Self care has become popular of late. Sometimes these kinds of things can be a fad that every influencer and celeb gets behind, but this bandwagon is more and more being supported by medical professionals too.
There truly is a benefit in making sure that you are feeling good in mind, body and soul.
Breaking bad habits is hard though, especially if you are trying to fit new behaviors into an already busy and stressful life. Celebrities and influencers with the money and teams behind them might be able to practice all the mantras of self care easily enough.
Having tried to make changes in my life and failing to keep them going for more than a couple of days, I know how hard it can be when you have a day job, family, a debilitating illness and financial worries to juggle amongst everything else.
So, how do you look after yourself and practice self care in a busy world?
Self care in a busy world – How to look after yourself
Most of us are pulled from pillar to post from the moment we wake up to when our head finally hits the pillow at night. Some of it we do to ourselves, by planning activities into every free minute of the day.
How often do you plan a ‘do nothing’ weekend at home?!
To be part of society you need to keep pace with what is going on though. It is so easy to get sucked into what is around us. Our insatiable desire to be on top of all media and news is draining, let along often depressing.
This all negatively impacts our lives and does not give us a moment to stop, listen to our inner selves and take the time to decide what it is we actually, really need.
What is self care?
Self care thinks of all the needs of an individual – the physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual. When these are all working optimally we feel at our best. A busy life, however, can get in the way of being able to nurture ourselves the way we should.
‘… what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.’The World Health Organization
If you already suffer from an illness or disability that takes a toll on your life, this can be even more challenging.
Self care as part of a wider treatment plan
January 2018 will forever be etched in my mind. I had been suffering from unusual symptoms, such as dropping pens, not being able to hold things in my hands, twitches and lethargy and could not explain what was happening.
The diagnosis of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as motor neurone disease, came as an incredible shock, which rocked me to my core. After days of wandering around in a state of confusion and fear, I managed to claw myself back into this world with the help of my family and friends.
Since then self care has become an instrumental part of my life, and has helped me survive each new day with optimism.
If you too have received a terrible blow and don’t know how to take the next step, my article on how to get organized after a major diagnosis may be of help.
The 5 types of self care
Many people think that eating 3 meals a day and getting enough sleep is all that is needed to keep the body and mind happy. Unfortunately, research has shown that that is not sufficient.
There are five elements we should be nurturing and these are as follows:
Physical self care
These ideas for self care include general hygiene and self-maintenance, such as brushing your teeth, taking a shower or getting enough sleep, as well as lifestyle choices, like eating a balanced diet and having enough exercise and time outdoors.
Emotional self care
There will always be times when we feel angry, sad, anxious or distressed. Developing strategies to handle such difficult emotions is critical to avoiding being pulled down into a negative state of being.
Knowing how to react to situations that make you feel bad helps you take perspective and address the problem coherently or know when to push the problem aside.
Having inner self-confidence is key to being able to take control of these negative emotions and remaining positive in the face of adversity.
Social self care
Humans are very social and take comfort and feel energized through contact with others. Many people would actually suffer if they could no longer interact with others – it is such a vital aspect of being human.
Times are definitely feeling a little bizarre at the moment. Lockdown, as a result of coronavirus, has made us take on a lifestyle few of us would choose otherwise.
Technology has been invaluable in terms of providing a lifeline to the outside world. Zoom, Houseparty and other modes of video call let us still stay in touch with our loved ones when we can’t actually be with them. You can see my article on all the fun indoor activities when you are self isolating.
Spiritual self care
Religions have been around for centuries and this need to believe in a higher authority is at the core of many people. Whether you are Christian, a Buddhist, Humanist or believe in something else is irrelevant. The point is that if you feel fulfilled through nurturing your spirit, finding a deeper sense of meaning or connection with the universe then you should spend time focussing on it.
Mental self care
Activities that stimulate your mind are just as important as your jog around the park. It is exercise for the brain and gives you self-worth. The symptoms of many mental health problems can also be helped through self care ideas. The charity MIND are strong supporters of mental self care and you can read more up on it here.
