10 Ways to Practice Self-Care
One of the things that I usually talk about with clients is self-care. Self-care is looking after yourself mentally, emotionally and physically, especially in times of stress, to maintain your happiness and wellbeing.
If a person does not practice self-care it can lead to them feeling like everything is too much, they may feel overwhelmed and possibly stuck. They may get physically ill, feel tired and drained. These are some signs of what we call burnout. Burnout symptoms are similar to stress symptoms, the difference being that burnout is like stress on steroids – it leads to having a very negative outlook on life, really low self-esteem and emotional exhaustion. Below are some ways in which you can practice self-care.
If you feel that you are suffering from burnout please seek medical advice from your GP.
1. Speaking kindly to yourself
How is your self talk? Are you critical towards yourself? Do you dislike parts of who you are? The good news is that you can change if you want to and it can begin with some kind words towards yourself. Maybe put up some affirmations where you can see them or give yourself one compliment a day. You can listen to what the inner critic is saying but you don’t have to take it on board, try and find a statement to counteract what the inner critic is saying – prove them wrong. Show and tell yourself positive things.
2. Setting boundaries with other people
Are you able to say no to other people? Do you put other adult’s needs before your own? Do you stay in situations that leave you feeling uncomfortable, hurt or angry? Learning to say no to other people can be difficult, to begin with as you may feel guilty or mean but take small steps. By putting your own needs first you will be able to help others more easily as you won’t be worrying about your needs and when you will have time to manage/meet them. I will be making another post in the future about boundaries but until then, remember to be firm and keep in mind why you are setting these boundaries – for self-care and so that you can remain healthy and happy and when you do come to help others you will be operating at nearer to 100% rather than at 50% so you can give others more focus, time and energy (if you want to!)
3. Getting a good night sleep
We all know that getting a good night's sleep is important. The recommended amount of sleep for the average adult is eight hours but everyone is different. Think of your sleeping pattern. Do you have a sleep routine? Do you feel like you could do with an extra hour's sleep? Or even an hour less? If you do not feel that your sleep pattern is healthy, what steps can you take to improve it? If you suffer from insomnia I would suggest speaking to your GP about ways in which they can help you. If you have trouble sleeping you may find it helpful to take a 20-minute nap during the day when you do feel tired. Also, having a bedtime routine can help – switching off electronics (including the T.V.) and dimming the lights an hour or so before bed can help the body know that it is time to sleep and make it a little easier to drift off.
4. Having regular and balanced meals
Another well-known fact is that what we eat can impact how we feel. Do you have meals at regular intervals? Do you skip breakfast? Are your meals well balanced? Are you eating enough fruit and vegetables? It is difficult to switch up what and how we eat, so I would encourage you to, if you can, include more fruit and vegetables into your diet. For example, you could have a piece of fruit with (or for) breakfast, you could opt for a salad with your lunch, snack on grapes or fruit throughout the day and add some tinned vegetables to your dinner in the evening. Cutting back on sugar, caffeine, and alcohol is a good idea; maybe just stick to having those in moderation if possible.
5. Going outside
Nature can be very good for our mental health. Whether you choose to hike up a mountain or go for a short 10-minute stroll you will feel better for having a change of scenery and fresh air. When was the last time you went for a walk for no particular reason? Have you thought about mindfulness? Mindfulness can be very useful when we are out and about as it helps us be in the present moment. It encourages a sense of gratitude for what is around us by allowing us to notice the small things that we hadn’t noticed before. If you find it difficult to leave the house, you could sit by a window and people watch for 10 minutes or if you have a garden you could sit outside for a little while. Whatever feels comfortable for you is okay.
6. Get creative
When was the last time you were creative? How do you creatively express yourself? Creativity doesn’t have to be about drawing or painting a masterpiece, it can be about writing, being inspired by nature, arts and crafts, making music, singing along to your favorite song and much more! Explore your creative side and try to express it a little each day if you can. If you have any ideas write them down, explore them, and draw them out if you can. You could try a new baking recipe or even gardening. If you have a camera on your phone you could go for a walk and take some photographs or even photograph everyday items to help you see them in a new way.
7. Spiritual practice
Are you spiritual or religious? If you are, then practicing this each day can also be an act of self-care as it tends to the well-being of your spiritual side. This could involve praying to your deity or God/Goddess and spending time being with them or worshiping them. If you are not religious or spiritual, you could have a go at meditation which is similar to mindfulness. You can start small with 5 minutes of guided meditation (there are lots of different guided meditation videos on YouTube and an app I use is Insight Timer which is available on both Apple and Android) and then work up to 10 minutes. Meditation is supposed to be done every day to feel the benefit but it is up to you how you would like to do it.
8. Treat yourself
What is your favorite snack? What is your favorite movie of all time? When was the last time you had a relaxing bath with bubbles? Where do you enjoy going but you don’t go often? Buying yourself a box of chocolates that you love or a bunch of your favorite flowers can be quite empowering. Also, going to see a movie you want to see at the cinema by yourself or going to your favorite hangout by yourself can be a way to treat yourself. Think of it this way, imagine your perfect date or day out with your best friend, then do it for yourself, treat yourself as if you were your best friend or your date and enjoy yourself. Be mindful of your finances and do what feels right for you and within the boundaries of what you can afford. Staying home and watching a movie with a cup of tea is just as good as helpful in terms of self-care as going to the cinema on your own. It’s about what makes you feel good and loved.
9. Get to know yourself better
What do you love the most? How do you feel about yourself? Where would you rate your self-love today? What do you enjoy doing? Getting to know ourselves better can be a little daunting, especially if we don’t do a lot of things on our own. You can do this yourself through journaling; there are lots of resources online that can help with this such as a “100 questions about me” free printable that you can find through Google. You can also buy books which help you get to know yourself better with activities inside although these may be a little expensive so again, be mindful of your finances and do what feels comfortable for you. Another way to get to know yourself is through counselling. In counselling, you can explore anything you like in a safe, empathic and non-judgmental environment. You don’t have to bring an issue as such if you wanted to just explore who you are, your past and gain insights on why you do things that are acceptable in most counselling practices.
10. Have fun & laugh
Finally, have fun with this and laugh. What makes you laugh from your belly? What is the most fun thing that you do? Do these things. Laughter is the best medicine and it puts us in such a positive place. Remember that feeling of the last time you laughed? Wasn’t it a great feeling?
Self-care is not meant to be a chore, it is meant to be a way in which we love ourselves and show ourselves that we are worth the time and effort. When we start to treat ourselves with love and respect, this shines outwards and it sets the tone for how other people treat us too, think about it, if you are not going to accept critical talk from yourself you are less likely to accept it from anyone else, right? As mentioned throughout, be mindful of finances as it can be easy to spend a lot of money in the name of self-care and you don’t have to. Love, trust and kindness don’t cost money and that is essentially what you are giving to yourself. So, do what feels good, comfortable and right for you as this is an individual practice. What works for others may not work for you and that is okay, explore and have fun with it where possible.