The Importance of Self Care for your Mental & Physical HealthHeidi Hadley
Self care is very important and in this week’s blog I will be highlighting how we can care for ourselves in a very busy and technological world.
If you are a regular reader of my blogs and daily social media posts on instagram (@total.somatics) and Facebook (@totalsomatics), you know that I am an advocate for mental health awareness. In September I will be involved in a sponsored 30km walk over varying terrains for mental health and suicide awareness. I will be walking with three amazing ladies in our team, ‘Mind over Miles.’ But mental health awareness doesn’t just involve sponsored walks, it also involves educating and empowering people to take back control of their health and well being, so they can live life to the full. So what happens when we allow emotions and stress to consume us and what can we do to reverse this?
Pushing Emotions Down
You cannot remove feelings of hurt, sadness, anger, fear or feeling of worthlessness by keeping busy, pushing it to the back of your mind or hoping it goes away. As I have discussed in previous blogs, such as my blog entitled “Do you REACT or RESPOND to stressful situations?” your brain’s limbic system goes into action. This area of the brain helps you to cope with stressful situations to help you thrive and survive. The Limbic system sends out chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol to help you deal with stressful events. As I mentioned in my blog “Do you REACT or RESPOND to stressful situations?” the cortisol and adrenaline surge are brilliant to help us escape or fight and defend yourself in stressful situations. But if you live in this cycle of cortisol and adrenaline surging through your body 24/7, it is unhealthy and long term leads to your immune system becoming suppressed, resulting in you having a vulnerability to infection.
Cortisol is good in small doses but excessive exposure to it leads to an increase in inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Adrenaline causes an increase in your heart rate, rapid breathing and high blood pressure. The excess levels of cortisone and adrenaline bathe your muscles. This leads to your muscle fibres becoming irritable and too excitable, resulting in muscle spasms, cramps and tension.
Even is you think you have “moved on” or “taken your mind off it,” you haven’t. Your soma (mind and body) will continue to store this emotion in physiological responses UNTIL YOU DEAL WITH THEM. Your central nervous system, including areas of your brain associated with stress, anxiety and trauma are still humming along in the background causing repressed emotion to be held within you.
Research and studies performed at UCLA by Matthew Lieberman and colleagues reveal that when people verbalise their emotions it has a profound effect on their limbic system. It reduces the effects of the fight or flight response. This means adrenaline and cortisol production reduce and in turn so do physical symptoms.
Not everybody feels comfortable talking about their feelings. This can be a cultural issue too. But there are other ways you can release emotion. You may be the type of person who keeps a journal and likes to write down your feelings. You may enjoy expressing your emotions through art and art therapy. Some individuals love music and singing, they find their emotional release this way. Some find hiking and practising mindfulness in beautiful environments the emotional release they need to open the floodgates. We are all unique and all have love and passion for different things, so start experimenting and find what makes you feel grounded and peaceful from within. It may take time, however, don’t put pressure on yourself, in time you will find what works for you.
Daily Self Care
Daily Self care is imperative for good mental and physical health. When you take time to nurture yourself, you can start to grow and blossom, having more energy for yourself and others.
When you focus too long on what you don’t like about someone or something, you are guaranteed to end up with a low mood and find yourself attracting bad feelings like a magnet.
No one is happy and energetic all of the time, it is ok to allow yourself to feel down. But if you want to feel better, try applying these things:
- Unless it is glaringly obvious, stop trying to figure out the issue.
- Develop deep somatic breathing (check out my FREE audio HERE)
- Increase your water consumption
- Practice mindful somatic movement and notice if you are held hostage by your default or stress posture (this is covered in detail within The Total Somatics Online Program).
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t push through the day and be tough on yourself. If you are having a ’flat’ day, allow your feelings to fluctuate rather than push them down. If they are pushed down, at some point they have to surface and when they do, it can manifest in other issues such as digestive disorders, poor sleep patterns and musculoskeletal issues, just to name a few.
- Slow down. If you operate at a slower pace, you can stop and notice how you are feeling deep within. You are able to read your internal environment and use somatic mindset, mindfulness and movement principles (taught within The Total Somatics online program at www.TotalSomatics.com).
- Allow yourself to talk slower, eat slower, breathe slower, walk slower and drive slower. When you do this, you are training your nervous system to realise it is safe and healthy to live on less nervous energy and enjoy the moment.
