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Join My Year Of Self Care

Uncategorized Dec 28, 2021

I didn’t set out to do a year of Self Care. In fact, if you’d asked me at the start of 2021 year if I needed to spend a year to focus on taking care of myself and my life, given what I had been through in 2020 I'd probably have laughed at you. It was time to do life, not go on some yoga retreat... Actually, I definitely would have told you that. While I’ve always been a self-proclaimed, relentless self-improver, the prior year had been the hardest I’d ever experienced. And I will actively talk about that in 2022, warts and all. It was just so tough.

So when it came to self-improvement, or more importantly, Self Care, in many respects it was the last thing on my mind. The truth was, Self Care frightened me, there was so much misinformation about the practice and very little evidence of what true Self Care was even amongst health professionals. Thankfully that is changing with the World Health Organisation recently defining Self Care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”.

The scope of Self Care as described in this definition includes health promotion; disease prevention and control; self-medication; providing care to dependent persons; seeking hospital/specialist care if necessary; and rehabilitation including palliative care.

Inherent in the concept is the recognition that whatever factors and processes may determine behaviour, and whether or not Self Care is effective and interfaces appropriately with professional care, it is the individual person who acts (or does not act) to preserve health or respond to symptoms.

Self Care is broad concept which also encompasses hygiene (general and personal); nutrition (type and quality of food eaten); lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure, etc.); environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.); socioeconomic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.); and self-medication.

Core principles: Fundamental principles for self-care include aspects of the individual (e.g. self-reliance, empowerment, autonomy, personal responsibility, self-efficacy) as well as the greater community (e.g. community participation, community involvement, community empowerment).

And that is why when you join me on My Year of Self Care you are given access to WOW Self Care School's 7 core training modules on each of the Self Care plinths plus a bonus module on Emotional Self Care. I want you to be discerning. I want you to know the facts and where to look for the evidence on how Self Care can improve your health and wellbeing.

When I discovered what Self Care actually was, I threw out all the bath bombs and short term fix books and really started to examine my health. Did you know there is something like 37 million posts on Instagram alone about Self Care and most of them are just plain wrong. 

What I focused on during my year of Self Care was what important to me: mind, body and spirit.

In fact, I realised, I'd just been existing, trying to stay alive the best way I knew. Before I embarked on this year, my emotional life had been in disarray, and taking time out to better myself seemed like the last thing I could handle.

My health had really taken a beating in 2020 and I just wanted to get on with it. The thought of taking time to focus on myself felt selfish particularly since I was trying to rebuild my life and we were in the midst of a pandemic.

My family needed me. To be spending time on 'me' just felt wrong and unrealistic despite all the mental health messages.

I wasn’t focused on the fact that hard times are often what make Self Care so essential. Plus I had a natural resistance to Self Care after encountering a Self Care quack whose unorthodox methods caused all sort of challenges. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why I stumbled headfirst into this whole plan. It didn’t start out as a plan or even a goal—it started out as one month.

As the holiday season wrapped up, I decided on a whim to give up all alcohol for January—not because I believed I was drinking too much but because I liked the idea of challenging myself to see how tweaking a regular habit could improve my life. What happened to me after one month without booze was shocking. First, I learned more about myself in thirty days than I had in years. Second, giving up alcohol for a short time dramatically changed my body, mind, mood, and attitude toward booze.

Another major step for me was actually booking in a year's health checkups at the beginning of the year. Not doctors appointments for ailments, but health check ups, prevention. Everything from my dental visits for cleaning to my eye health appointment. I obviously didn't make them all for one month, but planned an annual calendar of appointments for the year. That way it was organised and done.

Moreover, after a month,  I didn’t want the self-discovery and feel-good benefits I’d enjoyed by doing this experiment to end. That month of success reinvigorated something in me. It’s part of my DNA, it’s also part of who I am, —a type A, driven, and goal-oriented human being. There’s little I enjoy more than setting targets for myself and hitting them. And as a Chaplain, with a background in health promotion I like using science and data to make sure I have my best chance at a bull’s-eye.

