In 2011, I suffered a severe concussion during a triathlon race, and it changed everything.
As a Health & Physical Education teacher at the time, I struggled with the debilitating effects of Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) at work and at home. Persistent migraines, dizziness, blurry vision, loss of concentration, noise and light sensitivity, fatigue. I suffered every day.
At work, it was almost unbearable to focus or perform duties as before. The blaring lighting, class commotion, constant noise and overstimulation of all of my senses were crippling. I ended up having to resign from my teaching position.
You see, at the time of my concussion there was no specific, successful protocol to follow for PCS healing and recovery. The doctor literally said, “you have a concussion” and sent me on my way. I was left feeling lost and hopeless.
It was evident that unless you had the status of Sydney Crosby, there were very limited care options available for an everyday concussion sufferer like myself. Alongside this, regular “self-care” was seen as self-indulgence instead of self-preservation at the time. (Thank goodness this has changed!) So with post-concussion syndrome being my new way of life, I had to figure out a new way of living.
My lifelong journey of healing began.
With a background in Health Science and Kinesiology, I was lucky to already have a solid understanding of how the human body functions and what, essentially, it needs to heal. I understood the link between emotional, physical and mental health and knew an imbalance in one area could affect other aspects of your health.
Yet it took years of dedicated self-advocacy and grueling personal experience to truly understand that healing yourself means intentionally caring for the body, mind and spirit.
Because self-care is true health care.
Although advocating for my own concussion treatment plan was very different from the health and wellness regime I practice today, both principles have an underlying goal of intentional self-care for body, mind and spirit.
Today I fully understand that self-care is an act of self-preservation and self-love. It’s listening to your inner voice and learning to recognize stressful triggers, personal limits and signs of disconnect so that you can heal and flourish. It’s slowing down, knowing how to rest, fueling your body with nourishing foods, and feeding your spiritual self.
Self-care is weaving little bits of love into every day.
When I think of self-care, I define it as living honestly and with intent, mindfully weaving little bits of self-love throughout each day to fuel body, mind and spirit. It’s being intentional in your actions and remembering to treat yourself as you would others — with loving kindness, forgiveness and faith. It’s creating and dedicating yourself to a life you love.
If you’re looking to start incorporating simple self-care rituals into your life, simply focus on the things that naturally bring you joy. Then make a concerted effort to schedule time for them each week. Trust me, your future self will thank you for it.
These are some of my favourite self-care rituals. What are some of yours?
- Watch the sunrise or sunset in silent appreciation.
- Allow yourself to say “no” to something you don’t actually want to do, instead of saying yes.
- Pay attention to regular activities that you usually do on autopilot: brushing your teeth, drinking coffee, eating breakfast, washing your hair. Be mindful of each movement.
- Get up and stretch. Create movement in your body. Notice.
- Write in a journal for 10 minutes, uninhibited. Release and let go.
- Do one thing today that brings you joy, just because.
- Make one small change to your diet this week. Add one more serving of green leafy vegetables to your meals. Drink one full glass of water at waking.
- Mute, remove or unfollow anyone in your social media that stirs up negative emotions in you. If it doesn’t lift you up, it’s bringing you down.
- Unplug from the constant noise of social media and emails. Turn your devices on airplane mode for 10 minutes (or an hour, or a full day) and feel yourself settle slowly.
- Start your day with upbeat music and shake your booty. Let it all go.
- Schedule time each week for self-care. Take a bath. Read a book. Go for a walk. Have a nap. Create art. Whatever you need the most.
Taking care of your emotional, mental and physical health is key to maintaining overall health and vitality… to living your best life.
Don’t wait until you get sick or are drowning in anxiety before you start noticing and caring for your well-being. Start practicing self-care today.
Soon enough you’ll find yourself living a life that looks and feels good to you in no time.