An Alternative Look at Self-Care
Are you someone who goes to at least one yoga class a week because that helps your mind and body? However, it does not give you the cardio training you need so you also go out for a run? Aware that weight training is better for fat loss than cardio, you get a gym session in as well.
Spending time with friends is paramount for your mental health so you do that regularly. To meet their needs as much as your own.
You arrived home late last night but you must write your journal, so you get less sleep than you need.
Your alarm is set half an hour earlier because a morning meditation starts your day perfectly. You feel frustrated because you enjoy a TV series that is on later than you need to go to sleep. You do need to take some time in the evening to relax though.
Thought so! If, you find that you are sprinting ahead with everything the self-care regime recommends but your mental health is still tailing along behind, an alternative look at self-care may be what you need.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
In the early 1900s American psychologist, Abraham Maslow developed a theory of psychological health which he called a hierarchy of needs. The theory depicts five stages of human growth via a pyramid of stages, moving from basic needs to self-actualisation (when one can reach their full potential).
All too often I speak with people that are desperately pushing against a (metaphorical) brick wall as they try to take control of their mental health. They feel as though they have tried everything or are trying everything, daily meditations, exercise, forcing themselves to socialise, CBT techniques, the list goes on. Unfortunately, it is the basic needs that often get left behind.
The above shows Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. You can see that the first stage of the pyramid includes the physiological needs – food, water, warmth, and rest. The phrase self-care is heard a lot today. A quick google of the phrase self-care brings up a shopping list of journals and options for meditation. I include journaling and meditation in everything I speak about with regards to self-care. But now I’m taking an alternative look because I have realised that too many people are trying to improve their mental wellbeing by attempting to pack in a self-care routine, and as a result neglecting basic needs.
Food as Fuel
Let your self-care begin with how you fuel your body. For some of us food is a hobby. Whilst for others the enormous choice of healthier looking fast food leaves us feeling that we have given our body what it needs in one quick, pre-prepared snack with the actual purpose of food forgotten.
Much like a car we need fuel to run. We can put in good fuel or bad fuel. If you use high quality fuel the car will run better than with a lower quality. If you use the wrong fuel the car with cough, spurt, and break! When you treat your car with kindness and look after it carefully considering all primary needs (fuel, oil, water, transmission fluid and brake fluid) it is healthier than those that are not. The same is true for your body, there is a simple mathematical calculation for nutrition. To function efficiently the human need is approximately,
- 225 – 325 grams of natural carbohydrates,
- 75g of protein for each kilo of body weight,
- 44g – 77g of healthy fats,
- 25g – 30g of dietary fibre per day
- a variety of vitamins and minerals (A, D, E, K, C, B, folic acid, calcium, iron and more).
Alongside this the recommendation is to drink 2.7 – 3.7 litres of water a day. If your body does not receive the above nutrition it will not function optimally. There are some quick ways to fill your body with nutrition, such as drinking a green smoothie, alongside an egg breakfast. Ensure that nutrition is a priority in your self-care routine.
NB: Every person is an individual so consider this a basic guide for the average person. With books and the internet, you can easily find the types and quantities of food that meet the requirement. However, a nutritional therapist is an expert. If you feel that you have an intolerance or require more or less of certain foods a nutritional therapist will be able to guide you with that too.
Warmth and Rest
You also need sufficient warmth and rest. If you do not have sufficient warmth due to financial difficulties, please contact your local citizens advice bureau for some guidance. If you do not have sufficient warmth because you have found yourself in a situation that you cannot get away from, the Samaritans free phone number 116 123 is a helpful first step.
Are you rested? Rest includes sleep. When I look at the people around me, I see everyone feeling as though they do not have enough time to fit everything in. We burn the candle at both ends, making ourselves tired to fulfil the ideals set in our minds. Decide on a sleep commitment, for example eight hours a night for at least five nights of the week and prioritise it. Prioritise it above your exercise class and your dinner with friends, above your journal and your TV series.
Of course, alongside this make food and water a priority. Once you have these two things nailed, your body is in prime condition to take on more. Continue to prioritise nutrition and sleep, whilst choosing the extra self-care practises mentioned across the board and in my blog post here.