And like so many people, I start every year with the hope of a New Year’s resolution—often more than one. Of course, also like so many people, making resolutions stick permanently, knowing what’s really beneficial to you, is easier said than done. But doing something for just one month? That feels achievable. That feels like the ideal length of time for experimenting. That feels like a great opportunity to understand how different kinds of self-care can have positive impacts on your life. What emerged from that dry month was a plan, or at least the makings of one.

I decided to do an experiment: each month I would tackle a different self-improvement wellness challenge, with push-ups and planks for thirty days, then meditation for thirty days, then regular aerobic exercise for thirty days, and so on, until I’d completed an entire year of minor monthly health changes.

In doing so, I would understand exactly how each health improvement impacted me and become more conscious about my choices going forward. Looking back now, I never could have guessed the profound effect that this personal experiment would have on me. From my emotional state to my diet to my sleep, I ended the year stronger than I have been in a long time. And what I learned about myself along the way was truly surprising.

It’s not easy for me—or anyone, regardless of how much you take care of your body and mind—to assess what our daily habits are doing to us unless we take the time to actually examine them closely. And that’s something almost nobody does.

If you’re wondering why these minor changes each month produced such definitive change, the answer is simple. The impact of what we do every day for basic health—what and how much we eat and don’t eat, what and how much we drink and don’t drink, how much rest we get or don’t get, how we move or don’t move our bodies—has the potential to impact our overall health in very positive or very detrimental ways. That’s because food, drink, sleep, and movement are all essential for our survival.

And while these habits may have only a minor impact on our daily lives when taken in isolation, what we do and how we live each day adds up quickly, or even exponentially, when you push repeat week after week, month after month, and year after year.

What this means is that if one aspect of your habits for essential health is lacking or even less than perfect, it can compound over time and end up interfering profoundly with your health and happiness, often without you knowing it.

For example, how much water you drink in one day isn’t likely to send you to the hospital. However, failing to consume enough water every day for weeks and months can be associated with chronic dehydration and, consequently, a whole host of physical and mental problems, including weight gain, fatigue, and bad breath.

To that end, all the health habits I focused on last year weren’t inconsequential: Every monthly challenge I included in My Year of Self Care has been objectively linked by reams of research to being critical to overall health and happiness.

They’re not just arbitrary practices that affect only me; they are well-studied behaviours (or lack thereof) that can have a known and profound effect on universal wellness, no matter who you are. They are habits everyone can and should do, regardless of your age, gender, body type, fitness level, financial means, career, or lifestyle. After a year of challenging and changing these imperative habits, I can now tell you that I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been—and not because I made a big dramatic change, went on some crazy diet, or spent three torturous months starving or working my butt off at some pricey health retreat. In short, I learned the solutions to my own Self Care.

And now, I want to share those solutions with you. I used to think of Self Care as mostly cosmetic—things I had to do to look better and keep up appearances, like haircuts, facials, blowdrys, manicures, and spa treatments. Sure, I considered going to the gym and, more recently, meditating as part of my Self Care, but I saw these habits as something to do to maintain my health, not necessarily to improve it.

After a year of monthly health challenges, though, I now know Self Care goes far beyond surface appearances and fundamental physical and mental health. Analyzing what I did with my body, mind, and free time on a daily basis forced me to realize that taking care of myself also includes how I act, think, make decisions, treat others, feel about the world, and, perhaps most important, feel about myself.

If someone had asked me to change twelve things about my daily routine, I would have balked at the idea. But now, I know that Self Care isn’t a matter of having time; it’s a matter of readjusting what you do with that time.

Self Care is also something that everyone can make time for. And as I’ve learned, spending just a few minutes every day to take care of yourself actually creates more time, because you’re less stressed and more focused, energetic, and self-confident as a result.

And as a Mum, spending time on Self Care has paid off big time in terms of what my family have learned about taking care of themselves by watching me. In fact, Self-Care may just be the most critical component in effective time management. If you’re not doing it on a daily basis, you’re likely wasting your time—and letting your health and happiness suffer as a result. Of course, I didn’t come to any of these realizations overnight because I didn’t change all twelve behaviours at the same time.

