What is the difference between ‘taking care of yourself’ and “self-care”. It might be nuanced, but being conscious and responsive to that nuance can make all the difference to our physical and mental wellbeing.
Practicing true self-care is not always easy. Given the busy and often stressful lives we lead these days – with our packed schedules and seemingly endless commitments and responsibilities – making time to focus solely on yourself quickly slips down the pecking order of priorities. In fact most of us end up feel guilty for taking time out or indulging in a bit of ‘me time’.
However, if we don’t take the time to nurture both our physical and mental wellbeing, then our overall sense of well-being will diminish and so to will our ability to cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs.
So here’s a few practical points for self care, each of which help increase our physical and mental well-being.
Some of these may feel pretty obvious however, even though most of us know what’s good for us in theory that doesn’t mean we are actually giving them the time and care they need. Especially during times of high stress, which ironically is when we should be paying the most attention to them.
So take the time to check in, honestly reflect on how much attention and care you place on some of these key components to maintaining physical and mental well-being.
1: Get enough sleep. most adults need between 7 and 9 hrs sleep a night. For each hour under this your cognitive and physical abilities diminish rapidly. If you do nothing else for yourself make sure you get enough sleep!
2: Get into nature: both green and blue space are proven to have a noticeable impact on feelings of wellbeing. If you need a mood boost go for a walk by the ocean or get amongst the trees.
3: Breathe. We are our breath. Breath is life. By simply focussing on our breath we can bring about feelings of calm, reduce panic and stress and bring ourselves into a present and mindful state. There are also many forms of conscious breathing techniques that can induce powerful responses in our body by tapping into our parasympathetic nervous system, and turning off our stress response. For more information on some simple breathing techniques click here.
4: Eat well. Make sure you’re taking care of your body through good nutrition. A simple way to do this is minimising processed foods. Cut back on your meat consumption and up your intake of seasonal vegetables. Especially if you’re a big red meat eater. Aim to have at one meat free day a week not only benefits your health but it helps take a little strain off the planet.
5: Meditate: mediation is proven to improve our brain function and reduce stress. Put off because you don’t like the idea of sitting in silence? Use an app, listen to calming music, do a body scan… there are multiple ways to meditate – find what suits you. The benefits can be truly life-changing.
6: Exercise – besides the benefits for our physical health (weight, cardiovascular health, bone density etc) exercise one of the best ways to tackle anxiety and depression by reducing cortisol levels and releasing endorphins into our bloodstream. Endorphins have a molecular structure similar to opioids and so are a natural way to bring about generate feelings of euphoria, general well being and pain reduction.
7: Get in the flow: is there something that you enjoy doing so much you lose track of time? It’s called being in the flow and it’s amazing for your wellbeing. Whether it’s surfing, playing an instrument, or drawing find that thing you really enjoy and make time for it.
Bottom line self-care is critical to our mental and physical wellbeing, but it doesn’t just happen by chance. We need to make time for ourselves.
Remember to put on your own oxygen mask first.
By Heidi Wentworth- Ping