It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day of life that we forget to prioritise self-care.
One of the main reasons self-care is so critical is because when we look after ourselves, we are far better equipped to cope when life doesn’t go quite as we expect it to. From little things, like getting cut off in traffic, through to the bigger things, such as having to take on extra responsibilities and duties at work when someone resigns unexpectedly.
We live in a world with the underlying belief that we must always be busy. It is seen as a badge of honour. A marker of self-worth. A sign of achievement.
However, being busy is usually a sign of overwhelm or over-scheduling. Which can negatively affect your health, your relationships and your life.
Practicing self-care is an antidote to busy.
Self-care essential for our physical health, mental health and emotional wellbeing, and is clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression. It allows us to reconnect with ourselves, which makes us more effective as it gives us improved concentration, happiness and energy, and reduces negative emotions such as frustration and anger.
Demonstrating that we are important enough to practice self-care also sets an excellent example for our employees, colleagues, kids, and others who look up to us.
Here’s how you can build self-care into your daily life
Get rid of the guilt!
Guilt is designed to make us feel bad when we do things we enjoy, whether it’s eating that third chocolate biscuit or binge-watching another series on Netflix. We need time to do what we love without any overriding feeling of guilt. Guilt is attached to other people’s judgement, which means we so often tell ourselves that their opinion of us is more worthy than our view of ourselves. Don’t do that.
Be aware of your health
If it’s been a while since you last had a health check with a doctor, perhaps it’s time to book one in. And if you notice any of your body bits have changed, get them looked at. A few years ago, I discovered a dodgy spot on my leg, which turned out to be an aggressive melanoma. My surgeon said it would have probably killed me within a year had I not been vigilant and gone immediately to the doctor.
Recognise the symptoms of stress
Stress provides us with plenty of warning signs. These include working long hours consistently, drinking more coffee and/or alcohol than usual, headaches, mood swings, grinding your teeth, and the inability to make even simple decisions. If you notice any of these symptoms for a prolonged period, get to your doctor. And if you are struggling with anxiety and not sure what to do next, please seek professional support.
Eat the right foods
Knowing what to eat and when is more confusing now than ever. We all respond differently to foods. If you’re unsure, work out how your body reacts to various foods, and if necessary, seek the advice of a registered dietician.
If you buy packaged food, pre-prepared or other time- saving meals, learn to read the nutritional label on the packet and if you eat out a lot, don’t be afraid to ask what’s in the meal you’re ordering. One of the reasons restaurant and café food usually tastes so great is because chefs add liberal amounts of butter, salt and sugar to improve the flavour.
If you think you need to improve your nutrition, look at how many serves of fruit and veggies you eat every day, and see how you can add one or two more.
Make time for exercise and movement
Research shows we move ninety per cent less than our ancestors did a hundred years ago. Some of my favourite ways to increase my movement during the day are to walk around while I’m on the phone and to have walking meetings.
Prioritise sleep and rest
If you do nothing else, then look at your sleep patterns. Poor sleep behaviour is often an individual choice. The Sleep Health Foundation estimates that four out of ten Australians don’t get enough sleep (we want to aim for 7-9 hours a night). If you want to get more sleep, consider going to bed earlier, rather than staying up watching Netflix or scrolling through your phone.
Do something every day that brings you joy
Seeking joy should be a guiding principle for us all. Knowing what brings you joy and doing some of these activities every day will recharge your personal batteries and increase your energy. When we do things that we love and that provide a sense of achievement, we automatically feel happier. But perhaps more importantly, when we love and are kind to ourselves, we are more likely to be kind and loving towards others.
What can you do today to build more self-care activities into your daily life?
Written by Mel Kettle.
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