The art of self-care
with Atifa Balding
It is never too late to cultivate a nurturing relationship with yourself.
Growing up with a debilitating stutter, verbal communication was hard for me and I often spent time in my head. My mum and grandma taught me to self soothe in the form of massage and using dried flowers to make mandalas in the morning before going to school. I also peeled a pomegranate every evening before going to bed.
I didn’t understand the significance of this until years later, but it was my first introduction to mindfulness and self-care. I also found my voice.
Since then, I have found ways to self soothe and nurture my nervous system through the loving practice of gratitude, using mantras and affirmations, self-massage and tapping. I work on boundaries within relationships and how to continue this loving relationship with myself.
The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important one we will ever have.
Our Mindbody (I refer to it as Mindbody as it is all connected) stores and collects data all the time. Our neurons are so clever at forming neural pathways and this information is then stored which strengthens the network in our brain. Just as we are rewarded when we practise self-care, we also feel it in our mindbodies when we don’t take care of ourselves or are not mindful.
In my case, when I’m not slowing down and nourishing my nervous system, my autoimmune condition flares up (the warnings and signals come well before I take to my bed) however sometimes I don’t listen because my ego takes over and assumes that it knows better!
When we are in fight or flight mode the part of our brain known as the amygdala sends a signal to our limbic system and either activates stress, or leads us to experience some kind of stress. However, this can be remedied over time (it is all about building daily habits) and the more kindness and self-compassion we show ourselves, the more able we are to respond in a kinder way to challenges. We will always have challenges, but it’s the way we respond that makes a difference.
I remember doing this every single day I was in hospital. When one is given hours to live it really shakes things up and I made-up my mind that I was going to appreciate the small things, that when added up, can lead to a beautiful topsy turvy miraculous life. I was given a second chance. I had loving support from everyone around me, but I was the only one that could heal myself from within. I will never forget this second chance because it’s made me who I am today, and my biggest achievement is not only surviving, but living a full and nourishing life.
I love to teach people how to be successful in self-care and that is to start by being their own very friend.