There are many misconceptions about self-care; that it’s just for women, for wealthy people, or that needing to practise it is a sign of defeat or weakness. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In today’s day and age, where all our lives seem to be becoming increasingly more busy, it’s easy to neglect ourselves. Whether physically, mentally, or both, it’s imperative to take time out of our hectic schedules for self-care.
Not only is resting, recharging and recovering important for helping us to relax and unwind, but it will actually help us perform better in the long-run when it comes to those really important tasks. For example, in 2019, a study found that student nurses may neglect their own health and wellbeing while training to care for others, which in turn may diminish their effectiveness when treating others.
Over the past few months especially, in the wake of the pandemic, the realisation for the need for self-care has become more apparent than ever. With stresses over jobs, family, friends, and social lives coming to the fore for almost everyone in society, self-care quickly became a necessity. Where before people might have associated self-care with indulgence - think spa treatments, expensive holidays, and copious amounts of comfort food - we’re actually now far more educated on what it really means, and the positive benefits it can have on body and mind.
Self-care is all about taking time to do things that contribute to your personal optimisation and wellbeing, making priorities, setting boundaries and sticking to them. Self-care looks different for each of us, depending on the type of lifestyle we lead, but one thing that we all have in common is that it’s non-negotiable. However, if you’re looking for some general pointers to help you get started and hit that reset button, then keep reading.
Schedule and prioritise
Did you know you can practise self-care even when you’re not actively trying to? Making a schedule or timetable for your days, making a list of priorities with this, and sticking to it is one of the best ways you can make sure you’re looking after yourself. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that the more decisions you have to make, the less self-control you have. So although you can’t get rid of decision-making completely, you can make it easier for yourself.
At the start of each day (or the night before if you prefer), allocate 10 minutes to writing out your plan for that day. Make sure you list your priorities at the top and aim to complete those tasks first, before moving on to smaller, less important ones. If you have daily tasks, try to complete these at the same time each day to help you get into a comfortable routine. As you do this over time, you can manage your stress levels, sleep better, and even improve your health. For example, if you’re someone who never has time for breakfast or exercise, managing your time with a schedule can help you fit these things in And nothing feels as good as ticking all these tasks off.
Make time for friends and family
As the generation growing up with our eyes and hands glued to screens, it’s easy to forget about the small things in life that we take for granted, such as socialising with friends and family. One of the fundamentals of self-care, talking to people face-to-face is a wonderful way to check in with yourself and those around you. In fact, according to Psychology Today, research shows that having an active social life can help you improve physical and mental health and even live longer, since people who are more isolated tend to suffer from worse overall health. Here’s some ways to get started with socialising so you can feel better in no time:
- Catch up with friends and family on FaceTime, Skype or Zoom
- Meet up in-person and have a meal or do an activity together
- Sign up for a club or society
- Play a group sport
- If you’re a parent, make time to help your children with activities and homework
However you choose to connect with others, make sure you’re doing it daily if possible. As human beings, we’re meant to exist together and share experiences.
Eat a balanced diet
When we’re feeling stressed, sometimes all we want to do is drown ourselves in comfort food. And at times that can work! But you can have too much of a good thing, so it’s all about eating everything in moderation. So if you want to treat yourself, go for it. But make sure to balance it out. For example, did you know that research shows that eating berries can boost brain health? Similarly foods like fatty fish, dark chocolate, bananas, and oats all contain nutrients which have been linked to improved mood.
If you’re feeling like you’ve been neglecting your diet and want to show yourself some love from the inside out, make sure you’re eating three balanced meals a day, and any snacks in between if you get hungry. And don’t forget to hydrate. Getting enough water is one of the most important things for your brain health, and getting enough will help you think faster, be more focused, and experience greater clarity and creativity.
As of late, many of us have been spending a lot of time inside the house. If you’re working from home, or if you’re just someone who hasn’t been getting outside as much as usual, then allocating a specific time slot to get outside and in nature is a great way to refresh the mind. In 2013, researchers from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh released a study that showed that even a short walk in nature can produce neural effects similar to those achieved by meditation. If you’re short on time, a quick walk around the block on your lunch break or after work can do the trick. But if you really want to maximise the benefits, why not try a longer walk or hike on the weekend? If you live in a city, travelling somewhere nearby with a green space can help you to destress and get away from the busyness of normal life.
Keep it moving
Here at Innermost, we’re all about using exercise as a form of self-care, to both our physical and mental advantage. Aside from helping you get in physical shape, it’s widely known that regular exercise can have a hugely positive impact on your mental health, and it can even help with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. By releasing endorphins, exercise helps relieve stress, improve memory and helps you sleep better too. And the great thing about it is you don’t have to dedicate hours either. As little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week can help you see a drastic change in your life. If you’re particularly stressed, we find that activities like yoga and pilates work wonders as they focus heavily on regulating and controlling the breath, which is a sure-fire way of controlling feelings of stress and anxiety.
If you want some ideas for how to get started with exercise, check out our workout-related articles here.
Last but not least, one of the best things you can do as an act of self-care is set boundaries. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from your personal to your professional life. But instead of seeing boundaries as a way to shut people or things out, view them instead as a way of making life for yourself and those around you as enjoyable as possible. Here’s a few of the ways you can do this.
- Whether you’re working from home or not, carving out time after work each day to relax and unwind is imperative. This will help you focus better on your work, but it will also make it easier to switch off at the end of the day and avoid overlap and unnecessary stress.
- Remember that it’s ok to say no to things in your personal or social life without feeling guilty.
- Be direct with people and tell them how you feel if you’re unhappy or uncomfortable.
- Practise self-awareness. Mentally ask yourself in your head, “What I am doing? Or what is the other person doing?” or “What is the situation providing that’s making me resentful or stressed?”