It is no secret that a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, combined with regular, load-bearing exercise is a powerhouse "double-whammy-duo" and our best bet towards living a long, healthy, disease-free life.
Whether we choose to accept it or not, the reality is, we cannot experience true, lasting, health without some degree of adherence and attention to those two superstars.
Recommendations by our counsellors, physicians/doctors and other healthcare professionals are also a part of staying healthy and vital – they are integral members of our defence against disease.
But true self-care extends beyond diet, exercise and personal healthcare teams.
True self-care is not always about the serious stuff. True self-care moves beyond any obvious needs to include pampering as well.
Pampering is defined as: "Indulge with every attention, comfort, and kindness, spoil." "To give someone special treatment." Pampering is nothing new to us. It is what we do and offer when we want to extend extra love and special care to others as a "release of tension/stress" or simply as a gift of love because we care about their wellbeing.
Pets are often the recipient of our pampering because of the unconditional love they so freely offer.
From the moment we are born and take our first deep breath, most of us are taught the virtues of love and how important it is to treat others the way we would want to be treated – with kindness, forgiveness, patience and love.
Often, as a reward or because we feel a sense of deep compassion, we seek to surround loved ones with extra care in the form of physical, mental, or even spiritual pampering. This is the type of pampering we need to turn and focus on ourselves using the same compassionate note.
Lending our strength, time and energy to help others deal with stress in this ever-hectic, ever-demanding world of ours is not without honour and sometimes the only solution in the moment.
But the ability to discern, be in control, set it all aside at will and answer the personal call of our own hearts when beckoned is where real strength and authentic self-love lies.
We must "do unto ourselves the virtues we've been taught to live and give to others". To catapult one's personal needs to the top of one's priority list is the highest form of love one can express.
Pampering gives us permission to pause from life's unending "honey-do list" and bumps our own welfare to the top of it. It is a vital ingredient in our personal recipe for renewal and continued health and exactly what we need to be doing and giving ourselves more often.
Stress is no one's friend. It is a silent killer with no mercy. It weaves its unhealthy and damaging frequency into existing conditions and triggers the release of the hormone cortisol which, in small doses is fine, but larger doses set off a series of damaging internal effects.
It causes inflammation, lowers immunity, negatively impacts bone density and cognitive functions, and even increases mental illness. Heart disease is the number one killer in the Western world for a reason.
There is not a system in the body that is not negatively impacted by stress, and pampering oneself and using relaxing techniques are the perfect tools to offset it.
Modern science has opened many doors and windows into how the human body and mind operate and recent research on the effects of "relaxation techniques" provide impressive results.
These studies show relaxation is key to healthy genetic responses that improve functions at the cellular level. That means telomeres, mitochondria and insulin production are all positively affected.
Why is this important?
Telomeres protect chromosomes at the end of DNA strands and studies on meditation (a form of relaxation) reveal that it increases telomerase activity and length as well as boosting mental health. Longer telomeres equal longer life.
Mitochondria, the batteries that energise and power our cells, become more resilient with relaxation techniques and these techniques have even been proven to aid in establishing insulin production/diabetic control.
Counter to how it sounds, relaxation techniques not only relax and relieve stress but also keep our mitochondria "batteries" healthy, resilient, and filled with life-giving energy-charge.
Self-care/pampering and relaxation techniques include activities such as journaling, meditating and especially exercise – basically anything that allows us to unwind is a great way to bust through stress.
This type of self-care cannot be narrowly defined because each of us responds to different stimuli. If soaking in a hot bath surrounded by candles and soothing music is your thing, and you feel less stressed afterwards, then do it.
We also benefit from the release of oxytocin and serotonin, two "feel-good" hormones that are triggered into action when indulged in pampering/self-care activities. Additional benefits we receive from pampering ourselves into a "relaxed state" include lowered blood pressure, improved mood, increased concentration/cognitive skills, and reduced muscle tension.
Bottom line is this – pampering ourselves relaxes us. Relaxing is a good thing and offers many health benefits. It provides ammo against and relieves the overpowering sensation of stress, elevates our moods, puts us in touch with ourselves and promotes self-love, boosts self-esteem, and keeps our cells functioning at peak performance.
We owe ourselves the love, care and pampering we so freely give to others. It is time to "do something nice for us for no other reason than we deserve it!"