Amelia Phillips’ Self-Care Routine: “The canary in the coal mine is usually my sleep.”

Amelia Phillips is a fitness and nutrition expert with 25 years of experience in the health and wellness industry.

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What does self-care mean to you?

To me, self-care is a mindset. A mindset of treating ourselves like we would treat someone we valued dearly. If you bought a puppy, would you neglect it? Feed it poorly? Keep it awake when it should be asleep? Not give it exercise? Use harsh words? I hope not! Self-care is similar. It’s a mindset where we look after ourselves from a place of self-worth.

Sometimes self-care means saying no to an already maxed-out schedule, while other times it means saying yes to a 5 am wakeup (because that’s the only way you’ll get your 4 days of exercise in). Self-care is also the byproduct of living a values-aligned life.

How do you know when you’re feeling stressed or burnt out?

The canary in the coal mine is usually my sleep. If I find it hard to get to sleep or wake up around 3 am, that’s the warning that my axis is starting to spin off course. A few days like this is manageable, but if this sleep pattern lasts longer than a week, something needs to change.

Sleep deprivation leads to increased stress biomarkers such as cortical, CRP, T3, testosterone, and BDNF. Increases in stress are also associated with poor sleep (and a whole array of health and mental health issues!).

If I can’t reduce the stressors in my life, then I get busy managing them. My go-to’s are:

  • Exercise: One of the best ways to combat stress (tip: a proper 10-minute stretch, cool down and deep breathing at the end triggers the body to lower the production of stress hormones)
  • Writing a list: At the end of my working day to get it out of my head!
  • Setting a bedtime alarm: Meaning a ‘go-to-bed alarm’ and sticking to it (the hardest part!)
  • Box breathing: For two minutes as I go to sleep (I’m no good at meditating but this works for me)
  • Sleep tracker: Using my sleep app to track my deep sleep (I love Autosleeper for Apple Watch) and aim for 2+ hours of the NREM sleep (deep, delta wave sleep).

Do you have a regular self-care routine? If so, what does it look like?

I had four kids in five years, and my self-care routine was pretty rotten in those early years. Locking myself in the bathroom with my mobile phone and a cup of tea was about as good as it got (until the banging on the door got too loud!).

These days, I really prioritise self-care. My kids are aged between five and 10 years old, which is what I’m calling the golden period! My self-care routine is:

  • Exercise: My alarm goes off at 5:15am four days per week and I’m out the door training (either running or CrossFit or both).
  • Big brunch: I’m a fan of intermittent fasting so I really only have two meals per day – brunch and early dinner with a small snack in the arvo. This won’t work for everyone but it does for me. Loaded gluten-free toast (avo, feta, eggs, hemp or toasted pepitas). By the way, if you’re in Sydney and you want a yummy gluten-free bread that freezes well, try Bare Wholefoods GF loaf.
  • Acupuncture and massage: These are my go-to treatments. Acupuncture is the traditional medicine treatment that has the most robust research on efficacy (especially for pain and nervous system function – meaning stress management). I find the combination of acupuncture then immediately followed by a massage such a winning formula. My muscles feel like putty after acupuncture versus a stiff rope, so the massage therapist can really go deep!
  • Fun! I’m a pretty social person so self-care for me is socialising with the people who spark big conversations or who make me belly laugh on repeat!

What bumps you off your self-care routine and how do you get back on course?

Not having a clearly defined routine is the death knell of self-care for me. To get back on track, I look for a program that includes tracking. I’m a big biotech and data nerd and that’s why I’ve put together an 8-week InsideOut program using innovative biotech from Drop Bio Health.

We use finger prick technology to track our blood biomarkers, while following my 8-week exercise, nutrition, and mindset program. Whilst weight management is a focus in this program, it can also be used simply as a way to prioritise health and self-care and learn about your biomarker levels.

By having a clear plan, and tracking health beyond just the scales (scales tell us very little!), we are able to see how our habits are truly impacting our health. The awesome reports you get will give you scores for 33 biomarkers cleverly categorised into the health pillars of:

  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Inflammation
  • Energy/fatigue
  • Fitness
  • Body composition, and
  • Bio-age.

Where do you go for inspiration, ideas or tools for self-care?

I’m lucky because it’s my job to be across the latest technology and trends! But podcasts are a fantastic medium to really understand health topics. Most are way too complex to understand in a Tweet, short article or Instagram post. Instead, I listen to podcasts featuring great journalism, fascinating guests and topics backed by research. Podcasts I recommend are:

  • Healthy Her (shameless plug – sorry!)
  • Science Vs
  • The Health report with Dr Norman Swan
  • Found My Fitness

What do you think you need to improve in terms of your self-care practice?

I’ll be joining my own InsideOut program and my areas of focus will be cutting down the after-dinner snacking, more mobility movements, and following my stress management protocol. 

Before you go…

Self-Care is a content series exploring the different self-care routines and habits of people from all walks of life. Get in touch with us today if you’d like to talk about your self-care routine.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.