- How do you feel when you are low? Do you like to lock yourself away from the world, curled up on the sofa with very little movement happening within your body? Could you challenge this habit and start moving your amazing body which will also help your mind? When we become immobile, we become stiff and return to our default stress posture. So within the comfort of your own home, move and dance like nobody is watching and smile, it has amazing benefits to your mind and body.
- If you thrive on being busy, this is your default behaviour when you are stressed or under pressure. You may feel that by reaching multiple goals and creating a list of outcomes to achieve, this will help you stay focused. However you start doing more of what your nervous system likes to do. That is to live on nervous energy, pumping out adrenaline and cortisol to keep you in this highly focused fight/flight survival response. Your attention is diverted away from stress to another focus. So challenge yourself. Could you learn to be kind and gentle on yourself? Could you stop pushing multiple demands on yourself which is adding every nervous anxiety to your nervous system? Could you go for a walk instead of a high intensity workout? Allow your nervous system to enjoy feeling movement, create a mindful approach to your activity. It is also very common for people who thrive on nervous energy to practice the same exercise routine, leading to muscular tightness and pain from habitual actions and postures. So challenge the structured part of your mindset by adding a variety of exercise and movement in to your lifestyle, so you can sense and feel your amazing mind and body move in different directions and create variety and stimulation for your mind and body.
- Become aware of your posture throughout the day because your posture translates a lot of subconscious messages to your brain which can have either a positive or negative effect to your mood. Plus regular awareness of your posture, helps to develop the areas of your brain associated with awareness, concentration, decision making and emotional intelligence. When you strengthen this area, the stress centres begin to shrink. So developing mindfulness with your posture is a great way to heighten your internal environment to external triggers and situations.
- Develop the attitude of gratitude. This may include a gratitude journal which you may write in every evening. It may be a conscious effort throughout the day to look at things in nature and elsewhere, developing a deep gratitude for them.
- Avoid negative conversation and fault finding. Don’t allow yourself to get drawn into negative, critical talk about others. When you begin talking negatively about a person (even if you think your view is correct and justified), it adds a negative filter in your brain regarding that person from that moment on. Whenever they talk to you, you have created a story from your perception (your perception is moulded by your own personal history and level of self worth) and it tarnishes the relationship you may have once had. This negative, judgemental filter then begins to show up elsewhere. Before you know it, your standards and opinions for people are unrealistically high and it creates a level of mistrust, anger or bitterness, just to name a few behaviours.
- Train your brain's filter to listen and discuss positive subjects. Avoid watching the news in the morning and evening, these images frame your day or end your day. Either way, it is not good for your emotional and mental health, we know our brain loves images and so shocking images can stay in our memory for a very long time.
- Eat healthy and mindfully. Enjoy the flavours, textures and temperatures.
- We are social animals, so make eye contact with people and smile. Connect emotionally with people in person rather than via text message or social media. If your loved ones live miles away, speak to them rather than messaging them. To hear a person’s voice and giggle can be medicine for your soul if you feel low, unworthy or lonely.
- When your mood improves, notice what has happened to make the change shift. Allow this information to heighten your awareness to your internal environment.
You are a soma. A Soma is a sensory organism which absorbs emotions, experiences, habits, behaviours, beliefs, movement, trends, cultures and you respond or react to triggers or events around you. All of this sensory awareness comes from your central nervous system. So you must be aware that you are constantly moulded by what you surround yourself with. When you develop a daily self care routine, you start to place value and worth on yourself, rather than wanting to gain approval or accolades from others about what you do or having the ‘disease to please’ and finding it hard to say No.
In the following words of Brene Brown, it so important to develop self care rituals because life can be fragile and to nurture our soma will help with caring for our physical, emotional and mental health.
“We are the authors of our lives,
We write our own daring endings,
We craft love from heartbreak,
We craft compassion from shame,
Grace from disappointment,
Courage from failure,
Showing up is our power.”
Could you pick up the figurative pen to your current and future life and write the script? Challenge your habits which may have created pain, tension, muscle tightness, fear, anxiety and having the feeling of always needing to be in control. Allow The Total Somatics Approach to Health & Wellness Online Program at www.TotalSomatics.com help you look at how you can create a somatic mindset, mindfulness skills and movement to your daily life. I have podcasts, videos, audios, downloadable support material, tutorials and much more to guide you to a lifestyle which will allow you to become more educated and empowered in the area of somatic movement, mindset and mindfulness.
I look forward to teaching you these amazing skills. Once you have joined the online program, feel free to contact me anytime for further assistance and guidance.
I am here to help and support you.
See you soon.
Heidi Hadley xx