What if I was to tell that if it wasn’t for self-care rituals, I’d be a walking bundle of nerves popping like firecrackers?
Until a couple of years ago, I lived a pretty simple and ordinary life: I got up, got ready for work, sometimes had breakfast at home, other times on the go, did what I was supposed to do at work, commuted back home, made a quick meal, ate and bed. It felt as if I was following a format, I was programmed to do each thing at a specific time. Sound familiar? Did I say I was feeling stuck with my career? To others, I was successful, but I needed a new direction. Also, I was still single and with no kids, I thought, ‘this is not what I had planned at this period in my life’. And, to put the cherry on top, I was diagnosed with a benign tumor AND cancer (read more about it here). Sweet! All the ingredients I needed for a happily disastrous life ahead of me… I thought…
It took me a whole lot of crying, thinking, learning, accepting, giving up, forgiving, allowing, giving and saying yes to myself. I’ve learned to incorporate practices that help me see life much more beautiful and meaningful. I learned to pay attention to my body, to eat when hungry, to drink when thirsty, to sleep when tired, to say no to the things that were not helping and yes to those that were. I adopted a positive attitude that opens up new opportunities, changes fear into hope and allows me to see the value and purpose of what I do. This new shift in attitude allows me to be more appreciative of the [big or small] things I have, even after a diagnosis. These practices are sparkles of love, ‘self-care’ rituals that I try to incorporate throughout the day.
Why the self-care philosophy?
For me, it was fundamental to take care of me first, to attend my emotional, spiritual and physical needs. Having been diagnosed with cancer and an unrelated benign tumor could put me in a haywire mode from time to time. After all, a cancer diagnosis is a permanent psychological tattoo for the patient. Even though I was given a temporary free pass with the ‘watch & wait’, it hasn’t been easy. Any pain or unusual body sensation sets a switch, a reminder alert of the cancer, so I also needed a constant reminder that things are and will be alright. Every now and then I get scared but that is normal and I try to cope with that. In fact, recently I’ve been experiencing some unusual pain that turn on that vigilant alarm. Inevitably, fear takes over and assumptions are made. The trick is not to let those feelings escalate, very difficult to do, and that’s when self-care becomes my ally to keep me sane. I learned about quite a few of them, some are really simple; others take a little effort to do, but at the end well worth it.
I learned that even in the worst situations, there are different shades of gray.
My top 5 Self-Care rituals are…
Positive affirmations – it’s my #1 tool that I adopted after the cancer diagnosis, I had to so I don’t go insane thinking of the worst. Affirmations have helped me tremendously in times where doubt shadows my mind and challenges my faith. They are short phrases of encouragement, mantras, or wishful thinking like “my body is healthy and I feel wonderful…”. Even when I might not feel well, instead of complaining of the pain, I’d affirm: “my body is strong and wonderful and is healing now”. But how affirmations work? The idea is that by stating an affirmation, it sends a message to the brain of what your vision/goal is and it will focus on the necessary steps to support the affirmation.
Also, saying it in the present tense (even if it hasn’t happened yet) directs the subconscious mind to start believing and working on it, because change only happens in the present, not the future. For instance, saying “I want to be so happy when…” is and feels different than saying “I am so happy now…”.
The good thing about affirmations is that it could be done anytime and anywhere, and the more you practice, the easier it gets to automatically think positively. It becomes second nature. To find out more about affirmations check this video.
Green juice/smoothie – The best self-care I can give to myself is to provide good nutrition to my body. I strongly believe that nutrition has played an important role in supporting my health, and I have seen an improvement when I switched to a more ‘cleaner’ diet and specifically when I started juicing.
Juices are the extracted liquid gold from vegetables and fruits that pack a ton of nutrients and are delivered more efficiently throughout the body for a rapid absorption, while smoothies are a blend of such ingredients but maintaining the fiber. I consume both juice and smoothies to supplement my diet, using about 80% vegetable over 20% fruit and opt for organic and GMO-free. Read more about juices and smoothies here. Although juicing takes more time and effort to make and it might cost more, I believe the benefits are worth the cost. Smoothies however, are a fast and easy way of getting some of those vegetables and fruits, and when added some protein powder, they make a good breakfast option when on the go. They are also a great snack for the middle of the day and definitely serve a good recovery drink after the gym.
Journaling – Journaling has helped me tremendously, not only as a healing and therapeutic practice but also to help me get organized and focused with my intentions and goals. I try to do this as much as I can because it serves 3 purposes:
- I release feelings and thoughts and put them on paper to free the mind and achieve a state of calmness. This especially helps if they are conflicting feelings, fears, doubts, question or ideas, which we all have experienced at some point in our lives. For me, journaling has specially helped me in my healing journey and it is a place where I can be vulnerable without judgment.
- It is a place where I write down my intentions making sure I focus on my feelings. This helps me get clear with my goals and actions steps for the day/week ahead. Almost like a planner but instead of writing down a checklist, it has a deeper meaning behind. Most times, with a clear mind there is room for a solution.
- Helps me be more appreciative and grateful for all the things I have, big or small. Opening up to my emotions and seeing myself vulnerable allows me to see the value in all things.
Exercise – I was never a gym person or into any form of exercise and sweating. The most I did was walking but even with that I didn’t break a sweat. That had to change because with exercise the body heals faster. Physical activity contributes for a healthy body by providing oxygen and helping eliminate waste product because exercise and movement assist the lymphatic system in carrying off waste (and toxins) out of the tissues. Also, exercise helps reduce inflammation, strengthens bone and muscle, boosts immunity, reduces stress and overall promotes optimal health. Those are good enough reasons for me to start getting more active.
So I learned to love it. Now I definitely make time for the gym and go at least 4-5 times a week, and it has become one important self-care practice. I try to change it up a bit between various classes and strength training because doing only one type of exercise the muscle gets tired of doing the same thing and you reach a plateau. So challenge yourself with different modalities of physical activity.
In general, exercise has helped me relax, release stress and gain more clarity. It also allows me to be more aware of my body, how it works and be more appreciative of what it has gone through.
Facial oil wash – this is another favorite ritual because it uses natural ingredients that in the long run is cheaper than buying any product at the store. It literally is washing my face with a mixture of oils, you heard me right, WASHING MY FACE WITH OILS about 4-5 times a week. Didn’t Cleopatra wash herself in oils? Anyway, using oils works great at removing dirt, impurities and make-up, and needless to say, it is an awesome alternative to a moisturizer (plus the added benefits of getting vitamins E and A).
The oils can penetrate into the pores, softening and dislodging dirt and debris, thus preventing blackheads and acne. How awesome is that!!! And no nasty chemical products needed! Plus, using oils balances the skin oil production at the same time, resulting in a glowing skin. Try it; it’ll leave your skin clean, soft and radiant.
**Watch me how I treat my face with oils, not messy, I promise 🙂
That is it guys, my top 5 self-care tips, but it doesn’t end there. I have a whole arsenal of tips and ideas that I keep under my wellness belt. I do believe that giving yourself more attention, compassion and care are so beneficial to maintain your body and mind well, and that is what self-care is about. I can’t stress enough how self-care has helped me with my attitude about life