When asked, “What do you really do to take care of yourself?”; many of us struggle to answer this. Instead we are guilty of persisting through a day of work, completing errand after errand, attending to others over ourselves until it gets to the end of the day, leaving ourselves feeling exhausted, drained and depleted.
Hence, it’s Time to Prioritise Ourselves and Our Mental Health.
Our mental health impacts how we think, feel and behave daily as well as influencing our relationships, choices, actions and our ability to cope with challenges. Thus, its vital we prioritise our mental health in our life. This can be achieved through self-care which is critical to living a balanced life. Self-care encompasses any activities we engage in to improve our physical, emotional and mental health. However, its regularly overlooked and given little importance.
Self-care is not selfish. It’s all about understanding your needs and addressing them. Once you have taken care of yourself, you will be able to take care of others. This means if you do not take enough time for self-care for yourself, you won’t be able to adequately give back to others. Additionally, there are more consequences of not practicing self-care.
Consequences of NOT Engaging in Self-Care:
- Poor mood
- Low energy levels, feeling burnout
- Reduced patience
- Increased headaches, stomach aches and other physical symptoms
- Decreased motivation to work and socialise
- Reduced performance at work
- Difficulty sleeping and concentrating
- Reduced mental health, increased anxiety and depression
Have a think about if you have noticed any of these signs or symptoms in yourself recently?
If so, a behaviour change needs to occur where habits need to be changed to integrate self-care activities into your daily routine. Find a time that works for you whether that is early in the morning, during your lunch break or at night. The key is to try and see what works with your schedule and to find something that gives you the best results.
Self-care varies between individuals, however, here is a general guide to self-care:
- Allocate time to spend with family, friends and loved ones
- Engage in at least one relaxing activity each day e.g. reading, walking, yoga
- Engage in at least one enjoyable activity each day e.g. socialising with friends, watching a movie, cooking a new dish
- Develop a ‘no’ list which includes activities that you do not enjoy or don’t want to do anymore e.g. not being on your phone during meals, not checking emails at night
- Follow a healthy, nutritious diet
- Try to exercise regularly – Exercise improves both physical, mental and emotional health as it raises serotonin levels resulting in improved energy levels and mood. It’s important to find a type of exercise that you enjoy and will continue to engage in for a long period of time. Some individuals may prefer team sports or exercising with a group while others may prefer to run or swim alone. Additionally, the setting also influences your motivation to exercise where beach swims may suit some while others enjoy mountain hikes or team sports.
- Practice relaxation strategies or meditation exercises regularly
- Keep up to date with medical check-ups or doctor visits and do not put these off
Over time, you will develop a routine that is personalised to your needs, preferences and likes. It will be suited to your daily tasks and schedule and will be easier to implement and follow. However, remember self-care is not activities that just occur, they are activities that need to be actively planned and scheduled into your daily routine. They need to be an active decision where you need to be consciously aware of engaging with them. Self-care activities include, reading a book, engaging in meditation, listening to music, taking a walk, writing in a journal and so on. These activities take practice.
Once you have begun integrating self-care routines into your day, pay attention to how you are feeling both mentally, emotionally and physically. Benefits of self-care include improved mood, patience and sleep, reduced anxiety, stress and depression and its key to positive and healthy relationships with others and yourself.
Therefore, it’s time to prioritise yourself.