Elaine Bond is a Gedling-based counsellor. This month she talks about why self-care is so important to cope with the pressures of daily life…
In a lot of my articles I have talked about self-care and how important it is if we feel stressed, anxious, lonely or depressed. So, I thought this month I would explain what self-care is and why it works.
We cannot always control what is happening in our lives as we often find work or families add to our stress levels and physical or mental illness affects us. We can then become exhausted with all of this. The only thing we can control is how well we look after ourselves. This is really essential to build up our resilience. When we are tired, run down or not eating well, we find life and all it throws at us even more difficult to deal with.
Self-care is not big expensive treats or holidays, but it starts with some basic actions which can be perceived as boring stuff really.
Get enough sleep – go to bed early if you need to in order to protect the time you need to sleep from other things like just watching one more episode of the box set or staying out for one more hour. Sleep is very important for our emotional and physical well-being. Lack of sleep will impact our ability to deal with stress and for our mind and body to function properly. We often find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep if we are stressed so there are a few sleep hygiene tips we should follow –
- Light exercise like walking or yoga can help us release tension
- Play some relaxing music before going to bed
- Have an hour with no TV or internet before going to sleep
- Take a bath using some muscle relaxing bubble bath
- Write down whatever wakes you up at night – I write my work to do list before I go to bed, so I don’t wake up thinking about what I must do! Writing down feelings also helps to clear your head before relaxing
- If you really can’t sleep think of your time in bed as rest and try some breathing exercises.
Exercise regularly – we all have different levels of fitness, so we need to find something that suits us and which doesn’t feel like a chore. Exercise is a stress release and produces endorphins which are the feel-good hormone and it keeps our bodies fitter and makes us more liable to sleep. It’s also a great distraction from our internal thought processes and helps our brain to relax.
Eating well is key to self-care and having regular nutritious meals is key to our well-being. Take time out for lunch at work and don’t eat at your desk or it will simply feel like you haven’t eaten – causing you to maybe binge. Make meals that are satisfying, not just quick or convenient, and drink the water you need.
Contacting our friends is a great way to look after ourselves. It gives us someone to talk to about our stresses or just the opportunity to have fun. Friend give us a greater insight into our issues, listen and can often help us to find other ways to cope.
Having a hobby or interest keeps us “in the moment”, so they are a great distraction for us. Drawing, art, gardening, singing or even playing with the kids keeps us occupied and, therefore, less likely to think about what is causing us distress.
Keeping our minds occupied by learning something new will also work. This doesn’t have to be a degree or a major course, but can be something like learning a new hobby or reading a book on something you find fascinating. Games like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and trivia challenges challenge our brain and so distract it.
Pampering ourselves by taking care of ourselves on the outside works well. Whether we book a day at a spa or we buy the bubble bath that’s on offer tells our brain we are worth it. We also make our bodies feel better.
Ask for help, from friends, family or professionals as we all know when we need someone to help us but remain too proud, busy or scared to ask for help.
There are things that self-care should not be –
- Just another thing to do on a never ending to do list – it’s a necessity
- Being selfish, it’s about making ourselves a priority and taking care of you
- An emergency response, so we should not leave self-care until we feel like something is wrong, it needs to be our way of being
If this feels too hard or maybe isn’t working for you, please get in touch
07769 152 951