What you will learn in this article:
#1 How my personality and lack of self-care triggered disease
#2 Why do so many of us struggle with self-care?
#3 The belief system would say:
– It’s selfish to take care of myself when others need me
– Self-care takes too much time
– Self-care is expensive
– I’m not worth it (this can often be unconscious)
– People won’t love me if I don’t give them all my time (this, too can often be unconscious)
– I need to be in control of everything – from picking up groceries, cooking, doing laundry – I have no time for self-care
– It feels like a luxury I don’t need in my life right now
#4 Our Project Manager – her story from guilt to freedom
#5 Stopping the excuses and negative inner dialogue
#6 How self-care (or lack of it) affects your hormones?
#7 Magdalena’s self-care routine (oil pulling, dry brushing, IR sauna)
#8 How to develop a self-care routine
They often say that people become therapists, authors, or self-help gurus because they are the ones who need that help in the first place.
As a practitioner who committed her life to helping women rebalance their hormones, I will admit, this statement is hard to hear, but if I am in full alignment and honest with myself, it’s one that probably applies to me as well.
How my personality and lack of self-care triggered disease
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been described by my friends and family as “determined” and “adventurous.” None of these descriptors represent peace, stillness, compassion, or kindness.
And, in full disclosure, these qualities have not been present in me for most of my life.
As far back as I can remember, I had gut issues, food sensitivities, acne, and migraines.
But, what activated Hashimoto’s, was the obvious lack of self-care caused by my career obsession, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, high alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, living in a toxic place (China), long working hours, constant travel (I used to be in 2 to 3 different cities or countries every week), and excessive competitive sports (I used to be a semi-professional athlete) combined with a 5am to 7am exercise training schedule.
And, probably a bunch of other things that I’m forgetting now – that you do when you don’t honor your body’s cry for help.
My friend, Dr. Ben Lynch, the author of “Dirty Genes” said it so well and I’m paraphrasing here:
People with a slow functioning COMT gene have many health challenges (including hormones, especially estrogen metabolism issues) but are one determined and tough lot. So, you may say, I’m genetically predispositioned to be overly determined and driven.
That determination comes at a cost. A cost that gets even higher when you couple it with fear and insecurity.
The question is “why”? Why was I pushing myself so hard? Why did I not stop earlier? Why did I not sleep when my eyes could barely stay open? Why did I not decline that next trip? Why did I not take Sundays off but instead get on another flight and work on the next client presentation?
Was it really determination or was it some deep sense of insecurity?
Insecurity stemming from the fear that if I did not overachieve, my employer would think less of me. That I wouldn’t be good enough for the next promotion. That my Fortune 100 clients wouldn’t vote me to be their #1, strategic planner. That my friends wouldn’t love me the same and find another friend to spend time with. That my training buddies wouldn’t see me as the adventure sports authority.
One funny story comes to mind that illustrates how crazy things were:
When living in Shanghai, I went to pick up my clothes from the dry cleaner. The clothes had a big red sticker attached – when I asked what the characters meant, the owner said “Deceased.” They thought I had died since I had not picked up the laundry for the past few months – I simply had no time.
When I write this today and reflect on that period, I cringe and want to scream.
With this scream comes the realization that Hashimoto’s taught me a lesson like no other and I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if it wasn’t for this relentless autoimmune condition.
One thing I’m proud of is that even though I didn’t fully understand what Hashimoto’s was and what triggered it (in 2008, the resources were sparse), I had enough intuition to pull the trigger and make the very hard decision of quitting a prestigious advertising position working on top brands in Asia, take a back seat job, and move to the US (a totally new country to me) to learn more about my body and why it failed me.
I’m sharing my story so you too can know when it’s time to press the brake pedal. It’s your choice to press the right pedal while you still can – before you roll off the cliff.
Why are so many of us bad at self-care?
For the most part, it’s our belief system which then leads to having specific thoughts about self-care.
The belief system may say:
- It’s selfish to take care of myself when others need me
- Self-care takes too much time
- Self-care is expensive
- I’m not worth it (this can often be unconscious)
- People won’t love me if I don’t give them all my time (this, too can often be unconscious)
- I need to be in control of everything – from picking up groceries, cooking, doing laundry – I have no time for self-care
- It feels like a luxury I don’t need in my life right now
Do you see yourself in any of these? Do you have any of these conversations with yourself?
