Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Body Positive Basics: What is Self Care and Why is it Important?

Hi Guys!

Today I thought I'd write a blog on self care; what it is, why it's important and what it has to do with Body Positivity. It's going to be the first part of a mini series on the basics of Body Positivity, basics that you can explore and then utilise in order to reach a point in which you start appreciating your beautiful body.

When I first gave up dieting and excessive exercising a couple of years ago, I wish I'd known what I know now about self care. It is a way of looking after your physical, mental and emotional health so you feel more balanced and able to take on the ups and downs of life, of which there are many on the journey towards self acceptance. People often think that going against the grain by choosing to accept your body and everything that might entail (ditching food and exercise plans, giving up dressing a certain way, abandoning grooming regimes etc.) is the easy option. However, the journey towards Body Positivity is far from easy and that is where self care rides in like a knight in shining armour. 

Body Positivity means different things for different people but for ease I'll discuss my own approach to it. For me, becoming Body Positive meant giving up obsessive calorie counting and exercising for ridiculous amounts of time to change my body i.e. to be thinner. It meant accepting my body, my size and my shape exactly as it is. When I did give up the beliefs that I needed to alter my body, it was a complete shock to the system.

When you give up dieting you realise how much time and brain space it takes up; calculating the caloric value of every element of your sandwich, going on a three hour bike ride, calculating your daily calorie deficit and consequently how long it will take you to lose 10 pounds. It goes on.
Hating your body and attempting to change it is a great distraction and when you give those things up you're left with real life; no distractions and no solutions. You realise that getting that thin body isn't a solution to the fact one of your relatives is sick, that you hate your job or that you've just had a shit day. 

So what do you do to feel better when negative thoughts, feelings or situations arise?

You look after yourself as best you know how. 

Self care is your own little toolbox of activities that make you feel good about yourself and ensure that you look after your own well-being. It can be something as simple as taking time to enjoy a coffee in the morning to perhaps something more extravagant such as buying yourself flowers. It can be a physical activity or something slightly deeper such as checking in on your emotions and acknowledging how you feel.

A plant I bought recently for my dressing table

To start out, write a list of things you love doing. Make sure they vary in ease and accessibility so that even if you just have a minute to yourself you have something planned such as deep breathing. This will be your own toolbox, unique to you.

As a neat freak and obsessively organised person I love writing a good list

If you need some inspiration I previously wrote a blog post on seven things that are good for the soul which basically gave a list of some of the more standard self care activities. Search Instagram using the hashtags #selfcare or #selfcaresunday. You can also search Google images for a million more ideas of course. However, here are some ways of looking after myself that I've been loving recently.

1. Exercise
I never (ever!) thought I'd type these words but I actually enjoy exercising now. I used to use exercise as a form of punishment, either for eating too much or to discipline my body because I thought it was the wrong size. Now I see exercise for what it is; the chance to look after my body and create balance of both body and mind. Interestingly enough, I now move my body for so many reasons but none of them are weight loss. Recently I've been walking my sister's Shih Tzu a fair bit, going swimming and on bike rides. Why don't you give one a go and see how you feel afterwards!

Walking the Shih Tzu

2. Craft
This is a more unusual one that you might not find in most self care suggestion lists. However, recently I've been restoring old bits of furniture and doing a couple of DIY projects as I plan to redecorate my room at the end of summer and thought it would be nice to have a few unique pieces to add to it. I've been painting an old metal mannequin, creating flower vases out of jam jars and turning cake tins into storage boxes ( I am planning on writing a blog piece to show you how I've done it once my room has been decorated so watch out for that!). Taking time out to be artistic enables you to be present, to be mindful of that current moment and it's incredibly satisfying. Why don't you see if you could restore some old furniture? Or perhaps take up knitting/painting/card making etc. Whatever you fancy! Enjoy the simple joy of being able to create something unique with your own bare hands.

The mannequin I've been repainting

3. Baths
Last but certainly not least is having a bath. It's one I've mentioned before but have to mention it again because, if I can, it's the first thing I will do to relax. I think it's because you can incorporate so many other self care activities into it. When I have a bath I like to read or listen to music, use an indulgent bath bomb from Lush, do a face mask, have a nice hot drink (or a rum...) etc. Basically all of my favourite things. All of that takes care of the mental side of things and as for the physical, I think there's a real feel good factor in just lying there naked, really seeing all of your body. To pamper your body and see it in all its glory can be incredibly empowering. So make the time to have an indulgent bath; pick an amazing bath bomb, your current read and just enjoy relaxing.

Geneen Roth = widsom of the world

FYI: All the above photos are taken from my Instagram page, where I regularly post self care activities. 

So there you go, the basics of self care which in itself is a basic part of becoming Body Positive. I honestly believe that self care is the foundation of a happy heart and body acceptance. Self care is not  just something you engage in only when you've encountered something negative, it is a daily commitment to yourself to look after your own interests.

Self care is not a luxury, it is not an indulgence; it is absolutely necessary.

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