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The phrase “self-care” has become super trendy (at least in my Pinterest feed) and can be a bit annoying.
But why is it so popular?
I think it’s because many of us have become so fixated on achievement that we put our wellbeing on the back-burner.
Only when we experience the negative repercussions of the way we treat our bodies, often hampering the very productivity we were striving for (like lost time due to illnesses and hospital stays), do we think, “I guess self-care isn’t so silly after all.”
The best self care books go way beyond the usual tips you see online like “take a bubble bath” or “treat yourself to a manicure.”
Self-care is about attending to your physical, spiritual, and emotional needs
It’s about honoring the ways in which the mind, body, and soul are intricately connected.
When I started having seizures a few years ago, out of the blue, I searched everywhere for answers. Doctors couldn’t provide an adequate explanation, and all my tests were normal.
I started reading the work of Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life, who believed that our internal state manifests itself externally through diseases and ailments. She also felt that seemingly harmless words you speak and choices you make throughout your day can profoundly impact your life.
After recording notes on each of my seizures, I began to see patterns. Fighting to stay awake when my body was ready to sleep. Suppressing toxic emotions instead of releasing them. Not drinking when I was thirsty or eating when I was hungry. Most of all, pushing myself to do more – write one more page, grade one more paper – when my brain was exhausted.
In short, I wasn’t listening to my body’s signals
Like a baby crying because it needs to be fed, the seizures were my body’s way of calling out for attention. Thankfully, I finally got the message.
Often when we get hit with a cold, flu, or some other ailment, it’s our body signaling to us that we need to slow down and take it easy. That’s what the doctor aways advises us to do (or Web MD).
But do listen?
Nope. We take some pills and potions to mask the symptoms and get right back to it.
I’ve certainly been guilty of that. And sometimes you have no choice. Work demands won’t allow for a break.
But taking care of yourself is SO important — not just to protect yourself from diseases, but to keep your spirit thriving. As Debbie Ford, author of the 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse puts it, your body is “the holy container of the Divine.”
Here are some excellent resources on how to integrate mental, spiritual, and physical wellness into your daily life. Best of all, following this guidance will help troubleshoot potential issues so you can avoid the sickness in the first place!
All of these resources are part of the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle, a compilation of digital books and courses covering a wide range of topics spanning alternative health, fitness, and nutrition. There’s tons of great stuff in the bundle, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on my three favorites within the Wellness and Self-Care category.
Best Self Care Books to Nourish Your Mind, Body, and Soul
Self Care for the Fiercely Independent Soul
What I like about this book is that it’s interactive, prompting you to dig deeper into your life and find areas that you might be neglecting. For instance, it begins with a self-assessment divided into these components: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relationships, and workplace. Each category features items both typical — exercise and meditation — and unexpected — “be open to not knowing,” “experience awe,” and “try not to be in charge or the expert at all times.”
For each activity, you rank yourself according to how often you engage in them, including, “This has never occurred to me.”
Doing this assessment was eye-opening because I realized how many areas I’ve been neglecting. For instance, I’m good about exercising and eating healthy, but not so good about allowing myself to have fun or just unwind. It’s rare these days that I even watch movies or read for pure pleasure.
Perhaps because I had a bit TOO much fun in my twenties, now I deprive myself to compensate. But fun, I’m realizing more and more, isn’t a needless indulgence. It really is vital for the soul.
This book includes a workbook section where you can brainstorm activities that satisfy the different areas of self-care included in the assessment. Then you can schedule these activities into the calendar directly below the brainstorming section.
This ensures that you actually DO all these activities by making time for them since many of us can get a bit overenthusiastic in the brainstorming phase but have no way to realistically complete everything.
My favorite part is the “Managing Worry” section because it’s like having a therapist by your side. You first identify an area of worry. Then you answer a series of questions like, “Can I get more evidence of the situation, maybe by asking someone else?” The author, Christy, models some answers for you to lend clarity.
This book is short, but it’s the simplicity and the interactive format that makes it so effective. You won’t just browse through it, say, “Oh, that’s nice!”, and put it on your shelf to collect dust.
Live on Purpose: 31 Habits to Help You Ditch Distraction and Live Intentionally
First of all, I love the title! So many of us fall into a routine and start living life on autopilot.
I feel that the older I get, the more the years seem to blur together. I’ve settled into my habits and lived in the same building for years now. Sometimes my life can feel a bit like Groundhog Day.
Now don’t get me wrong…transformation can be complete internal. You don’t have to move to a new place or travel to “discover yourself.”
But it is important to actively evaluate where your life is at, amplify what’s working, tweak what’s not working, and elevate the areas that are just mediocre. And that’s what this book is all about.
Like the last book mentioned, Live on Purpose is interactive. Each habit has a specific prompt, and the book (naturally) is designed to be completed in 31 days.
The exercises follow a natural progression in that you start by establishing a shift that you want to achieve in your life, followed by identifying feelings that you would like to experience throughout the day and setting an intention for these feelings. This second step was crucial for me because I’m very achievement-oriented but not always so great at getting in touch with my feelings.
I love the 31-day structure of this book. Many of the items on this list, like getting rid of clutter and blocking digital distractions to focus on deep work, were on my, “I should be doing that more often” list along with a million other things. Focusing on only one item each day, though, makes these tasks seem much more manageable.
31 days – about a month – isn’t really that long. At the same time, the promise that your life will radically shift if you commit to these activities incentivizes you to keep going.
If you can transform your life this much in a month, imagine what you could do in a year?
De-Stress for Life
This book is packed with a wealth of information and resources to empower you to take charge of stress. This includes analyzing your sources of stress, learning relaxation techniques to cope with anxiety, and developing problem-solving skills to navigate stressful situations.
One section I found particularly effective was “Part 6: Developing Stress-Free Thinking,” which covers ways you can reframe negative thoughts. For instance, I was feeling anxious about having a busier schedule this year than I’ve had in the past. Looking at the situation in a different light, though, I saw that I wouldn’t have to worry about my finances as much, which would create less stress.
As author Jackie Holdridge points out, this isn’t just about positive thinking but rather more realistic thinking. Often when we get worked up about a situation, we are painting ourselves into a corner and not considering alternative perspectives.
Because one approach doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, Holdridge includes a range of stress-management techniques. These include STOP (Stop, Take a Breath, Observe, Point of View), mindfulness, and changing the tone of your inner voice.
Additionally, Holdridge covers strategies that lead to overall enhanced mental health such as modifying your diet, improving the quality and quantity of sleep, and becoming more assertive (since not being able to set boundaries or say no often leads to stress, as I have discovered myself).
Best of all, De-Stress for Life contains many tools to ensure that you these strategies to use. This includes a quick review at the end of each section, self-assessments, stress evaluation sheets, checklists, and guided worksheets for brainstorming and planning solutions.
As I said, I love these three books, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle contains so many wonderful resources that will empower you to take charge of your wellbeing on every level.
If you want the bundle, act fast! The books mentioned will be available indefinitely, but the bundle will only be on sale until Monday, September 10, at midnight (hence the discounted price).
What are some of your favorite books and resources on health and wellness?