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Jemimah Ashleigh: Self care isn't selfish

This week is ‘International World Mental Health Week’ so let me start this off by saying that – I get it. Self-care has some serious negative connotations around it. It’s seen as selfish and weak. It’s seen as ‘me time’ and often in the entrepreneurial world, this is frowned upon. To put it nicely, this is a complete load of crap.

Did you know that 1 in 3 people will have a mental illness during their lifetime, or that 1 in 5 people are struggling with a mental health disorder at any time in Australia?

This subject of self-care is so very important to me. Why?

In 2015, I suffered my first ever panic attack. If you haven’t had a panic attack, it basically feels like you are dying. Attacks can last for up to 20 minutes where you are unable to control the physiological symptoms in your body and your internal monologue is less than helpful. I was driving home and then suddenly I couldn’t breathe. My heart rate shot through the roof and I couldn’t control anything about my body. I felt like I was dying.

After my first attack, I went to the doctor and I had it explained to me that my body was flooded with cortisol – the nasty stress hormone –and that my body was set into almost immediate fight of flight mode, or a panic attack.

Long story short and what I want to focus on in this blog, was while there were multiple things that lead to my recovery, the main thing for me was simply self-care. I did it poorly for a long time and now it’s become a very important part of my life and something I want to share.

These are my top self-care tips this week during International Mental Health week.

1.     Bubble bath. I write this blog having just gotten out of the bath this morning. Hot bubbly water, some relaxing music, Lush Bath Bombs and soak away as long as required. I also highly recommend adding a glass of wine, green tea or a soda water while all your stresses drift away. (My music recommendations The Little Stevies – http://www.thelittlestevies.com/ and of course, bathtime essentials - Lush Bath Bombs - https://au.lush.com/products/bath )

2.     Meditation. I’ma massive believer in the power meditation and stretching. I lay my yoga mat in the middle of the lounge room floor. My go-to guru for meditation is Rebecka Beruki. Bex does amazing guided spoken meditation. Meditation reduces stress, encourages a healthy lifestyle, increases happiness and all round is good for your mind body and soul. It works a treat for me.

Find Bex here: www.bexlife.com

3.     Massage. This is my expensive self-care indulgence. Give me a 90 minute massage, hot stone and hot oils and I’m pretty much in bliss for the next 90 minutes.  Massages will improve muscle tension, heighten mental alertness and reduce stress hormones. I recommend following it up with a fresh fruit and veggie juice and doing little to no work for the rest of the day.

4.     Cuddles. Or sexy cuddles. Physical touch can be very soothing and can increase oxytocin hormone levels, or ‘the love hormone’. Cuddling can reduces the risk of heart disease, reduces blood pressure and reduces stress and anxiety. Also, sexy cuddles can be the same amount of exercise as a 30 minute jog.  So…. There is also that.

5.     Mid-morning dance party. In my lounge room, I’ve performed with Beyonce, Fall Out Boy, Celine Dion and not to toot my own horn here, but I am exceptionally amazing at belting out 90’s love ballads.

Throw yourself a sing-a-long, dance, yell, get that heart rate up and get your soul happy. Dance parties are amazing, even if they are solo.

6.     Time Off. There are three types of time off for me:

The Morning/Afternoon Off: I do this usually when something is happening and I need to buy myself a few hours. I hit it hard in the morning or afternoon. For the remainder of the day, I do something to destress. Watch MASH. Nap. I’m a real party animal sometimes.

The Day Off: I try to have a day off once a week. It realistically ends up being around once a fortnight, but I do try! I make no work commitments, run little personal errands and fun coffee dates… it’s the best.

And finally –THE DAYS OFF: This is the holy grail of the entrepreneurial world where you actually have multiple days off in a row. And before you try to say you are too busy to do this – YOU ARE NOT. It can be done. For me, I make sure that I book them in way in advance so I can work around them. DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT EITHER.

Pro Tip here:  Bianca Chech from Sportsluxe (https://www.sportsluxe.com.au/) says that she puts her time off her in her diary. She blocks out time and hours for her self-care time and she always insures she follows it.

7.     Food, glorious food.  I try to ensure that every day I eat high vitamin foods. I’ve found that when I eat poorly and fast food style food, I end up run down, more easily stressed and unwell.

8.     A trusted ear. Talking to someone for me is therapeutic. For me, I crave human interaction and I need to catch up and see my people a lot. There is a reason it is joked that I am the chief schmooze operator. I also see a professional once a month.

9.     Sleep. Or even a ‘Bed day’. Sleep is just about your best friend in self-care. That hour or two that you are missing here and there really adds up and can take a very real physical toll on your body. I ensure I get 7-8 hours’ sleep at least.

A fashion designer friend of mine introduced me to the concept of the ‘Bed Day’. Basically, it’s spend the day in bed. Bring your own snuggly blanket, air conditioning on, food in bed and TV. I’ve done this twice and I lived on episodes of Friends and The Simpsons. I loved it and I feel like I need to do it - then I do.

10.  No phone zone.As an entrepreneur, I carry my phone around with me24/7. I am constantly getting Facebook andInstagram notifications, phone calls, texts… it can get exhausting. So sometimes, I turn my phone onto silent, put it in another room and let the important people to me know that I am going to a No Phone Zone for a few hours.

11.  NO.I have a lot of trouble saying no to things and for Christmas, my business mentor gave me a NO button.  I have had a lot of trouble saying no to things previously and I don’t like missing out. Learning to say no to things is hard. I like helping. I don’t like missing out but I can stretch myself very thin very quickly.

Let’s recap. Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s mandatory. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. Dips in the entrepreneurial world are normal and we all have down days. If you are however worried that you are in an extended dip and things aren’t going well, do reach out and speak to someone. Start with your GP, a trusted friend or any of the hundreds of mental health resources around the world. There are resources that can help you and people who want to help. Take care of yourself and each other.

Jemimah x

Jemimah is the Creative Director of Tangs Design and the Co-founder of The Business Experiment. She can be contacted at tangsdesignjewellery@gmail.com.