurious practices. Sometimes a restorative act is just what you need; in other moments, the true act of self-care might be the last thing you actually feel like doing, something that challenges you or requires you to step up, like sitting to meditate when your mind is whirring or heading out for a jog when the sofa is calling to you.
To make it easier to understand self-care there is a second part to my definition. Self-care is nourishing yourself in this moment AND nourishing the person you are becoming. If you’re not sure, ask your ‘Future Self’. There is great wisdom to be mined there. The manner of asking will vary from person to person and for you from moment to moment but this definition and a broad toolkit will serve you well.
The benefits of self-care
Self-care helps us cope in the moment, whether we’re rising to meet a work challenge or digging deep to meet our children’s needs. Self-care helps us navigate these experiences with a sense of calm, poise and purpose.
After periods of stress, loss, conflict or change, self-care can also put us back together. We all need a toolkit to help us restore, replenish and heal because no one is immune from these experiences.
Engaging in proactive self-care helps to boost our resilience, providing us with a protective buffer against future challenges. Just like a car needs fuel to move, we need energy to get through our day and the greater the reserves in our energy bank the more effective we are. An act of self-care is like a deposit in our energy bank and we need a healthy balance because it’s not just crisis and illness that deplete us; things we desperately want – like promotions, having kids, getting married, buying or renovating a house or just planning a holiday – have an energetic tax on us too! Self-care allows us to keep giving and keep going. Energetic bankruptcy serves no one.
And last but not least, self-care gives us access to our best selves. Think of any goal or quality you aspire to possess – you are more likely to achieve it when you are well-nourished. Self-care helps us all become kinder, more compassionate people and this benefits everyone our lives touch.
How the ‘And Breathe’ journal works
We all know broadly what we need to do to feel energetic and healthy, the purpose of the And Breathe journal is to help you get clear on what this means personally to you.
Use the journal daily and in as little as five minutes it will bring a sense of fresh purpose and zest to your day. Achievable and sustainable change is best created in small increments, so every time you check in with the journal there is the opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to your healthy habits and to embark on a new wave of change once that habit is integrated into everyday life.
Start by ‘connecting with your why’ using the prompts to identify the scaffolding in life that you need to flourish. Celebrate what you are already doing well, acknowledge what needs some tweaking and use goal-setting to break it down into mini action steps. Draw practical inspiration from the journal on how to boost your wellbeing, going straight to where you feel drawn. Work on that aspect of your health and keep returning to your journal to build your self-insight, motivation and to grow your self-care toolkit.
About the expert
Suzy Reading is a Chartered Psychologist specialising in wellbeing, stress management and facilitation of healthy lifestyle change. Her latest book, And Breathe, is out now, £12.99 published by Octopus.