The Importance of Self-Care and Self-Love: Three areas you could address today

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I’ve been contemplating what to write for Valentine’s Day. Obviously it needed to be about love…but how could I relate my life experiences to this emotion and help you?

Valentine’s Day can be joyous and celebratory for some in a happy relationship and incredibly painful for others who may be experiencing a failing relationship or for other various reasons, are not with their loved one today. I’ve had my share of both types of Valentine’s experience.

Thinking back to when I was separated and going through my divorce, I remembered how I just didn’t care about myself and I really wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I had so much to think about and deal with, prioritising ‘me’ just wasn’t on the list.   I wasn’t interested in being in a relationship ever again and couldn’t imagine it ever happening.  I drowned in the thoughts of ‘who would want me now anyway?’

As I thought today about this troubling time in my life, the one thing that I really remembered poignantly was how I had stopped listening to music. So why was that so devastating?

Those who know me well know my great love of all kinds of music. Now admittedly, my fiancé prefers ‘techno’ and I really struggle with the thumping and repetitive deep bass, but I do really try to appreciate it along with all other genres. I enjoyed listening, singing and playing my piano. It all stopped! I wallowed. I was miserable. I needed to feel better by listening to all the other misery in the world. My life is so bad but the world is in even worse shape; a downward spiral.  On my way to work I would listen to the news and absorb all the negativity. The world had hit financial recession and everything was doom and gloom.

This reflected me and my life as it was then and I was quite happy to plunge further into the abyss. Now initially, I didn’t realise what I was doing. It was only a short time after my divorce that one day I put one of my favourite albums on in the car on the way to work that what I had been doing and the really toxic effect it was having on me hit home! I turned the music as loud as I dared and sang along as I drove over the Sperrin Mountains. It was such a great feeling and was accompanied with a sense of release, relaxation and permission. Permission to smile, laugh and enjoy myself; I was now starting to take care of myself again.

From that day forward, I much preferred to listen to music than world events; let’s face it, we are going through worrying and tumultuous times and don’t need to remind ourselves throughout the day as we deal with our own daily trials. ‘Media fasting’ is incredibly powerful and can really help to lift your mind and focus as you concentrate on the positive things in your life and the world around you. I do still listen to the news as I get ready in the morning, but my journey to work which takes one hour is now filled with music, or indeed I alternatively sometimes welcome silence and tranquillity.

That little turn in my behaviour was then accompanied with me taking better care of my diet, socialising again, enjoying time with my friends, and walking more often in the local countryside or on the beach. This then made me look and feel so much better. I was promoting self-care which ultimately led to an improvement in my confidence, self- esteem and self-love. Ultimately I was preparing the way for new love in my life and when I met Alan, it was so much easier to give and receive love. Don’t get me wrong; I was very nervous and wary but I soon realised I could trust this man wasn’t going to hurt me and I’m now in the happiest relationship of my life. We got engaged Valentine’s weekend.

But remember, it began with releasing the negativity about myself and the world around me, leading to self-care and then self-love. Relationships don’t complete you; that is your responsibility. Relationships bring the joy, value, life-support, love and companionship through your life’s journey that you so deserve. You have to get yourself into the right place before you can add that to another person’s life and then the results can be really amazing.

Self-care isn’t just about taking care of your physical health; it’s also about self-awareness and taking care of your mental and emotional health. There are many ways of achieving this. For me, listening to music was the first thing that made me wake up to myself and start feeling joyful again.

Under the three categories of PHYSICAL, MENTAL and EMOTIONAL, list things you know could help with each area of your life.  They can be very simple and not take much time or involve any expense. I’ve listed some suggestions here:

  1. PHYSICAL

Take a walk in beautiful surroundings (Portstewart Strand Beach is a favourite of mine)

Practice yoga or pilates

Drink a green smoothie

Join the gym

Book a day in the spa with indulgent treatments

Declutter your office (helps to have lovely physical surroundings)

Go to bed and rise at the same time every day (even Sundays!!)

  1. MENTAL

Read a book (there’s a few inspirational personal development suggestions here on my blog)

Write in a daily journal

Show gratitude

Take regular breaks from your office desk

Doodle (these adult colouring-in books seem to be super relaxing)

Pay compliments and receive compliments graciously (don’t bat them back again to the person who gave you them!)

Take a break from social media and spend time with those who love you

  1. EMOTIONAL

Acknowledge your feelings and express them to those who matter

Meditate daily

Take a break from the negativity of world news (media fast)

Buy yourself flowers

Listen to your favourite music

Honestly, the list of ideas is endless and there is substantial overlap between the suggestions under each of the three categories. For example, meditating will help you in many ways under all three categories. There are many APPs these days to try and are handy; I tried Headspace recently which gives you ten free meditations and plenty of encouragement via e-mail. Yes, it feels a bit odd to begin with and it’s difficult to clear the crazy and relentless thoughts from your mind when you first start, but it does get easier, with better results if you take just ten minutes to yourself daily.

So do I practice what I preach? Mostly! It was just that thought of what to write led me to think about my journey back to love and how I got there. Self care. Try it and please do let me know how you are getting along.

With much love

Ruth
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Ruth