Tony Robbins famously said the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our thoughts.
Observe your own thoughts and check in with yourself to understand your inner dialogue that unfolds each day. Being truthful with yourself is critical here – you are not on national TV, be honest with your own thoughts and beliefs. If you are not sure, asking a close and trusted friend can be very eye-opening to unravel your own patterns.
Our Project Manager – her story from guilt to freedom
I started practicing mindful self-care with my team a few weeks ago. Courtney, our Project Manager, shared in one of our team meetings the thought process she went through. I’m sharing it with her permission.
She’s been wanting to do a 30-day online exercise program she saw on Instagram that was $97. Her self-dialogue looked like this: “This could be more fun than my boring workouts, but I can use this money for the kids” and “I don’t NEED to do this for myself.”
Inspired by our team meetings, she finally changed the inner dialogue to: “Exercise makes me feel good, I really want to try something new to challenge myself and put myself first in this decision…this is worth it. I’m a better mom when I’m feeling good.”
She also realized that: “It is refreshing to understand I am not being selfish in making this decision.”
Stopping the excuses and negative inner dialogue
First, let’s agree that self-care is not about getting your nails done at a salon and inhaling toxic fumes. It’s not about going to a swanky restaurant or swiping plastic on an overpriced designer dress. These acts are superficial, last a short time and don’t reflect the relationship we have with ourselves.
Self-care is about doing things that make your body, mind, and spirit feel rested, at peace, compassionate, and ready to spill that abundance that you created in yourself to others.
It’s selfish of me to do self-care when others need me
I went to work at a coffee shop the other day and an exhausted-looking mom walked in with a crying toddler. She ordered a latte with an extra shot (this makes it a total of 3 espresso shots) and told the barrister “It’s one of these days.” As her boy was getting louder by the minute, she lost it and started yelling and shaking him. My heart broke; for her and him. Her exhaustion made her absolutely unequipped to deal with a moody toddler. Any mom would admit that when rested, we respond to stress and adversity with more calmness, grace, compassion, and composure.
So yes, there are times when you need to be selfish for a short period of time and take care of you first. Because it will determine how you show up as a mom, partner, wife, daughter, colleague, or friend. It’s the difference between showing up as rested, calm, kind and loving versus impatient, snappy, moody, angry, and unloving.
Self-care will determine how you show up as a mom, partner, wife, daughter, colleague or friend.
Self-care takes too much time
This might be true if you assume that self-care would mean going away on a few-day retreat. When you download the Self-Care Guide to Balanced Hormones, you will be empowered with many ideas that don’t take much time – such as deep abdominal breathing (to activate your parasympathetic nervous system) or 5-minute gratitude journal entry.
Self-care is expensive / my family needs the money
If you download our Self-Care Guide to Balanced Hormones, you will see that many of the idea starters are completely free. Meditation or deep abdominal breathing cost nothing.
Being in nature costs close to nothing (maybe only a nominal transportation cost).
To fix yourself a cup of nurturing herbal tea is no expense to speak of.
It goes back to your own belief system and the inner dialogue.
I don’t deserve it
This might be unconscious for many women – we often sabotage our health, relationships, and growth by not feeling worthy of feeling good, beautiful and desired. Check in with yourself and see if that’s you.
This is a deeper topic and if you struggle with self-worth issues, I recommend you seek therapy. I’m not a fan of talk therapy and would rather recommend more effective modalities such as EMDR, EFT, neurofeedback or somatic experiencing.
How self-care (or lack of it) affects your hormones?
Healing isn’t easy and pretty. You are already exhausted and now need to get off the couch and do something new for yourself.
At the same time, this quote never leaves me:
In good health, we have a thousand dreams. In sickness, we only have one dream.
In many of the interviews I do, I often talk about women I met years ago who had an onset of health issues, mostly seemingly benign such as thyroid nodules, breast lumps, and digestive issues and would then call me after all these years saying that had just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, breast cancer, or Crohn’s disease and feel shattered, angry, confused, fearful.
For not having taken action sooner.
For not having listened to their bodies.
For working too hard, for too long.
Self-care isn’t selfish.
It doesn’t have to be a luxury.
It’s your basic right to be, feel and look healthy.
