Self-Care is essential to mental well-being. If you are not used to practicing self-care it can take some time to get used to it, but, regular, consistent self-care will have a cumulative effect helping you to feel stronger, more resilient and better able to cope with the stresses of life.
Benefits of Practicing Self-Care
- Improved Mental Well-Being
- Higher Self-Esteem and Self-Worth
- Feeling Calmer and More Relaxed
- More Resilient
- Feeling Happier
- Less Anger and Resentment
Barriers to Self-Care and How To Overcome Them
Barrier: Thinking self-care is selfish or that you don’t deserve it.
Solution: Understand that self-care is not selfish but essential. It is about doing things that will improve your own feelings of wellness and happiness so that have the resources to care for both yourself and loved ones.
Just as a flight attendant tells you to put your own oxygen mask on first if necessary during a flight, so that you stay conscious and able to support your child, looking after yourself means you are less likely to burn out and be unable to help and care for loved ones.
Barrier: You are too busy and don’t have time for self-care.
Solution: Make sure to give self-care priority over other things, this sometimes means saying no to the requests and demands of other people. The busier and more stressed you feel the more important self-care is as it will restore you to help you manage the demands and challenges of your life.
Don’t add self-care as another item on your to-do list, this will just bring more pressure to your life. Instead use some of the simple self-care practices described here that can easily be incorporated in to your daily life, that will have a positive impact on your well-being when done regularly.
Barrier: Low Mood – When your mood is low it can be hard to find the motivation for self-care.
Solution: Focus on the small simple self-care practices you can do without too much effort. This will be achievable, so you won’t feel a failure and you will start to feel better one step at a time.
Barrier: Financial Situation. – We often associate self-care with weekends away, having a massage or a beauty treatment or going to a spa, which can be expensive as well as time-consuming.
Solution: While all of these things are lovely if you can afford them, and they will probably help you to relax and rejuvenate, there are also many free and easy ways to practice self-care which are described below.
If pampering yourself makes you feel good, you could get yourself a face mask and have a relaxing soak in the bath with essential oils and Epsom salts to relax a weary body and mind.
There are, in fact, many simple and free ways you can build self-care into your daily which will help improve and maintain your mental well-being so you can get the most out of your life.
You Cannot Pour From An Empty Cup. Take Care Of Yourself First
1. Be Kind To Yourself
If you haven’t been taking care of yourself, don’t give yourself a hard time. Start from where you are now, tell yourself you are worth it and that self-care will help you to feel mentally well and strong which is in the best interests of everyone in your life.
You wouldn’t berate a friend who is giving too much of him/herself to others and not looking after themselves. You would encourage, support and help them to see that they deserve to take care of their own needs, apply this same care and consideration to yourself.
Take Care of Yourself, You Deserve It!
2. Breathe Deeply
A good place to start with self-care is your breathing, this is the simplest tool you always have access to to help yourself feel better.
When we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow, where we tend to just breath in and out from the chest instead of the abdomen. This type of breathing creates more tension in our bodies, making us feel even worse.
You can really help yourself to feel better by becoming more aware of your breathing. Consciously breathe deeply in and out, this will help your body to relax and promote the flow of oxygen to all of your organs including your brain which will help to clear your mind and lift your mood.
3. Stay Hydrated
You probably know how important it is for your physical health to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Drinking adequate amounts of water is also beneficial to your mental well-being.
Our bodies are made up of over 70% water, so if you are dehydrated if will affect all parts of your body including your brain. Studies have shown that increasing water intake can help to improve mood, increase alertness and reduce fatigue.
It is recommended that you drink around 2 litres of water daily, more if you exercise or it is very warm. Carry a water bottle with you and sip from it throughout the day, to help keep your body including your brain hydrated and in optimum condition.
Look After Yourself, You Deserve It
4. Move Your Body
While it is important to rest, if you are feeling exhausted, it is equally important to move regularly if you are feeling lethargic and unmotivated. You will almost always feel better after some exercise, even more so if it is done outside.
Set yourself small goals, walking for as little as ten minutes will improve your mood and energy levels. When you are walking concentrate on noticing the small things in your surroundings, to give your mind a rest from thinking.
If you can’t bring yourself to leave the house, then start by doing some stretching exercises at home.
Stretch: While still in bed, extend your arms overhead and stretch your legs and toes as far as you can.
Breathe: Sit on the edge of your bed or stand and take five deep breaths deeply into your abdomen and blow out slowly.
Drink: Drink a glass of warm water with lemon juice.
Eat: Eat a healthy nourishing breakfast.
5. Connect With Others
When we have good quality and meaningful relationships in our lives, we have people to enjoy and share the good times with and to help and support us when times are not so good. Recent studies have shown that loneliness has a negative impact on both our mental and physical health.
Reach out regularly to people you feel good around, arrange to meet friends for a walk or a coffee, visit family and friends and when you are out and about smile at people you meet, adopt a friendly attitude towards others and when you need help ask those you know will be happy to give it.
6. Go Outside
We all know, that weather affects our mood, most people feel happier and more positive on bright sunny days. Scientific evidence shows that sunshine and Vitamin D which is made by sunlight on your skin help to improve and regulate mood and stave off feelings of depression.
It is important to boost to try to get some natural light everyday. You can do this by going for a walk, even a short one, doing an outdoor activity such as gardening or just simply sitting outside with a book, magazine or a cup of coffee. Even when it is cold or wet, as long as you wrap up appropriately, you will still almost always feel better after going outside for a while.
Visiting a body of water; a river, the sea or a lake, or visiting a forest or a park will nearly always lift your spirits, do this if you can or make a plan to when you have time.
7. Do Something Fun
Build some fun into your life everyday as part of your self-care routine. This will help to relieve stress, improve productivity and keep you feeling young and energised. There are lots of easy accessible fun things you can do as part of your self-care.
Some ideas include:
Spending time with a friend who makes you laugh.
Playing indoor or outdoor games with your family..
Watch a funny video, film or TV Show.
Go for a dip in the sea if you live near it. (This is my favourite one to do)
Draw, colour, knit, paint, create in some way. By doing something creative and engaging, you will put yourself in a state of flow where you become completely absorbed with what you are doing and forget about your problems for a little while, this will give your mind a great rest.
8. Plan Ahead
Often we have good intentions to look after ourselves and do things that help us to feel better, but then we get busy, routines take over and we forget.
This is why planning ahead is so important.
Before you go to sleep at night, remind yourself that you are going to stretch, take deep breaths and drink water in the morning to get your day off to a good start.
Make an arrangement with a friend to walk, run, meet for coffee a few times a week. If you are committed to another person you are more likely to stick to it.
Try to set routines and patterns of self-care into your life so that they will become easier and more natural.
Write some self-care activities on your calendar for a few days throughout the week. E.g if you are doing shopping, make sure you have enough time to sit and relax with a coffee when you are finished.
Set Small Goals.
Start slowly and set small self care goals for yourself to practice as part of your daily routine. In this way you are more likely to remember and stick to your self-care routines which will have a cumulative positive effect on your mental well-being and when you are feeling stuck or don’t feel like doing things you know are good for you and will help you to feel better, remember;
Sometimes Action comes before motivation