There have been many times where I’ve fallen into a little rut where I was feeling like all my time and my life, in general, was being poured into my work and home life, and like I wasn’t doing nearly enough for myself or taking proper care of myself. It doesn’t help that I work from home and can work from my PJ’s if I want! We all go through these patches of self-neglect no matter what your lifestyle is like. I was frustrated because I thought I need to go to the gym more, I need to get back into reading and meditation, I wish I could stimulate my mind a bit more, and I felt like my hair always looks terrible. It took a little time and discipline but I changed ALL of that around and I feel so much happier and more fulfilled. I honestly and truly feel like I’m living and prioritising myself more. So here are some of the changes I made:
I started Self-Care Hour.
This practice was a huge game-changer for me! I read about it randomly a long time ago but I finally started to commit to it. Self-Care hour is when you wake up an hour earlier than usual or an hour earlier than everyone else in your home and you spend 20 minutes doing something for your mind, 20 minutes for your body and 20 minutes for your soul. For example, you could read for your mind, do some exercise for your body and meditate as an act for your soul. You can do anything in those slots, as long as it serves those three areas. It’s a wonderful and manageable way to give to yourself from different angles and to create balance in your well-being, so you’re not just, for example, nurturing only your body or only your soul. A rule I’m super strict about during this hour is that under no circumstances am I allowed to check social media or emails or do any housework etc. Sometimes I’ll make myself a solid bowl of cinnamon oats topped with banana and eat that while I read.
This practice has done wonders for my headspace, my anxiety, my sleep and for feeling like I’m prioritising myself. I generally feel happier each day, and that time has become so precious to me that I feel lost without it. Getting up earlier than usual is also very refreshing. As adults or even students it’s such a norm for us to be rushing around like crazy as soon as we get up in the morning. We start our day in fight-or-flight mode and it can set the tone for things going wrong. Self-care hour eliminates that rush, and it makes you excited to wake up each day knowing you are your number one priority in the morning. At first it was hard getting up an hour earlier than usual, but my body clock has adjusted, and my body thanks me for all of it, even now in winter!
Here are some examples of what you can do for each set of 20 minutes:
Mind: Read, teach yourself a new language (Duo Lingo is an amazing app for this and covers around 20 languages), watch a TED talk, meditation (YouTube has amazing guided meditation videos).
Body: Do a light workout or stretch (again, YouTube is amazing for this), groom yourself (do a mani, style your hair, shave your legs etc).
Soul: Meditate, pray, read a self-introspective book (try The Power of Now or A New Earth, both by Eckhart Tolle), indulge in something you’re passionate about like playing an instrument. Sometimes with this slot I just like to make myself a cup of herbal tea, go and sit in my living room, take deep breaths and just enjoy the silence. It’s A-MA-ZING.
I made my life revolve around my workouts, not the other way around.
I can’t stress the importance of exercise enough. Health and wellness fads come and go, but exercise is something you have to do, forever. One of the things every person needs to come to terms with is that exercise is not an option, it’s a requirement for your body’s general health especially once you are an adult. I would often bail on my training sessions or postpone them because “I have a video due tomorrow” or “I have to go to a family function this evening”. The latter is probably the worst, because not only am I then missing my workout, but I’m going to a place filled with mostly junk food; #MuslimGirlProblems. I stopped that. I now make sure I get three solid sessions in with my trainer for the week. If I’m late for the function, I’m late for the function and I let the host know. If I have to wake a little earlier or sleep a little later to finish the video, so be it. If I didn’t sleep enough the night before, I push through the session. Life is always going to be unpredictable, but exercise is not something your body or mind can compromise on. Whenever I’ve stopped training for a week, for whatever reason, my mood dips, my stress levels increase, my immune system is weak. On the other hand, when I’m training regularly, my endorphins (happy hormones) are high, I have more energy, I sleep better and of course I look better! But most importantly workouts don’t have to be long, they don’t have to be intense and you don’t have to tell everyone about it on Instagram. They just have to be done for the sake of your health and wellness.
We prep healthy food in advance
I stopped doing a full-on meal prep in containers etc because it can get monotonous eating the same food all the time. Instead we’ve learnt that prepping food that is different, but easy and healthy, goes a much longer way and can be dished up and ready whenever. Almost every week, we make a big pot of vegetable soup for “snacking” and another big pot of Thai green curry filled with chicken cubes, zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower. We also buy lots of pre-marinaded chicken or fish that can go into the oven with mixed roast vegetables for supper time. I love oven dinners because you don’t have to keep an eye on things all the time. We’re also generally stocked up on gluten-free bread and avocados (for avo on toast), fruit, gluten free rolled oats (so amazing with banana and cinnamon!) and fruit. All of these are so great for when we don’t have time (which is fairly often), but they’re still delicious healthy options that are free of gluten, sugar and dairy so I won’t be tempted to buy or eat something unhealthy. I find that when I don’t prep like this for the week, those are the days we buy take-out consecutively and feel like crap, which affects everything.
Mindset is everything
I realised I have to set my mind to doing all of these things, commit to it and be unapologetic about it. I choose to do it even when I don’t feel like it because in the end, it serves me best!
I hope this post helps or inspires you in some way to prioritise your self-care, and if you take one thing from this whole post I hope it’s self-care hour! It really will make you so happy. If you have any more tips for me, let me know in the comment section below!
Photographs by Abdul Malick Ally
Flowers by The Flower Girl Decor