I know, and you know, that most people do understand what looking after their wellbeing can look like. I’m also aware that most of you do know that it’s not just things that look good on Instagram – face masks, cups of tea on bed of crumpled white cotton while you wear shorts and fluffy socks, solitary mountain walks with photos taken from behind. Now, I’m not knocking any of those things. I love a sheet mask, exist on tea and adore a good mountain walk. But we also know that wellbeing and self-care can look far less glamorous, despite being just as essential. Here's a selection of my Saturday self-care (foam rolling, hence the agonised face, cleaning the bathroom and exercising) and I'm sure we can all agree this is not the usual look that graces Instagram with a hashtag of self-care. (I am definitely going to go and put this on my IG feed when I've finished this. Should be good for a laugh anyway!)
What you may struggle more with is why you find it so difficult to spend time looking after yourself. So the first tip I have for you is:
- Recognise the barriers that prevent you from looking after your wellbeing. What is it that is making it hard to take the time? Note, I said take, not make. The time for yourself is not made, you don’t have to create it. It is there. It is about taking it. Perhaps you need to talk to someone else in your life about taking that time. Perhaps you feel you need permission. If you do, here it is. Tell everyone your coach has prescribed you wellbeing time every day. It’s up to you how long you want that to be.
- Accept that it is not selfish. This can be the biggest barrier for some people. Feeling like taking that time apart is taking time away. But now, more than ever, we need to recognise that taking care of our wellbeing is the only way you can be well enough to take care of other people. Sadly, this lockdown situation may be going on for months yet. We need to take a long-term view of this, which means we need to be kind and gentle on ourselves. (I’m just going to repeat here in case you need to hear it again. IT IS NOT SELFISH!) Work small with this if you need to. Set aside 5 minutes each day where you do something just for you and then increase it. Come on, you can do it. Five minutes to enhance your wellbeing.
- Sleep. If I had to start in one place with wellbeing, I really would recommend sleep. This is where the non-Instagrammable wellbeing comes in. There are numerous things that you can do to enhance your sleep, well before it gets to bedtime. Here are some suggestions:
a) Spend some time decluttering the immediate vicinity of your bed. It’s hard to feel restful if you have stacks of clothes that need putting away, books you’re feeling guilty about not reading or anything else cluttering up. Now, the perfect solution would be to Marie Kondo all of it. But I wouldn’t rule out the ‘shoving it all in a cupboard until you can deal with’ method either. The important thing is to remove it from where it bothers you.
b) Slow down. Relax. Sometimes we struggle to go to sleep because it is the first time we’ve actually stopped all day. Your brain needs time to process things. Setting aside even 5 minutes at another time of day where you can just sit and allow thoughts to come and go will enhance your sleep.
c) Meditate. I know, I’m sorry. You were just thinking, she’s got through a couple of blogs without mentioning Headspace and here I am again. But, I really do recommend it. Headspace have a meditation session for when you are trying to go to sleep, but also a sleep course that you do at another time of day which helps you sleep later. As always, other meditation apps are available!
d) Spend a few minutes before you go to your bedroom just getting all of your thoughts, anxieties, worries, to-dos down on paper. The act of separating out all of that stuff from your brain helps you be able to shut down for the night.
e) Treat yourself to a bath or a sleep-inducing drink. Warm milk and nutmeg is one of my favourites if I am having trouble sleeping. Perhaps not for everyone!
There are plenty of other ways to enhance your wellbeing aside from sleep, such as exercise, gratitude and refusing to engage in activities that wear you down. If you’d like to know more, I’m running a live webinar on Wellbeing on Wednesday 22 April at 11am UK/ 8pm Canberra. You can register here and as always, if you can’t make it, you will get a recording of the webinar. If you have any questions that you’d like me to answer ahead of time, just let me know.