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By Camilla Sacre-Dallerup

I was never good at saying no. I would power through regardless of the impact outside pressure was having on my wellbeing.  Consequently, I burned out at 35.

Now, I take self-care seriously. It’s what I call non-negotiable.  I have learned the power of prevention. During stressful times, scheduling self-care is the last thing on people’s list of priorities, but it needs to be the first. People view self-care as an extra cost and assume it means a massage, a spa day, or even a holiday.  Taking care of yourself does not need to be expensive. It can be something as simple as taking a hot bath, a power nap, using positive self-talk, or having an evening to yourself doing what YOU want. Creating positive behaviors and habits supports your ability to show up in your daily life in the best possible way.

Self-awareness, acceptance, love, and care are vital in creating good relationships. Here are simple, practical exercises that are part of my self-care regime. Some may appeal more than others; the goal is to get into the habit of taking time for yourself daily.

Morning Ritual

How we start the day, and the intention we set lays the foundation for the rest of the day.  By beginning with self-care, we’re saying to the universe, “I respect and take care of myself first,” which will have a positive ripple effect on your day.

Before you claim you don’t have time for a self-care  ritual in the morning, remember it doesn’t have to take long. Start by taking ten deep breaths. Make coffee while remembering all the things in your life for which you are grateful. Take a shower before you look at your phone or email. If you have kids, perhaps set the alarm to wake up 10-15 minutes before they do and have a moment’s peace.  You can also do the morning self-care ritual once the school run is over. Whatever works best for your situation.

Self-care rituals can be as simple as sitting up in bed and taking three deep breaths and connect to your heart. Have a cup of coffee outside or in silence before everyone else wakes up.

Fuel Your Joy

In her book, Spark Joy, Marie Kondo encourages us to look at each piece of clothing in our wardrobe and ask, “Does it spark joy?” If the answer is no, thank it and let it go. It’s a wonderful way to look at things, and I do something similar with my thoughts, habits, and relationships. I encourage you to try it.

Ask yourself three questions: Is this igniting the fire in my belly? Is this an absolute YES? Does this fuel my joy? If it does not, say, “I let it go with gratitude and love. “ To invite in new relationships, we must make space.  Just like we need to throw out the old sweater that no longer feels good, relationships or thoughts that drain us and prevent good habits need to go.

Let the Love Flow

I especially love this breath-focused meditation, known as the Heart Breath. It helps to drop out of your ever-thinking mind and connect with the heart. It reminds us there is a kinder, more compassionate way through even the most difficult times. Breath by breath, you will feel your vibration rise. This exercise helps when you are emotionally blocked. Sometimes we really need to FEEL what guidance is within.

Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Visualize a big bright light surrounding you and beaming through you. Now focus on your breath. Slow it down and become aware of how it flows in and out of your body. Imagine each breath as it becomes deeper and longer; each breath represents love flowing in and out of the heart. You can place your hands over your heart to feel the connection with the body. Raising your vibration brings new energy to the body. Let the light that you are shine through you getting brighter as the breath goes deeper.

Divorce your Bad Habits

When we are in alignment with what we hope to manifest, we are ready to receive. We don’t want to walk into any relationship with old habits from past relationships. I remember ‘divorcing’ feeling needy and creating a habit of feeling comfortable and trusting instead.

I ‘divorced’ my smartphone leaving it in the kitchen at night away from my bed. You can divorce friendships, foods, and other behaviors. Write down the habits you want to lose. Try saying out loud, “I’m committed to divorcing this [habit] to show that I am putting self-care at the top of my list and taking my relationship with myself to the next level.”

Then write down what you want to invite into your life instead.

The Intention behind the Intention

Have you ever found yourself saying things like, “I should catch up with xyz, so they don’t get annoyed?” Or “I have to go to a friend’s for dinner tonight?” Consider the words “I should,” and “I have to.”  The intention behind those words is different from “I want to.” Your intention is to please; essentially you are doing it for the other person, not for yourself. Saying no to a friend or leaving a friendship group can leave you concerned about hurting the other person.

Hanging out with positive friends can be uplifting and a real act of self-care. You leave feeling happy, heard, and free. When you start filling your schedule with things you ‘should do’ or ‘have to do’, it drags you down and leaves you exhausted. When your intentions are aligned, you will attract more harmonious relationships.

Nurtured from the Inside Out

This exercise works the vagus nerve the longest in the body going from the head, through the heart, and into the stomach. It represents the parasympathetic nervous system, controlling heart rate, mood, and digestion as well as other bodily functions. When you stimulate the vagus nerve through breathing, it helps lower inflammation in the body and reduce stress.  Singing at the top of your lungs is another brilliant exercise that stimulates the vagus nerve. Next time you sing in the shower or your car, know you are exercising your vagus nerve and that it has benefits way beyond lifting your mood. Yoga and laughter are great ways to stimulate this nerve too.

Remember, self-care is not a luxury, it’s a must if you want to live a happy, fulfilled life with rewarding relationships.

About the Author

Camilla Sacre-Dallerup is an NLP master practitioner coach, certified hypnotherapist and a popular meditation teacher at the trendy Unplug Meditation studio in Los Angeles. Before she started her life coaching and motivational speaking business in the UK ten years ago, she spent over 25 years as a successful competitive athlete in the world of ballroom dancing. Camilla was part of the original cast of Strictly Come Dancing (the UK’s equivalent to Dancing with the Stars in the US).

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