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Ideas for self care
The key to incorporating behaviors that elicit positive outcomes are to keep it simple, try to make them fun and don’t take on too much at once. Slowly introduce one change a day. Keep it going for the week and you are on the winning side of the fence. In the next week, add in something else, and continue like that.
With so little extra time in our busy lives for something new, try to make changes that don’t bring a major overhaul to your life. Here are some of our suggestion:
Physical self care ideas
- Are you sure you are getting enough sleep? Are you getting good quality sleep? Try reading a book for 30 minutes before bedtime, instead of watching a screen. Better still, carry out a meditation or relaxation regime. It doesn’t have to take long, 10 minutes is enough to calm the mind.
- Pick a spot near your work and designate that as your lunch spot. This means you have to take a brief walk every day, as well as forcing you away from your desk so you are not eating lunch while you are scrolling through emails.
- Make sure you eat two portions of fruit with breakfast. That gives you a fighting chance to have included the minimum five suggested portions of fruit or vegetables a day by bedtime. I love a few berries thrown into my muesli (or on pancakes, when I’m feeling like a treat!). Bananas are great to grab for on the go for when you are in a rush.
Emotional self care ideas
- Don’t check your email or social channels for one hour after waking. If you can put further restrictions in place, even better. Maybe have a day a week without any social media at all.
- Stick a post-it on your fridge with ‘You are fantastic’ written on it. It is a little cheesy, but I bet it makes you smile every time you read it.
- Say ‘no’ once in a while. Don’t overload yourself with too many commitments. You will just feel guilty if you pull out at the last minute and drained if you still attend. Remember, you can help influence how busy your life becomes.
Social self care ideas
- Brunch with friends. This will feel like a luxury, as well as give you quality time catching up on how everyone is doing.
- Family is easily taken for granted. Plan a weekly call to your parents / sister / brother / important other to make sure it is not forgotten.
- Connect with your neighbors. Make the relationship stronger than just a quick hello on the doorstep. Have them over for a drink or offer to help with shopping or the like, depending on their condition and requirements.
Spiritual self care ideas
- Plan in 10 minutes to practice meditation or pray every day.
- Take a trip to a place of significance, such as a church, or quiet spot outdoors, to let you appreciate the bigger picture and our purpose on earth.
Mental self care ideas
There are two aspects to mental self care.
If you suffer from poor mental health, the charity MIND suggests that being aware of how your illness is impacting on you helps you manage it.
Keep a diary of how you are feeling. Speak to others and let them know what you are dealing with so they, with you, can also be on the lookout for early warning signs.
Mental self care is also about challenging and engaging the mind and finding time to focus purely on yourself. Take time to relax for a few minutes every day.
See here for some tips as to how.
Great ideas for challenging the brain are
- Doing crossword puzzles
- Race a friend at sudoku
- Read the latest best-seller
- Go to a museum (virtually for now, until lockdown restrictions have been eased)
- Complete a 100 piece puzzle
Top tips for making self care changes stick
- Keep it simple.
- Try to make it fun.
- Don’t take on too much at once.
- If at any point you realize you have stopped doing one of your new self care regime activities, don’t beat yourself up; this is not a guilt-game.
- Have a good think about whether you can bring about the same positive response in another way. If you really don’t want to do it, don’t force yourself.
- Don’t start a new change until the previous one has stuck.
Everyone is different and the disability or illness you are suffering from may be very unique and require specific support. Some of this can be quite expensive. None of us expect to have such terrible news thrown at us and few are financially (let alone emotionally) prepared to deal with it.
I have written an article on how to set up a successful GoFundMe page here. Please have a read to see whether it is something that might be of use to you too.
I’m always interested to hear from people who I might be able to help. Having gone through such a distressing time myself I know that any help is welcomed.
Feel free to drop me an email and get in touch – for advice on devising a self care plan, more about ALS, about the GoFundMe campaign or even just to say hi. Here are my contact details and I look forward to hearing from you.
How are you practicing self care in this crazy world? Tell me in the comments below!