Why self-care is so important.
Self-care is often linked to the analogy to ‘put an oxygen mask on yourself before you help others if there is an incident of low cabin pressure while on an airplane’. The reason to do this is because if you try to help someone else get their mask on before you put yours on, there is a possibility that you could both pass out from lack of oxygen. If, however, you first put your mask on yourself, you are then able to focus on helping others better.
Many of us, especially those with a natural caring instinct, often put others before our own personal needs, whether you’re looking after a relative, a close friend, or helping a stranger, it really is so important to take the time to care for yourself.
So, let’s clear up one common misconception up: Self-care is not equal to self-indulgence or being selfish. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day.
Self-care is simply taking steps to tend to your physical and emotional health needs to the best of your ability.
So, how could you take better care of yourself?
We have researched some of the best ways to do this, so why not just stop and think, are you really taking care of yourself? If not, then consider these 10 ways to practices selfcare:
1. You are what you eat!
Try to steer clear of processed foods or those with high sugar content; stay away from eating too much ‘beige’ food and try to put a little bit of colour in your life, eat a rainbow! Nutritional science has advanced so much and there are so many fad diets around now, so it can be confusing to know what is best to eat but quite simply, moderation, balance and variety is key. Most healthy conscious folk will really focus on eating well during the week and perhaps treat themselves to a take-out and maybe a few drinks over the weekend. The best way to make sure that you are eating healthily is to plan your weekly meals before you shop, so that you know what you are going to eat in advance. This will help you to not get to the stage where you are really hungry (or even ‘Hungry + Angry = Hangry, the worst kind of starving feeling), where you may relent and snack or eat something bad. When you do shop, just don’t buy junk or unhealthy snacks, if it isn’t in your house, then you won’t have the temptation!
It’s a well-known fact that getting up and moving or exercising starts endorphins flowing round your body, by stimulating these ‘happy’ hormones not only is this good for you physically, but it is also essential for your mental health and well-being. So, stand up more often, sit down less, try to get in your daily 10,000 steps or even take up a new activity or sport. This can often be a great way of connecting with others socially too.
3. Be grateful
Sometimes it is easy to focus on what you don’t have, sometimes more positivity flows if you focus on what you do have, whether its family who love you, food on your plate, a warm bed to sleep in, sometimes a change of mindset is all that is needed to change the outcome of your day.
4. Make sure your home is your happy place
Our home is our sanctuary and it important that we keep it uncluttered, clean and organised. The feeling of returning back to a welcome home is so essential to our positive mindset, so make sure that to give yourself time to nurture and maintain your personal space.
5. Don’t rely on others for your happiness
“To be at peace with oneself is to love oneself” – Enjoy your own company, do what you want to do and what makes you happy, you do not have to please others to be whole. Know that you are as good as the next person, just another human being living out their short life in this tiny pinpoint of time on our magnificent but tiny planet in within vast universe. Life would be so boring if we truly understood the true meaning of life and why we are all here, but the best thing we can do is accept life as a gift, strive and plan for happiness in our own way, whether that be organising our next holiday, learning a new skill, eating a delicious meal, walking up a beautiful mountain or simply reading a book next to a warm fire. Sometimes it’s just the little things that can make oneself happy.
6. Don’t Isolate
It may sound quite contradictory to the above point, but as mentioned in point number one, variety is often the spice of life and just as it is important not to rely on others for happiness it is also very important to reach out, keep in touch with family, friends or even colleagues. Loneliness is a killer and can really impact on your mental health; unfortunately, so many experience it. But there are ways to deal with loneliness, you just have to make the first step to changing your situation. Please visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk and read their fantastic tips on 15 things to do if you are feeling lonely.
Make sure that you try surround yourself with good people and those that are not just out for themselves. They do exist!
7. Start living, stop existing!
Life is a precious gift. So why waste it when we have the choice to have a more meaningful existence? Yes, you may have responsibilities such as paying bills, making sure your kids or parents are ok but it’s important to remember that taking care of yourself is also your responsibility. Little things like enjoying a bubble bath, or reading a book are essential for your daily happiness. While things like taking up a new hobby or learning a new language can make your life more purposeful by giving you a new reason to get up in the morning. You can do or achieve anything if you put your mind to it.
8. Get back into nature
The Japanese practice of ‘shinrin-yoku’, or Forest Bathing, is excellent for both physical and mental wellbeing. It is scientifically proven to reduce stress hormone production, improve feelings of happiness and free up creativity, as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system and accelerate recovery from illness. The results of forest bathing are so popular that the Japanese government has made it part of their national health programme and it has since gained popularity in the UK. So why not go for a walk in the woods, appreciate the beauty of the sunrays beaming through the branches and give a tree a big hug!
9. Read, or listen to a book.
Books and Audiobooks are immersive, educational, instructional, entertaining and they’re perfect for the time rich and the time poor. whichever medium you chose to absorb a story, books are pure joy and escapism, reducing stress, preventing cognitive decline, can help you sleep and reportedly helps with depression.
Audiobooks are great if you are busy as you can listen while you are doing some activities such as ironing, washing, cooking, going to sleep or even walking. Books can also change the way you listen, read and learn and generally improving the literacy.
10. Laughter is the best medicine
There’s a reason people say laughter is “the best medicine.” Chuckling and giggling benefit our mental and physical health.
Giving into a case of the giggles can improve our overall quality of life, while getting goofy with other people can help us connect with the people we laugh with and foster our relationships. So why not get a friend over and watch a funny movie or a comedy on television — those reruns of “only fools and horses” or movies like “Dumber and Dumber” maybe good for your heart.
Self-care doesn’t have to be a grand activity though, it can be a tiny change that helps. Regardless of what works for you, it’s just about taking the time out of your daily routine to do something that’s just for you and no one else. If you take even one thing away from this blog, please let it be that you take a few moments for yourself each day. It’s the first step in practicing better self-care.
As the great American Poet and Civil Rights activist Maya Angelou once said:
"As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others."
Even though self-care is important, there is no replacement for genuine support and advice your GP or local health practice can provide. If you think you might live with depression, anxiety or any other mental health illness, please visit the link below and get in touch with someone who can support you.