Words Jeannie Croucher
We live in a world where being constantly busy, with no time to take a break, is perceived as a good thing, a sign of what must surely be a productive and fulfilled life. While being busy bees can make us feel prized and important members of society, it can also trigger mental fatigue and burnout.
It can be difficult to implement change, especially when overworked and stressed, but introducing small positive adjustments to your routine can lead to massive improvements in well-being. It can also lead to noticeably enhanced levels of contentment and a greater sense of purpose in both your personal and professional life. This is where self-care comes in.
So what is self-care all about and how can it be introduced into daily life? The answer is that anything that intentionally leads to enhanced physical, emotional and mental well-being is classified as self-care. Some people are accustomed to caring for others and making them happy, but this is all about you and what you can do for yourself. Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. It’s like putting on your own oxygen mask first in a flight emergency; if you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t be of use to anyone else.
Firstly, it’s important to look after your physical health. This means prioritising sleep, regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Sleep. Getting enough sleep is imperative. The daily recommended guideline is between seven and nine hours a night. Sleep is essential for the body, as it helps to renew and energise it for the challenges of the following day.
Exercise. Taking regular exercise is a great way to induce a feeling of well-being; it also helps to maintain a physically healthy body. The mood-enhancing hormone serotonin is released into the body when exercising, which elevates the spirits naturally. The benefit is even more enhanced if you can exercise outside, for example, by going for a brisk walk or a run, and better still if you can enjoy it in the company of a friend. Remember that to sustain this habit, it should be a type of exercise that you enjoy and that you look forward to doing.
Healthy diet. Many people think of sitting down to eat a hearty dinner as one of life’s great pleasures, but it’s important to remember that a healthier diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body. The best brain foods are the same ones that promote a healthy heart, including grains and nuts, and fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants. These give our bodies the essential vitamins and minerals they need.
Nurturing both mental and emotional well-being are also essential elements in the development of self-care and its practice.
- Just taking time to go into a quiet space and breathe deeply can help with relaxation. Learning to meditate, with or without the help of an app, or even practising mindfulness when out in nature, simply observing noises and appreciating the beauty of the natural world, are wonderfully calming ways to incorporate a relaxing practice into your life. As little as five minutes a day can provide enormous benefits and help build mental resilience, which we all need to face the inevitable stressful challenges that life can bring.
- Human beings are essentially social animals, and the importance of connecting with those around us and feeling like we are part of a community cannot be overstated. Just pick up the phone to call a friend or join a community group – bonus points if it combines with a much-loved pastime or teaches you a new skill.
- Practising gratitude daily only takes a few minutes but it can have a profound impact on your attitude to life. This is where we focus on all the things in our lives that we are thankful for. It’s so easy to get caught up in a web of negativity from various sources, such as the news and social media, but if we stop to consider all the reasons why we are blessed, it lifts our mood and helps us to feel hopeful and optimistic, to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty.
Everybody is different and what works for one person may not appeal to someone else. Personalise your self-care routine and make the best out of life.
This article is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Kay Croucher.