04 Jun The Importance of Minding Yourself
I struggle with the state of the world sometimes. The constant noise, the endless to do list, all the things we feel we should be doing: exercising more, eating less, further along in life etc. The chatter on the inside of our heads can often be quite loud. Not to mention the chatter of the outside, what society expects from us, what our families, friends, colleagues and bosses expect from us. We’re in an age where chronic stress is the norm and the level of busyness seems to be a badge of honour to show you’re really succeeding in life.
But are we really succeeding?
We’re getting sicker than ever before. Mental health issues are on the rise as well as other chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer. It seems this general pressure from just everyday living is beginning to wear a little thin for many of us.
That’s why I often dream of going back to our hunter gatherer ancestors lifestyle: living off the land, eating and cooking seasonal food and being more connected with ourselves, our tribe and our ground as opposed to our phones, our computers and our tvs.
The societal pressures of looking a certain way, having certain things, even restricting ourselves to sitting and staring at a screen for 8+ hours keep us locked in routine. Then, we drive home after a stressful day looking for food and the tv to give us an escape from reality. This is a serious mismatch from how we have evolved over the last million years. And we’re suffering for it.
Today, 1 in 4 deaths in Ireland is caused by cancer. By 2020, 1 in 2 of us will get a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime (1). Heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15.2 million deaths in 2016 (2). Two of the biggest diseases that are killing the majority of people worldwide are, in fact, largely preventable (3, 4). These diseases did not exist for our hunter gatherer ancestors who lived mainly modern disease free (5). So where have we gone so wrong? How have we moved from modern disease free lives of our ancestors to disease ridden lives for us and our loved ones?
In an ever demanding lifestyle and world with ongoing, continual, chronic stress, the thing we need to really focus on is the fact that we need to look after ourselves. To escape the ongoing stress of our day to day lives, to reconnect with ourselves, we need to build in some “me time”. This practice needs to become a daily habit to help us deal with the pressures on life.
We need to get out of the stress cycle every now and then. A little respite from the tyranny of the to do list, the constant demands of our phone and the hyper-connection to our devices making us available to the world constantly.
Stress, the impacts:
As chronic stress can have wide ranging effects on your body impacting your heart, brain: memory and learning, immune system (6) and even delay wound healing (7) we need self care now more than ever. It’s now, time to look inwards and ask ourselves: how can I look after myself today? How can I look after myself so I am then available to look after others if I need to.
And that brings me to a big question – What does minding yourself look like to you?
To me it’s listening to my body.
Checking in with myself to ask myself, what is it I really want. Will this give me energy or take it from me? It’s meditating: listening and allowing feelings and emotions just to be, whatever they are. Realising that they are temporary no matter how intense they feel. We can make a decision in a split second but to choose something that goes with you and not against you is a gift.
It’s also about eating when I like and what I like (within reason). Our bodies have an innate wisdom that may not always be in our consciousness. For example are you aware of the millions of processes that take place in your digestive system as your body decides what levels of nutrients it needs and what it will send to waste? How about your immune system? Are you conscious of what your body decides what is self and safe what is foreign and needs to be dealt with? Listening to your body means that we go with it instead of against it. We have survived for millennia without instruction manuals, we need to hear what our bodies are telling us. In this vein, on the whole, eating a nourishing, healthy diet and avoiding shite food is always a form of self care, in my books.
Another part of it is stress release , i.e. not forgetting to have a lot of fun.
Laughter is a huge part of my life these days: bio energy healing, certain yoga poses and funny jokes all appeal to the fun side that remind me how good it feels to let go and lose yourself to a good belly laugh. Laughing so hard you cry is a top goal for me, it’s like a great sneeze, the feeling of release is positively liberating. Not to mention radiating: laughter is contagious so share it with your loved ones and friends. Chase that sensation and give into its flow of tears, gasping for breath and sore tummy muscles with reckless abandon. Even remembering a time when you last laughed can bring a smile to your face and can offer a moment of fun in your busy day.
Because we’re all individuals, your version of minding yourself may be different to mine but nonetheless it’s important to find out what yours is. So I urge you to be curious, to make sure you’re making time to check in and give yourself what you need – be it chill time with friends, walking in the woods, a frothy coffee, listening to music. Discover what makes your heart happy and the next step is to build it into your daily routine. It’s our way of building resilience and becoming better versions of ourselves: happier, healthier, stronger.
Find your joy and keep it handy ❤️
- Cancer.ie. (2019). Cancer statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.cancer.ie/about-us/media-centre/cancer-statistics#sthash.pCyxWa55.dpbs.
- Who.int. (2019). The top 10 causes of death. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death.
- Euro.who.int. (2019). Data and statistics. [online] Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/cardiovascular-diseases/data-and-statistics.
- World Health Organization. (2019). Cancer prevention. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/cancer/prevention/en/.
- Carrera-Bastos, P., Fontes, O’Keefe, Lindeberg and Cordain (2011). The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization. Research Reports in Clinical Cardiology, p.15.
- Habib Yaribeygi, A. (2019). The impact of stress on body function: A review. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/.
- Kiecolt-Glaser, J., Marucha, P., Mercado, A., Malarkey, W. and Glaser, R. (1995). Slowing of wound healing by psychological stress. The Lancet, 346(8984), pp.1194-1196.
*The information given is considered general advice and should not be used in place of professional medical expertise or treatment.