Why self-care is so important
Self-care is essential for the health of our mind, body and soul. But what exactly does self-care mean, and why is it so important?
What exactly is self-care?
Self-care is simply paying attention to taking care of yourself – both physically and mentally. This means focusing on things like:-
Eating the right things
Taking time out
Why does self-care matter?
Most people only start to think about caring for their body, mind and soul when they get sick. Yet it is so important to be mindful about your wellness all the time. Taking better care of yourself on an on-going basis will often prevent you from getting ill in the first place.
If you spend a little time thinking about the cornerstones of self-care (above), you are well on the way to keeping fitter, healthier and more resilient. Without that focus, you risk a deterioration in your physical and mental health which can manifest itself in so many ways, including:
Poor sleep / insomnia
Changes in libido
All of these will impact upon your ability to function effectively which can result in more stress and anxiety from poor performance, and a vicious circle has begun.
Why do we often fail at self-care?
Practicing self-care isn’t easy. Most of us spend a good part of our lives being busy either at home or work – or both. We are often too consumed with our jobs, family, domestic situations or even technology, to make time for ourselves. We live in an incredibly frantic world with almost unlimited access to technology which continues to draw on our time and energy way past the traditional 9-5 limitations.
Me-time is usually last on the agenda. Most of us don’t feel able to take time out until everything else is sorted, and even then we feel guilty about taking that time. Getting started with self-care, therefore, is a bit of a challenge because it requires a complete change of priorities. You need an understanding of how important it is in order to accept that it’s not something to feel guilty about.
How do you engage in self-care?
Once you’ve accepted that it’s essential to put yourself first on a regular basis, where do you start? Fortunately, there are many things you can do to engage in self-care.
Here are 11 simple ways to get started with your self-care.
1. Focus on sleep
Sleep can have a huge effect on how you feel both emotionally and physically. Not getting enough can cause major health issues but it’s a Catch 22 – you need sleep to have enough energy to deal effectively with stressful situations, yet stress itself can wreak havoc on your sleep. You need to break the cycle.
Start by thinking about your nightly routine.
Try to resolve any personal differences every day – whether at work or home. It’s important that you’re not lying in bed imagining scenarios, disagreements and conversations that may or may not even take place. Have the conversations, deal with the issues, and give yourself peace of mind.
Make sure you leave enough time between the end of your working day and bed to unwind properly.
Stay away from caffeine and sugar after 5pm.
Make sure your bedroom is the best possible place for you to get good REM sleep. It should be free of distractions (such as a television, laptop, mobile phone, etc.). And make sure you have room-darkening curtains to keep the sun from waking you up too early in the mornings.
A warm bath infused with lavender oil or mineral salts will help slow your body and mind down.
Read a book in bed rather than watching television or using a mobile phone.
2. Take care of your gut
Believe it or not your gut health can have a significant impact on your health and well-being. The types of foods you eat crucially impact the bacteria that live in your stomach, resulting in a cascade of either positive or negative outcomes. An unhappy gut can lead to an unhappy person, and vice-versa. Consider taking a probiotic every day.
3. Eat the right things
A healthy diet is essential. The food we eat has the potential to either keep us healthy or contribute to weight gain or diseases such as diabetes. It can also keep our minds working and alert. Eating the right foods can help prevent short-term memory loss and inflammation, both of which can have long-term effects on the brain and, in turn, the rest of the body. Some of the most amazing self-care foods include fatty fish, blueberries, nuts, green leafy veggies, and brassicas (like broccoli).
4. Exercise daily
We all know exercise is good for us, but do you really know how good it is? Daily exercise can help you both physically and mentally, boosting your mood and reducing stress and anxiety, as well as helping you shed extra weight.
If it’s difficult to get to the gym regularly, try to incorporate other exercises into your daily schedule – walk or cycle instead of using the car, practice yoga (using a DVD or online resource at home if necessary), take the stairs instead of the lift, extend that daily walk with the dog so it’s just a little further than usual.
5. Learn to say no
Learning to say no is really hard. Many of us feel obligated to say yes when someone asks for our time or energy. However, if you’re already stressed or overworked, saying yes to loved ones or co-workers can lead to burnout, anxiety and irritability. It may take a little practice but once you learn how to say no you'll start to feel more empowered and you’ll have more time for self-care. Set yourself some boundaries and think about how to encourage others to demand less of you.
6. Take regular outside breaks during the day
Spending time outside can help reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and be more mindful. Studies have even shown that getting outside helps reduce fatigue, making it a great way to overcome symptoms of depression or burnout. Getting outside can help you sleep better at night, especially if you do some physical activity like hiking or walking. What’s more, our body creates Vitamin D from sunlight which is essential to good health.
7. Get organised
Getting organized is often the first step to becoming a healthier you. If you can organise your time efficiently you will be less stressed, less busy and more fulfilled. You can also block out time for self-care treats or even extra time for sleep. If you know you’re not naturally organised, ask someone who is to help reassess your routines and space.
8. Cook at home
Many people don’t take the time to make themselves meals, opting instead for convenience or fast food. Processed food is rarely sufficient when it comes to feeding your body the right kinds of calories and nutrients. Even if it’s only once a week, consider making a healthy meal for yourself or your whole family. You might even enjoy taking time to experiment with new recipes and ingredients or researching healthy options.
9. Schedule self-care breaks into your daily routines
It can be really hard to find extra time but it’s extremely important to plan regular self-care time. Moments alone can help you to ponder the best ways to move forward in your life and keep you grounded. And moments with friends can help you feel more connected and relaxed. When you schedule these times, stick to them! Don’t be tempted to cancel or postpone just because something else comes up.
Whether you decide you want to go for a long walk, take a hot bath, or enjoy a good movie with friends, taking self-care time is imperative. Look for small ways you can incorporate breaks into everyday life. For example, set an alarm to wake up 15 minutes earlier to sit with a cuppa and practice deep breathing before the chaos of the day begins, or take a walk around the block on your lunch break. The more you can work self-care time into your schedule, the better you’ll be able to grow, enjoy your life and thrive.
10. Book some pamper time
Find time each month to treat yourself to something you enjoy but rarely find time for – something that gets you away from your routines and focuses on you – Massage, Facial, Indian Head Massage, Reflexology, Yoga Session…. Preferably somewhere you need to switch off your phone and can’t be contacted, and something that tends to your physical and mental wellbeing.
11. Plan occasional self-care breaks
If finances allow then plan the occasional break away from everything – a weekend away, a spa break, a yoga retreat, a visit to friends or family…. And whilst you’re away, don’t let anyone or anything encroach on your peace. Guard it with your life!
So - it's time to start putting yourself first occasionally, ditch the feeling of guilt, and focus on strengthening your mind, body and soul. You will quickly reap the benefits.