Stress can disrupt almost all of our body’s processes. When our body is under stress, it releases a hormone called cortisol that has the function to turn off inflammation.
So far so good you’ll say.
The problem is that when we are stressed for an extended period of time, the prolonged release of cortisol can lead our body’s receptors to decrease their sensitivity to this helpful hormone. And as we stop reaping its positive effects, we suffer consequences on our weight, immune functions and on the overall risk of developing disease.
As ways to neutralize stress we are told to meditate, practice mindfulness and self love and just being present.
But honestly, do we really know what these abstract concepts are about? What does it mean to practice self love?
The first things that come to mind are those ideas we heard a million times from the self help gurus on the internet: keep a gratitude journal, meditate, read, do yoga, be Zen and imperturbable, just like the Buddha.
I tried them all, and beside meditation (in which I only succeed when it’s guided), I always slid away from the other activities. They just don’t stick with me. I don’t particularly enjoy them and they end up becoming one more task I have to do, and instead of adding more peace to my life… they end up overloading it with more stress.
“Oh shit, I didn’t think about what I am grateful for today!!” “Oh man, I was supposed to start that Viniyasa class last week!! (…wait, is that what they call it??)”
What is wrong with me? If all the other people can benefit from these activities, why do they feel so painful to me?
What Does Self Love Really Mean?
For my entire life I have been a super achiever. During my college years I have never even allowed myself to get a gym membership because I did not want to take time away from the books… If I had some spare time, I would use it to study a few more pages and get a little more ahead.
The pressure to accomplish and be productive has always made me perceive taking time for my self as a lazy waste of time.
And the fact that I wasn’t particularly enthralled with the conventional self love activities only made things worse.
To be quite honest, the situation didn’t get better until very recently, when I met an amazing mentor who taught me say “no” to the world and the actual meaning of practicing self love.
I understood that, while the typical mind fullness practices I described before might work for some people, I have to stop digging my heals in if they don’t work for me. Instead I needed to focus on what allows me to relax and disconnect from the problems and the things I “have to” do.
Self love is something extremely personal, and an activity that can make one feel grateful can be endured like a chore by somebody else.
The best way to identify your personal self love practices is answering to this question:
“What are the things you consider to be indulgences that you never give yourself permission to do?”
Answer with spontaneity and with what feels natural.Write a list and make sure to reward yourself with at least 20 minutes of that a day.The more the better.
And if you need a little help to get started, you can take a sneak peak into my list ;)
My Top 15 Self Love Activities:
Taking a long, hot bath and spreading coconut oil on my skin.
Getting a manicure and painting my nails red even though it only lasts a few days.
Wearing a nice perfume.
Have a good and fun workout with 90’s techno music.
Wearing sweatpants and sitting on the couch with a hot tea watching Japanese cartoons from the 80’s.
Buying fresh flowers for the house
Set a daily reminder on your phone that asks you: “Did you do something ONLY for your self today?”
Get creative with yourself love time! And you’ll be excited to execute!
And lastly, don’t underestimate the power of saying “no”.If you need time for yourself and are about to get involved in someone else’s activity,just call yourself out. “I am sorry, it’s me time now”.
They’ll be happy to see you are taking care of yourself. And if they don’t get it, share this post with them! 😉
PS: Agree? Disagree? Let me know in a comment below and share what it means to you to practice self love!