Author: Priyamvada Aggarwal
Learn about micro self-care and how it affects your personal well being.
Jane Doe, a 24-year-old young adult, found herself to be always “on“, with one more email to answer, one more work call to make, and one more presentation to run through. ‘Just one more‘, she would often tell herself. Jane subscribed to millennial hustle culture, wore long hours as a badge of honour and connected self-worth primarily to productivity. This left her little time to rest, reflect and reconnect with herself.
She started experiencing muscle tension regularly, along with disturbed sleep, increased irritability and low motivation as she continued to push herself through the day. She found comfort in junk food binges post 10 PM with the latest Netflix crime show running in the background, all while texting her colleagues back and forth about an upcoming meeting. Jane found herself musing about healthy work-life integration as she began to realise that you cannot pour from an empty cup, yet found it difficult to make space for it in her day.
Self-care means deliberately engaging in an activity to nourish and replenish yourself. The dominant advice around self-care requires large amounts of time, effort and money – such as taking a vacation, having a spa day, joining a pilates class up to four times a week. There is no doubt that these activities contribute to an enhanced sense of well being; however, engaging in such macro self-care sometimes becomes hard due to demanding work schedules, and more recently, with COVID-19 limiting access to these resources.
This is where micro self-care comes in…
Engaging in small habits in our daily lives can have a significant impact on our well-being. Remember the age-old adage of less is more? Micro self-care takes away the pressure of self-care being a big activity that requires substantial time and effort commitment. Think of what macro self-care works for you, and then shrink it down to manageable chunks. Bite-sized pieces of self-care. What’s great about micro self-care is that it can be done right wherever you are. It could look like:
1. Move out of your head and into your body as moving the body releases a surge of endorphins.
An hour-long yoga routine may be tough to schedule on some days. However, a 10-minute stretching routine as you roll out of bed is a doable daily practice. If you have a balcony or access to a terrace, then how about a 20-minute walk in the morning sun, as you take in your surroundings and some fresh air.
2. Getting grounded and mindful
If a 30-minute meditation routine sounds unnerving, try tapping into mindfulness for 5 minutes before meals or meetings. When you feel wound up, a few deep belly breaths can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which kick starts your relaxation response.
Try disconnecting from social media for a while, as you engage all your senses and ground yourself in the present moment – feel your feet on that soft rug, listen to the distant sound of birds chirping, become aware of the cool breeze on your face. Guided meditation apps such as Headspace, Simple Habit, Calm are great tools to check out.
3. Permit yourself to set healthy boundaries, and tend to your own needs first.
How about saying no to covering other colleagues’ shifts when you’re already feeling overwhelmed with work? Your needs matter. As you refuel, it allows you to show up for others from a better, more resourced place as well.
4. Check-in with your basic needs of nourishing regular food, hydration, safe touch, restful sleep.
Routines keep us grounded, and at this unprecedented time, add some predictability to our lives. Sleep rituals are a great way of adding some structure to the end of your day and inducing sleep. How about a quiet moment of gratitude as you have a warm cup of water before bedtime? Alternatively, journaling at the end of the day enables more in-depth reflection. A long bubble bath can be shrunk to a quick hot shower at the end of the day to loosen those tense muscles, wash off the day, leave work at work, and ready yourself for bed.
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5. Connect with others.
Human beings are hardwired for connection, and it’s a need that is common to the human experience. Let go of the myth of self-sufficiency. Tap into your support system and reach out to your friend for a little chat about absolutely nothing in particular. Choose to reach out instead of emotionally isolating; choose to ask for support instead of trying to go at it all alone.
“Self-care adds even higher value when it becomes a ritual, a habit, rather than a once-in-a-blue-moon engagement. Advances in neuroplasticity of the brain tell us that small repetitive practices matter, in creating new neural networks in our brains. The short and frequent works better in creating desirable neural networks than the big and seldom.”
I encourage you to view self-care as a lifestyle. Self-care does not exclusively have to take place when you’re feeling especially drained. It is more beneficial to make it a daily practice to maintain those levels of well-being. Self-care is a form of tapping into internal and external resources to extend self-compassion, kindness and empathy to yourself. Think of it as a way of honouring yourself, an ongoing effort towards maintaining positive mental health.
Weaving these practices into daily life makes taking care of yourself the new ‘normal’ and feels as natural as brushing your teeth. While macro self-care is excellent when you can fit it in, micro self-care can be tapped into much quicker. Fit it in throughout your day to feel more attuned with yourself, and tap into your inner sense of aliveness.
Take a few minutes to reflect on:
- What signs does your body give you when it feels drained?
- When you’re depleted, what changes in your mental/emotional landscape?
- What works for you to nourish yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally?
- Does anything feel different physically/mentally/emotionally after you engage in a self-care activity?
- What gets in the way of carrying out this activity?
- What practices would you like to add to your toolbox of self-care?
Reflect and renew yourself.