‘Self-care’ is the new buzzword in health and wellbeing – the idea being that if you take steps to look after yourself then you’ll be able to deal with life’s stresses and strains more effectively. If you’re well-nourished, feeling energised and your mind is calm, then anything is possible. If, however, your system is out of whack and you’re feeling stressed, you will find it harder to make good choices, and more challenging to stick to life goals, and so your good intentions will fall by the wayside.
If you can adopt just a few of these principles of self-care, your body and mind will thank you.
1. Get good sleep. Yes, we all know we should be getting better sleep, and yet the temptations of Netflix, a ‘quick’ browse on social media or a couple of quick drinks in the pub can all be hard to overcome. Try hard – you will feel the benefits. Aim for 7 hours a night.
2. Build some exercise into your weekly routine – look at your diary for the week ahead and schedule in two things: a swim, a run, an exercise class, a game of tennis, or a decent long walk in the park, for example. People who exercise regularly, particularly in green spaces, report reduced stress, increased energy and more resilience. You don’t have to join an expensive gym: there are plenty of free workouts on YouTube. Make regular exercise a habit – it has so many benefits.
3. Take regular breaks from your work – particularly screen-based work – to rest your eyes, re-energise, grab a glass of water, and generally be more productive. Scheduled breaks are more effective than ad hoc ones, as Oliver Burkeman reveals.
4. Eat a healthy diet rich in grains, green leafy veg and lean protein. Eat a healthy breakfast every day and reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. You may think it relaxes you, but in fact it’s a depressant, interrupts sleep and encourages bad snacking. Try a week or two off the booze and discover the benefits of better sleep, a lifted mood and more energy.
5. Consider meditation as way to help you focus. You don’t have to sit in the lotus position for an hour; consider using this brilliant app to start small; 5 mins building up to 30 mins can make all the difference.
These steps, particularly when combined, can make a significant difference to your mood, your ability to cope with life’s ups and downs and your general energy levels. Boosting your physical, mental and spiritual reserves will help you look after others more effectively, boost your self-esteem and encourage you to help others to enhance their own health and wellbeing.
Remember, it’s not selfish to look after yourself – it’s really important. So take the time to build self-care into your life and move your own health and wellbeing up the priority list.
For more advice on what might help you on your self-care journey, read Sane by Emma Young.