‘Self-care’ is so much more than just another buzzword. It’s something which is increasingly being seen as necessary and important in our ever-busy world which sees so many people on the edge. It’s the antithesis to the busy-all-the-time mind-set which many of us feel we have to subscribe to as it encourages us to stop for a moment and take some time out for ourselves.
It’s a broad term, but self-care pretty much means being as kind to yourself as you would be to others. This can be hard to do, especially for women who feel they have so many demands on their time and have to put so much time into caring for others. But by knowing when your resources are running low and stepping back to replenish them rather than letting them all drain away, it can prevent total burnout. Self-care also advocates employing healthy coping mechanisms rather than unhealthy ones like too much alcohol, emotional eating and drugs as these only momentarily change our emotions. Taking some ‘me-time’ can prove more effective long term for our mental and emotional health and help with feelings of being overwhelmed, run-down and stressed. It can also help reduce our chances of developing stress related health conditions.
It can be hard to make space in your life for self-care, both because of a busy schedule (which is all the more reason to practice it!) and also because self-care can make us think we are being selfish. But when we look after ourselves we are likely to see an improvement across so many parts of our lives both physically and mentally. It can improve our relationships and even our income – so an investment in ourselves is just as important as our investment in others.
As we are all different, the form self-care takes for everyone will be different. When you take it will also be dependent on your circumstances too, but mental health experts suggest twenty minutes a day doing something for ourselves alone is about the amount which will reap rewards.
Here are some suggestions of inexpensive, yet simple self-care ideas which might work for you.
The world can be a serious place as we are increasingly losing the space to laugh and be silly. But getting a good giggle in can seriously benefit our mental and physical health as well as improving our overall quality of life. Getting funny rather than furious with people can also improve our relationships and help us connect with others, so something to consider if you are living with a distant moody teen.
So, make a date for coffee or a phone chat with that friend who always has you howling, pop on a funny film or podcast on your commute or get goofy with the kids at home so you have a laugh and feel lighter and brighter as a result.
Suggesting taking time out to meditate to most busy people will not illicit a very spiritual answer! But it could be exactly what they, and you need. Mediation can be daunting, but it can be done anywhere and for any length of time so is easy to factor into your life while also being brilliant for your mental and physical health. The effects of quietening your mind are seen quickly on stress levels and studies have shown it can be a helpful tool for keeping illness at bay. If you are new to meditation, then attending a yoga class or meditation workshop can help you learn techniques or if that is too time consuming there are apps and websites which can guide you in meditation.
Just twenty minutes in a relaxed position, eyes closed with a commitment to allowing thoughts and feelings which transpire in that time to pass without judgement, can help relaxation. If you find it hard to sit still and remain thought-free then ‘active’ mediation in the form of a movement class which focuses on the breath might be more your thing.
Everyone has a certain song or genre of music which puts them in an upbeat mood and a world of their own. Research shows that listening to music makes already positive emotions stronger and upbeat music has a great effect on our mood. Whether you put your favourite playlist on loud or pick up an instrument to jam, music is a quick and easy way to clear our minds and re-energise.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s team sports, walking in nature or martial arts which float your boat, but taking up a new sport or enjoying movement in another can make you switch off from everything except the moment you are in, in itself an ‘active’ meditation, and help you to relax even when you are sweating it out. Also taking physical exercise is something which is easily thrown by the wayside when we are busy or ends up being a chore. Find ‘your’ work out and remember that committing to it is so much more than being healthy (although that is a really good reason too!) as it’s showing your body you care about it and getting a hit of happy endorphins as a thank you for your caring. Making time to do some exercise you love is certainly not selfish!
It’s great to be social and for many of us social media offers us the chance to keep in touch with others who live a long way away quickly and easily. But it can be easy to forget the curators filter – those shiny happy lives are not all that they seem. All that scrolling through statues is both a time suck and bad for our mental health. Try and limit the amount of time you spend on social media and also create periods in your week or even day when you unplug from social media and also emails, internet and even TV. This will help you focus across so many areas of your life even when you are in ‘plugged in’ time, find time you didn’t realise and help nurture your emotional hard drive too.