The term self-care has become more prevalent in recent years, but its true meaning may have been diluted in the process. It’s not just about retail therapy or spending your Sunday watching Netflix; while it’s important to ‘treat yourself’, it’s more important to understand why this is needed in the first place. Only then can you practise self-care in a way that is meaningful and transformative to you.
Looking after yourself comes in many different shapes and forms and that’s why it can take a little experimentation to find what works for you. Try to establish what you might be lacking, both mentally and physically. Once you understand this, you will be better placed to practise self-care in a restorative way that benefits your mental health.
To get you started, we’ve listed some suggestions below:
Making sleep a priority
We all sleep, but do we view it as a priority? Not enough emphasis is put on getting a good night’s rest – in fact, being too busy for the desirable 8 hours is often glorified. But sleep plays a crucial part in our emotional and physical health and when we don’t get as much as we need, we put ourselves at a far greater risk of stress, burnout and a growing list of physical health problems too.
Taking better care of yourself starts with a decent routine, that means allowing yourself to unwind from the day and taking time away from your screens before you go to bed. It is also worth making a conscious effort to reduce the number of caffeinated drinks you have, particularly towards the evening.
Most of us like to have a lie-in from time to time – and sometimes that’s just what you need. However, the benefits of getting out into the fresh air can do wonders for your wellbeing so if you can make it outside, we highly recommend doing so. Combine that with a little exercise and you’ll be taking even better care of both your mind and body.
Exercise helps improve your mental, cognitive and emotional state; it reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body and rewards you with positive endorphins. Another benefit of exercise is that you’re more likely to get a good night’s sleep at the end of the day. We’re not suggesting you sign up to run a marathon or climb Mount Everest but taking part in some gentle exercise, in a form that feels comfortable and manageable for you, is only going to be of benefit.
Flexing your creative muscle
Doing something creative is a fantastic way of engaging your brain; much like meditation, an immersive creative task can help you to focus your mind and calm your thoughts. The beauty of this self-care tip is the wealth of choice: you can try your hand at painting, baking, knitting, gardening – the list is endless. Most importantly, you need to find something that works for you.
Learning to say no
Most of us are familiar with the feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out) and recognise the guilt and anxiety of turning down plans. While there’s an underlying pressure to be busy and sociable 24/7, it’s worth remembering that you don’t have anything to prove.
Turning down plans you know you don’t want to take part in can be surprisingly liberating. We’re not advising you throw out your social calendar altogether, but it’s a good idea to connect with your motivations and recognise limitations; if you’re forcing yourself to be sociable when you know it will do more harm than good, it’s probably better to sit that plan out.
If you establish a routine to take better care of yourself, it can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. As with many things, though, this is a process and one that will take time and practice. Be mindful that there may be an adjustment period before you can really feel the benefits. Stick to it and be gentle with yourself.