On a hormonal level, the right self-care routine can lead to a more activated parasympathetic nervous system (that’s the one that calms you, allows good digestion, BM, sleep and detoxification), rested adrenals, oxytocin release (which helps with adrenal recovery) and serotonin and dopamine release (both critical neurotransmitters in mood and stable behavior control).
Not allowing yourself to sleep in, having no boundaries, taking no time for yourself, and allowing stress and toxic people to rule your life, will be reflected poorly in the quality of your hormones. A jacked up nervous system depletes the adrenals which then pulls down progesterone production and throws estrogen metabolism out of balance (making you estrogen dominant), which can then lead to thyroid issues and autoimmunity.
Magdalena’s self-care routine
This is my self-care routine I try to stick to when I’m not traveling.
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic dental hygiene method. It naturally helps to whiten the teeth and restore the mouth microbiome (bacterial profile) which is responsible for preventing cavities, receding gums, and many gum diseases.
This video explains how to oil pull.
Dry skin brushing
Dry skin brushing is believed to stimulate the lymphatic system and move the lymphatic fluids along. This is critical as the immune system partly resides in the lymph. You will feel rejuvenated and energized. It’s also a great way to exfoliate your skin. I do it 3 times per week before a shower.
This video explains how to do dry brushing.
Infrared (IR) Sauna
IR sauna has a long list of benefits including deep detoxification, reduced inflammation, rejuvenation, helping autoimmune conditions, chronic pain and high blood pressure.
I try to do my IR sauna 3 to 5 times per week, depending on my schedule, typically for 40 minutes. I couple it with reading and/or meditation.
The sauna I chose is the 3-in-1 Sunlighten (mPulse bELIEVE) and I love that it offers near, mid and far infrared technology (each offers different benefits)
It comes with six preset treatment programs (like detoxification, relaxation and weight loss) which you can select from a tablet inside the sauna. There is also an option of replacing the ceiling lights with color bulbs which are part of chromotherapy – a healing color therapy.
I picked the eucalyptus wood finish (would have preferred cedar but they were out of stock when I placed the order).
The Sunlighten sauna produces low EMF.
I made this quick video for you about my sauna ritual.
Group-Buy Special from Sunlighten ($200 OFF – until May 4th, 2019)
Since we are going into the cold months when we won’t naturally sweat as much, for those of you who want to consider getting a sauna, I want to offer you something special:
- $200 OFF Sunlighten sauna
- $99 Delivery (from the usual $598)
- Bottle of Magnesium Replenish – for first 10 buyers
- Copy of Cooking for Hormone Balance cookbook – for the first 10 buyers.
This offer is only valid until May 4th, 2019.
Ready to start your own routine? I hope so! I would love for all the Hormones & Balance readers to have a loving self-care routine that makes us feel amazing.
Please note that this is a sponsored post, meaning I do receive a small percentage of sales, but all opinions are my own.
How to develop a self-care routine
Developing a new habit takes time – some experts say it takes a repetition of seven times for it to become a new habit.
In the Self-Care Guide to Balanced Hormones, you will get many ideas from us allowing you to pick and choose like from a restaurant menu. We ask you to pick just three things that you will try.
To challenge yourself:
Observe which self-care ideas you are immediately attracted to and which ones do you reject. Often times, the rituals we reject are the ones we need the most.
You can’t increase the number of hours in a day but you can drop items from your weekly schedule that don’t serve you and free up sacred self-care time.
One of the best things I have done for myself was starting to say “no” to things that I didn’t enjoy 100% and wholeheartedly. Example of things I moved to a “No, thanks” list:
- Not connecting or spending time with family members because “they are family and I should” – if they are energetic vampires, I won’t do it now.
- A lunch or dinner invite from a friend whom I find draining or toxic.
- Not to spend time with people I barely know asking me for business advice (huge time sucker and not effective – hire a coach).
- Not going to weddings of people I don’t deeply care about (I always send a present but I won’t travel – it’s stressful on the body and a huge time suck).
- Setting clear boundaries with my team – not to expect an answer on Sundays or when I said I’m off.
These are the changes I made that has freed up a lot of personal time to squeeze in self-care time.
What can you shave off in the week to make time for a self-care routine?
And remember, when you fall through the cracks, it’s OK – approach it with grace and compassion. Tomorrow is another day – start over.