Self-care is a term that is often bandied about by influencers, celebrities or companies trying to sell you expensive creams and spa treatments, but it really just means looking after yourself.
We are all feeling a little over-whelmed at the moment. When will this end? I even found myself requesting to my weekly face time chat with friends that we NOT talk about covid.
“Ideally self-care is about daily activities that help to look after your mental health and promote a sense of wellbeing within yourself,” says Rupert Saunders, senior clinical adviser for Headspace.
I have been attempting to practice self-care for the past couple of years. Running your own business can at times see you scampering after everyone else and then collapsing on the couch at the end of the week. I’ve been doing things like daily walks with my husband and Gracie, weekly Stretch Therapy classes, weight training, time with friends and eating a well-balanced diet while attempting to limit alcohol to just weekends.
We are great at making sure our car is regularly serviced, filled with fuel and has air in the tyres. But, at times we forget to do those basic needs for ourselves.
Here are a few tips to help you keep on track with your own self care.
Find a routine with boundaries between home and work life
Keeping boundaries between your work or study from your home life can be challenging at the best of times, and it has become even harder for many of us as our homes have become our schools and workplaces.
Having a regular routine that separates work or study from the rest of your life as much as possible is itself a form of self-care. Go for a walk around the block at the start and end of each day to mark going to and from work. And try to either move away from your work or study area, or pack up your work space at the end of your day to reduce the impulse to keep going. This is particularly pertinent for some who have been forced to work from home in recent months.
Make sure you’re eating healthy food
Yes, your meals can count as self-care. Making them healthy and enjoyable where you can is a good, easy way to take care of yourself. Also ensuring you have a wide variety of meal choices can help.
While there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a glass of wine and piece of cake every now and then, try not to let yourself slip into unhealthy eating habits for too long or on a regular basis. Nourishing your body with lean protein and colourful fruit and veg will certainly help with your overall energy and state of mind.
Move your body
“Being physically active can really help with your mental wellbeing”, says Mr Saunders.
“Building in things like a little physical activity … it could be going for a walk around the block … if you’re feeling uncertain about going outside it could be doing an online class,” he says.
Walking and jogging outside have the added benefit of also getting you out in fresh air and sunlight, but if you can’t do that, you can always join in with one of the free Sunday stretch sessions live-streamed on the Pt@home facebook page or one of the recorded workouts.
Just one night of disrupted sleep can cause us understand how much it affects our physical and mental health. But it can be the first thing we trade in when we get busy or stressed. While we are all created differently, it is sensible to aim for seven to nine hours a night.
For some of us, this is about nailing the work/home life boundary. I have recently made a rule to turn my phone onto aeroplane mode after I have finished dinner and not have my phone in the bedroom so I am not tempted to check messages just one more time before turning off the light. Doing exercise during the day, having a regular routine and limiting alcohol can help you get better sleep.
Connect and communicate with other humans
Who doesn’t feel refreshed and energised after spending time with friends and family. Well, if they are awesome people then you will!
“Connecting with people, so making sure you’re reaching out, whether it’s telephone, Facebook … all those fancy ways people are getting in touch with each other is important,” says Mr Saunders.
Many of us have recently become Zoom masters, as well as connecting via Face Time and even kids messenger with the younger ones.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries or tell someone if now is not a good time to talk or if you have a limited time to talk. The “I can’t talk now” feature on my phone is a very useful tool.
Having boundaries around work and home life also means telling friends, family or housemates that when you’re on work time you will not be available to chat about weekend plans or play a game of Scrabble!
Share the load when you can
If you have the opportunity to call on others, self-care can often be sharing responsibilities to prevent you becoming overwhelmed.
Enlist the support of family and friends — this could be emotional support, like providing a listening ear, or practical support like shopping, cooking meals or helping out. A friend was recently hospitalised and I offered to do some cooking for her. Initially she declined then relented saying “I always feel guilty asking for help”. I congratulated her on accepting my offer and explained that it also filled my heart to be able to help.
If you don’t have someone you can turn to, the free support lines at the bottom of this article may be helpful.
Try new things and be open to change
It takes time to work out what works best for you. You’ll also find that what you need to feel good will change as your life changes.
There is no set recipe for self-care; it’s really individual and can take a while to find what works best for you. My newest attempt at self-care is attending Aroma Zen classes every few weeks. I struggle with letting my thoughts go and find the guided meditation is the best way for me to connect. I have tried other methods but they just didn’t feel right. If it doesn’t make you feel good, try something different.
It may be useful to talk with other people to find out what they’re doing for their own self-care … try things out, give them a go … there’s no right or wrong.
If you do try a new hobby or a different way of looking after yourself, remember there is no failure when it comes to self-care.
It is important to remember that self-care isn’t competing with others. It’s about finding what works for you.
The following support services are all free:
- Headspace offers support and information on mental health for young people online and at their centres.
- Everymind is a national institute dedicated to reducing mental ill-health and suicide prevention. They have a section online for self-care tips.
- Beyond Blue offers support over the phone at 1300 22 4636 as well as online.
- Lifeline is known for its crisis support on 13 11 14, but they also offer support through online chat and text.
- ReachOut has free resources for young people, parents and schools online.
- Life in Mind provides research and tips for mental wellbeing.
- QLife provides national peer support for LGBTQI+ on 1800 184 527 and on webchat.
- MyCompass is a self-help tool for your mental health run by the Black Dog Institute.
- Moodgym is a free online tool for dealing with depression and anxiety that is based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
- You can also talk a GP to start a mental health care plan that gives you access to mental health professionals through Medicare.