Self-care feels like it can sometimes be a little bit of a contentious topic doesn’t it? For so long its been lumped in with scented candles, bubble bath, snuggly PJs and a rom-com. What’s so important to remember though, is that whilst it doesn’t have to look like that, it’s also totally ok if it does. In the same way that we’re all different, so too will be our needs and actions in the way we look after ourselves when we need to take a break.
For me self-care can look like anything from staying in bed when I’m in full on Ulcerative Colitis flare, to trying to maintain a regular exercise routine despite my broken body often protesting because I KNOW how important it is for me to try and counter the difficulties of life with a chronic illness. I also love writing as a way to relax and unwind. Here are some more ideas that I’m sure you probably already know about but have been proven time and again to really work.
Taking a Daily Walk
Trying to get a little bit of fresh air every day is almost an essential part of my routine, especially with both of us working full-time from home. We don’t have the same walking options here in London than if we lived in the countryside, but having a dog helps hugely to get up and out even in the worst weathers.
I’m the first person to protest the loudest against the cold and definitely prefer summer days but the beauty of getting out regularly is to see how the seasons change and be able to appreciate it, even just a 20-minute walk around the block is better than nothing.
For me, trying to get a walk in before work, or early on the weekends is definitely the key otherwise it can quickly become an afterthought but if you try to turn it into a habit you’ll quickly realise how important it becomes.
Prioritising Rest and Sleep
The last few years, if not decades, have felt so full of “LOOK HOW BUSY I AM”. People working long hours, having multiple engagements at the weekends, being told we can have it all and that if you’re running at anything less than a million miles an hour you must be lazy.
But sleep is so important to allow the body to rest and heal and if we don’t look after ourselves we can’t do all these million and one other things. According to WebMD, adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night in order to function correctly throughout the day. Whilst that shouldn’t be taken as a “one size fits all approach” (Pete and don’t sleep as much as 7 hours, nor could we), we DO need more focus in society on appreciating just how important it is to down tools and say “I’m prioritising rest” and not feeling ashamed
Feeling Good About Your Appearance
What we wear and how we look, rightly or wrongly, really does have a huge impact on how we feel. It’s no secret that I spent a long time in my late teens and early 20s feeling very unhappy with my appearance and it was only once I decided to change that I fully became who I am today. For me it wasn’t skin-deep approach but rather regular exercise and eating better, but it’s different for everyone.
A skincare regime for example is hugely important to so many people, taking that time for you at the start or end of the day and looking after yourself. It’s something I’d like to do better with as is hair care. I haven’t been to the hairdressers since February 2020 (!) and especially with on and off lockdowns over the past few months know that many people turned to DIY jobs in order to keep their locks in good nick. All you need is a good pair of scissors like these Jaguar hairdressing scissors and it’s apparently meant to be quite straightforward. I’m not sure I’m brave enough though…!
This isn’t something personally that I do in perhaps the way we’re led to believe it’s meant to work. I find it hard to sit for a certain amount of time and focus on nothing but my thoughts or breathing, even though I know that people who do achieve this swear by it and it’s often considered a fundamental part of all sorts of “miracle morning” routines.
What does work is taking time either when I’m walking Maddie or going for a run to be alone with my thoughts then and I never feel the need to listen to music or a podcast. I focus on the sounds of nature, the sounds of the city and have a good old think about things.
This one comes back to resting too – especially on Instagram we’re presented with people who are constantly on the go and never stopping to take down time. It may seem inspiring but be wary as people who are constantly busy are always running from something and that busy-ness is a way of distracting them from something that’s not going so well in their lives, be it financial worries, relationship or health.
Eating Nutritious Food
Well, you probably know that this is a big one for me as someone who has a gut-related chronic illness. It’s one of the most over-used phrases I’m sure of it, but we genuinely are what we eat and I have learned SO much over the past couple of years and been so ashamed of the neglect I’ve shown my body.
The biggest focus for me has been trying to make sure I cook at home instead of eating out or just grabbing something to shove in the oven. Again, with our enforced way of life over the past 18 months we’ve had a lot more time to eat in, and it’s not saying that treat/takeaway/easy dinners aren’t needed, but oh my, I find pretty much anything I cook is much more tasty than any kind of convenience dinner and I know what’s in it too.
Finding Your Way To Mindfulness
Similarly to meditation, mindfulness is definitely a practice that you may find people raising their eyes at, and I’ve certainly been a cynic in my time. Having found my own path to mindfulness though, I truly think that there’s something out there for everyone. The aim is to find an activity that you can focus on which distracts you from the every-day “busyness” of life.
For some people, this might be running. For others, knitting. I love a detailed/slow DIY activity to get involved in and a few years ago when faced with a health problem, a nutritionist I saw suggested colouring. I didn’t think for one second it would be for me, but as soon as I started picking up the pens within 5 minutes all I was thinking about was what colour to select next and anything causing me stress had vanished from my thoughts.
Drinking Enough Water Every Day
This is definitely a huge weakness of mine and I know it has a massive impact on my health. If you wonder how much water you should drink, according to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men should drink about 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) of fluids every day, while this number for women is about 11.5 cups (2.7 litres).
Side effects from not drinking enough include brain fog, tiredness, bloating and other health complications. It can affect how you sleep in turning causing irritability. And yet I still don’t drink anywhere near enough! Tips please.
Spending Time With Friends and Family
I don’t think we’ll ever take our loved ones for granted again after the last 18 months. It can be all too easy to fall into a pattern of getting used to not seeing people and of course, we’ve all done what we can to make the best of a really difficult situation and keep front line workers safe.
It’s proven though that having people we care about in our lives is good for our health. According to Professor Linda Waite from the University of Chicago, people who have supportive social relationships live longer. Moreover, spending time with your loved ones is essential for your psychological well-being. Doing this is especially important if you suffer from depression or anxiety.
There’s not denying that lives can get very busy, and whilst life has gone back to “normal” for so many it’s also still a stressful time for others. Taking time to look after ourselves in whichever we can has never been more important – please remember that you can’t help anyone else if you don’t first look after yourself.
Post in collaboration.