We all know our lives are busy and with the increase in use of modern technology, it feels like every moment is spent doing something and most of the time we are doing them for someone else, right? When do we get time to Self-Care?
The consequences of always being busy
The consequences of these busy lives are that we are more stressed, less happy and less productive generally in our lives NOT just at work. This can further develop into anxiety and / or depression. A study carried out in 2014 by NatCen and the University of Leicester of 7,500 people, found that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men have a common mental disorder. The number has increased since 2000 and young women have now emerged as a high risk group. This group is more likely to self harm and have anxiety and /or depression which affects their daily lives. (McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T (eds) (2016) Mental Health and Well Being in England: Adult psychiatric morbidity survey 2014. Leeds. NHS Digital.)
I realise that there are other factors at play here too but I truly believe that if we want to be happier, healthier and more productive, we have to start with ourselves. There is an element of guilt tied to this, that other things or people are more important and that we are selfish if we take time for ourselves. I ask you though, if you are not at your best how can you show up and be there for those who need you? Think about a time when you were feeling well rested and energetic, how well did you communicate / interact with family, friends, work colleagues etc? How productive did you feel? How relaxed did you feel? I know from experience, when we are well rested, we are more positive and productive and can respond to snags or problems much easier that when we are tired and fed up. Of course, there might be other reasons you are feeling negative about life and I hope to be able to touch on those in subsequent posts but for now, I would like to concentrate on looking after yourself.
How do you do Self-Care?
There are lots of different ways to improve Self-Care. Here are a few to start you off:
1. Be your own best friend.
It is absolutely true that we are sometimes nicer to others than ourselves. Think and write down all of your worries and stresses you are currently experiencing. Now imagine your best friend has told you those concerns. What would you advise him/ her? Now do those things. Let go of the guilt and the responses which start with ‘yes but I have to do….’ You are just as important as anyone else and you have every right to look after yourself.
2. Switch off.
This is tough to do in the current climate but make a point of turning off your technology. Have a break from the virtual and live in the now. If you have a family, make it a family based activity. Go out for a walk together, read together, bake / cook or play a game.
Do something which truly relaxes you. This of course depends on your finances but there is something to fit every budget.
- Low cost: Have an extra long bath or shower with soothing music. A hot drink and a good book / movie / T.V programme. Go for a walk.
- Higher cost: Splurge on a massage or any beauty treatments. Massages are just as good for men too!
I have also created a board on Pinterest on Wellbeing. There are some great ideas about Self-Care from lots of different people so check them out here
4. Eat well.
Make an effort to think about the lasting effects of food rather than the instant gratification. This is by no means easy. It takes discipline and dedication but it can have wondrous health benefits. Think about the energy which better food choices will give you in the long run and compare it to how you would feel after biscuits or cake. We are not perfect and there is nothing wrong with cake (It would be a very sad world without it) but if we over indulge in it, it will make us feel drained and lethargic as our blood sugar levels spike and then crash. If you currently eat poorly, don’t make big changes all at once. Small changes are often better as you re-acclimatise yourself and are able to sustain the life changes you are making. The biggest help I have found is having a role model who inspires you and enables you to connect with like minded people. I love Betty Rocker. You can find out more about her and her holistic approach to food and exercise here.
Movement and exercise has been proven as a fantastic way to help mental health as well as give you more energy (weird, I know!). When I first started exercising, I did not feel the benefits of it straight away. It was something which built and after a few weeks, I found I was calmer, sleeping better and getting more done and in a quicker time as I had more energy and was more focused. If you hate the thought of working out, try different types of exercise until something feels sustainable to you. Remember everyone is different. I love the saying ‘all or something’, you don’t need to be running a marathon to get the benefits of moving more. There are lots of different forms of exercise out there. For a great post on martial arts and how it can help your mental state, go over to daily-harmony and read what they say about it here
6. Spend quality time with loved ones.
We are social creatures and the ironic thing about technology is that it can make us more isolated. We need physical contact. A hug can do wonders for your mental state so set some time aside to concentrate on those important people in your life.
I love meditating but I will admit that I felt a bit of an idiot when I first started doing it. I do love the app ‘CALM’, it is free and it has so many different forms of meditation. It even has bed time stories to help you feel more relaxed. This doesn’t take any more time. Instead of lying in bed looking at social media, turn on one of the meditation sessions or bed time stories. I fall asleep before the end every time.
8. Rest and sleep.
As a mum of 2 young children, I know how hard this can be. Sometimes external factors impact on your life and you have no control over them. It can be frustrating and exhausting. If this is you, use the CALM app mentioned above so at least you can get 5-10 minutes of calm each day. If you still find bedtime and sleep an issue then please read my previous post on sleep here
When all is said and done, we are imperfect creatures of habit and changes will not happen over night. We will have times when we forget to look after ourselves as external factors take priority but if you take nothing else away from this, know that any change, no matter how small, is a change in the right direction. I am a big believer in small changes sometimes having the biggest impact so take it slowly and start to believe in the idea that you are important, that you do matter and that you deserve some you-time, guilt free.
I would be really interested to hear what you do for your Self-Care routine.