Self-care has been trending for good reason. From a long bubble bath to reading a book, squeezing in “me time” can reset your mind and is totally worth it. However, self-care doesn’t mean you’re pampering yourself non-stop. It’s about caring for yourself at a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level. When you get down to it, self-care should fuel us, rather than deplete us. And that doesn’t always just mean taking a bubble bath. For many, a good place to start is focusing on diet and relationship with food.
Part of this is looking at what things in your life you can cut out because they are interfering with your ability to connect with your body. When you are living a chaotic and stressful life it can be difficult to tune into your body and hunger cues. There has to be a few people out there reading this who have been so stressed at work they completely forgot to eat lunch or have been running so late in the morning the only thing they had for breakfast was coffee. You might not even feel hunger in an elevated stress state because your body is in fight or flight mode. Blood is shunted away from your digestive system to your extremities and dulls your ability to feel hunger. To avoid this, ask yourself if you are incorporating self-care in each of these categories to reduce body-mind disconnect and decrease stress:
- Are you getting enough sleep? Do you feel rested when you wake up?
- Do you take time off work or school when you are sick?
- Do you take vacations?
- Do you engage in physical activity that you enjoy on a regular basis?
- Do you make time for self-reflection?
- Are you aware of your thoughts and don’t judge yourself for them?
- Do you make time to relax?
- Do you regularly engage in activities that make you laugh?
- Do you spend time with people who support you?
- Do you have someone that you can talk to about anything?
- Do you maintain a manageable work-life balance?
- Do you take breaks from technology and social media?
- Do you say no to extra responsibilities when you are overwhelmed?
- Do you send time in nature?
- Do you make time for reflection?
Once you take time to reflect on those aspects of your life it may become clear that stress is disrupting your ability to connect with your body. From there, there are three simple changes you can start including in your day-to-day routine to incorporate self-care into your diet.
Stick to the basics
Not sure where to start? Keeping it simple helps to keep changes manageable and sustainable. Make a goal to just include more vegetables in your diet or drink more water throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be a monumental shift in your diet. You can experiment with what habits work for you. Some people may find that using a meal delivery service takes the stress out of figuring out what to have for dinner every night and that is a huge relief for them. Others may decide that time spent pursuing cookbooks and blogs for new recipes to try is a sort of creative outlet.
Actively plan your self-care
If you want to make self-care a priority, it needs to be something you plan rather than just letting it happen. It is an active choice. Add certain events to your calendar and create routine. Maybe every Sunday night is reserved for meal prep. Try arranging to have a meal with some close friends.
Be conscious of how these changes make you feel
If you don’t realize how these changes affect your mood it won’t be as beneficial. Be aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels, and what the outcomes are. Part of this is being mindful when eating. Mindful eating is eating with attention and intention. It helps us reconnect with ourselves and be able to notice our regulatory cues like hunger and fullness. To do so, start identifying when and why you eat. Slow down. Pause between bites. Take time to savor your food. Engage all your senses and really allow yourself to enjoy.