For the last year, I’ve been in a transitional period of my life. I know I’m in a time of growth in my life, but the uncertainty that comes with it has been wrecking havoc on me. From moving across the country, to spending several months looking for a job, there’s not doubt that all of these changes have flipped my world. Because of that taking care of myself has fallen of my priority list. I’ve spent less time meditating, spending time outdoors, and simply doing things that help me feel one with my inner self.
The downside is that because I don’t feel like myself, I’ve also been extra hard on myself. That creates a downhill spiral for me. I start to engage in emotional eating, which then makes me feel less confident in my appearance, and then I start to get depressed. It’s a vicious cycle that I’ve been in for over a year.
That’s about to change. I know I need to adapt a healthier lifestyle and the time is now. I need to modify everything— mind, body, and soul. The challenge is, I’m not sure how?
Self-Care Tips: How to Get Started on a Self-Care Journey
Natalie Joffe is a certified nutrition and wellness coach passionate about helping her clients find peace with food and their bodies and create lasting change in their lives. She uses behavior change tools to help clients identify their core values, as well as what is getting in the way of living in line with those values. Natalie then provides the guidance and accountability that allows for full realization of each client’s unique vision. Learn more about Natalie at: www.nataliejoffe.com.
I feel a disconnect with myself and the world around me. Will self-care help me bridge that gap?
Much of our lives is spent in our heads, getting caught up in the external chatter of the society we live in, whether that is how we are “suppose to” look or eat or be. Self-care creates space to allow oneself to drop from the head into the body to start to figure out who we are as unique individuals and how we want our experience of the world to be versus what we believe it should be.
Clients who come to me to work on their relationship with food often start their journey similarly, caught up in the noise of external diet rules and plans. I teach them how to reconnect with their body’s internal hunger and fullness signals and eat intuitively, which is an act of self-care.
I know I need to take better care of myself, but I don’t know where to start. What should I do to take the first step?
The key thing to remember when is comes to self-care is that there is no grading system or “right way.” When I think of self-care, I think of mindfulness as a key characteristic. There is a nonjudgmental intentionality and gentle curiosity about it. I recommend choosing some of the areas in your life that you can easily identify as having room for self-care improvement and then start small. These categories might be around sleep, stress management, nutrition, movement or social connection.
There is a fun and simple choose-your-own-adventure story like guide called You Feel Like Shit: An Interactive Self-Care Guide that is a helpful tool for times when you know you need to take care of yourself but don’t know where to start.
Does self-care look the same for everyone?
I am a believer in the concept of bioindividuality, which means what works for you might not work for me. Not only that, what might work for you today might not be what you need tomorrow. Letting go of comparisons as to what self-care should look like is important.
This is the same philosophy that I use with my nutrition clients. We all have unique lifestyles, cultures and preferences that need to be honored when developing one’s relationship with food. There is no perfect or correct way to be an eater.
How can someone build self-care strategies into their busy schedule?
I love the quote by author Geneen Roth, “When you start taking time for yourself, you realize you are worth taking time for.” The more you incorporate self-care, the easier it is to maintain, because you feel the benefits of making yourself a priority in your life. To begin the process of incorporation, think small and let go of expectations. My clients often find the tool of habit stacking helpful. This means pairing a self-care action to an already established habit. So for example, if you are trying to remember to take your vitamins and you have the already engrained habit of making coffee each morning, place your vitamins next to your coffee cup and take them right after you turn on the coffee maker.
What do I do if life gets in the way and I fall off track?
All-or-nothing thinking is what typically trips people up when it come to goal setting. This is seen a lot with people trying to stick to diets. Life is messy and perfection doesn’t exist. The better we get at being comfortable with grey areas, the more comfortable we will feel accepting our imperfections.
I encourage my clients to think of every choice as a vote for either their current self and habits or their future self and the habits they are working towards embodying. Like any election, you only need 51% of the votes to win. So if you happen to skip over a self-care opportunity goal, that is just one vote. Don’t throw away the rest of the day because of it. Instead, look towards your next opportunity or vote. I also encourage my clients to be very mindful of their internal self-talk. Often we are extremely self-critical, and by practicing talking to ourselves as we would a friend, we become more resilient and flexible.