That’s the beauty of this program; each month contains a different challenge, a new beginning, and a fresh chance for you to gain control over your health and happiness. If you’re a go-getter, you might be tempted to try to nail all twelve challenges at once.

But as a relentless self-improver, I’m here to tell you that that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do. Improving your body and mind in bite-size pieces, over bite-size time periods, nearly guarantees lasting success. If you’ve ever tried a crazy fad diet, you already know this. Trying to cut gluten, dairy, meat, coffee, and alcohol all at once, for example, usually means you’ll end up bingeing one night on an extra-large meat lover’s pizza with a few glasses of white wine and a tub of ice cream for dessert. But if you were to eliminate, let’s say, only dairy, and you did it slowly over a sustained period of time while you focused on finding satisfying cheese, milk, and ice cream alternatives, you’d likely be successful. Similarly, you’re more likely to sustain small changes to your regular routine than giant overhauls.

And as I learned, one month’s time is the perfect amount to adopt any change, then adapt to that change so that you can sustain it for months and continue to reap its benefits. There’s another, more scientific reason I focused on altering only one aspect of my behaviour at a time. I know that any good experiment can have only one independent variable—or X factor—you want to study, if you truly want to ascertain how that factor affects your body, mind, or mood. On the other hand, if you include too many variables or change too many things at once in your experiment, you won’t know which variable is responsible for which effect (or lack thereof).

Go back to that example of the fad diet: If you try cutting gluten, dairy, meat, alcohol, and coffee all at once, and then your skin clears, you lose five kilos, and you suddenly have more energy, you wouldn’t know which food was responsible for which result. Perhaps you’re sensitive to lactose but do just fine eating gluten. Or maybe alcohol is really the culprit in your inability to lose weight, while eating too much meat is causing your skin to break out. Making small changes one at a time allows you to understand how each change impacts your health and can accurately show you the best way to sustain that change so you can truly be healthier and happier. Let’s be clear about one thing: The goal of this program and this year’s journey is not necessarily to help you clear up your skin, lose five kilos, or gain more energy.

While you’ll likely experience all three of these results if you follow the challenges within, my goal is to teach you incredible things about your daily wellness behaviours and what you can do to take better care of yourself. You also don’t have to complete every challenge in the exact order or way that I did. We are all unique human beings with different DNA, lives, and lifestyles, along with different practices, overhauls.

 When you complete a monthly challenge and start the next one, you will also be able to pick and choose those habits that you want to continue to sustain on a regular basis. After a few challenges, you’ll understand how to unlock behaviours you learned in the past to access those benefits when and where you want. In other words, this book will teach you how to gain more control over your daily health and happiness. It’s important to note here that there are no mandates or expectations in this program that require you to do X or accomplish Y results in order to be successful at Self Care. Just like in scientific research, you don’t ever predict your results before you start an experiment. To that end, I wasn’t triumphant at every monthly challenge in this book, to say the least. But during each and every challenge, I learned something invaluable about myself and, most important, what it really means to take care of me.

If I can give you one piece of advice before you start your year’s journey, it’s to be curious about yourself. During the last twelve months, I continually reminded myself I was doing an experiment on and for me. I remained eager to try new things and I wasn’t afraid to look at my behaviours to see what did and didn’t make me happy. I tried not to make assumptions or dismiss certain feelings or any results that I didn’t like.

This was my year—my year to discover me and how to truly take care of my own precious self. Similarly, this year is about you. You are the most important thing about this program, and everything you do, see, feel, and believe matters. Don’t be afraid to turn the microscope around on you—it’s not a serious or frightening process, especially when you examine only one little piece, one month at a time. To that end, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I truly believe that everyone, no matter who you are, can live a healthier, happier, and calmer life. You have only one self, after all, one that grows and changes every day like an exquisite and intricate garden. Like a garden, you can choose to either let yourself wither and struggle to find your own light, or you can learn how to give yourself the light you need so that all your colours shine brightly, beautifully, and more boldly.

Come join me for 'My Year of Self Care' and it's all about you.

 

 

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