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The importance of self-care

October 8th, 2018 | Health

Kate Percival, CEO and Co-founder of Grace Belgravia shares with us a the importance of self care.

Self-care is the big buzzword and this year, we’ve seen a raft of books and products populating this new wellness space, offering self-development wisdom, scented candles and slogan T-shirts reminding us to ‘Be Kind’. It’s a movement aimed squarely at the female market. While women are drawn to the self-care imperative, in my experience, we are very bad at actually doing it.

It’s in our nature to prioritise caring for others – our children, our partners, our parents – but when it comes to looking after ourselves, we’re masters at self-sabotage. I hear women say time and again, ‘I just don’t have time’. Yet the meeting will always happen, the children will always be seen to; trying to be superwoman is fruitless because everything suffers – ourselves and our family and our work.

I blame the multitasking mind-set. Women took to multitasking as a badge of honour and it is now so ingrained, that it will take a huge cultural shift for women to be comfortable saying it’s OK not to do it all. The science stacks up in favour of this. Numerous studies show that multitasking doesn’t work; the brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Fragmenting our focus across all our different domains actually makes us less efficient and may even have long-term health implications. Researchers at the University of Sussex found that high multitaskers had less brain density in a region of the brain responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.

We need to get serious, scientific even, about self-care. In the past, I haven’t always been very good at it – it’s been 20 years since I last took a holiday without my laptop. However, I’m now much better at making sure self-care happens.

For me, it starts with sleep. There is nobody I have met who functions well on only a few hours and having less than six hours increases our chances of suffering a stroke or heart attack. (Don’t be fooled. More women die from heart disease than they do from breast cancer).

The other thing that has kept me sane is reading – novels not newspapers. Reading fiction may mean I don’t read as much polemic as I think I should, but novels are my complete escape. I read every night and it’s a daily practice that keeps me sane. It’s finding what works for you.

Being true to ourselves is another form of self-care. We believe we need to fill our days with practical tasks; that being busy equals being productive. It leaves us no space to be honest with our feelings, to say we’re feeling anxious or depressed. However, there is nothing wrong with giving yourself time for thought and being more spiritual, indeed “mindful” and checking in with yourself. Not everything has to be practical or ticking a box.

So, what difference would it really make to lose an hour out of your working day to take time for yourself? What you gain is mental clarity, positive self-esteem and energy to be the best version of yourself, neural pathways will be stimulated by relaxation and self-care; surely that’s worth investing time in?