10 tips for self-care in an uncertain world
Living through difficult times can be exhausting and lonely. Taking time for self-care when there is so much to do may seem indulgent. Avoid that trap. Look after yourself.
Self-care refers to the activities and practices that you regularly choose to do, which enhance your mental health and support wellbeing. Here are ten suggestions to help you improve the way you look after yourself:
1. Connect with other people. Loneliness is debilitating. Take steps to build a network of people who will support you through good times and bad. Talking out issues and discussing solutions keeps things in perspective. Build the habit of having conversations with friends and loved ones every day, be it over the phone or via a video call.
2. Raise your pulse. It doesn't matter what you do, just get moving. The effort will invigorate and enable you to think more clearly. Being active is great for physical health and essential to maintain fitness. Evidence shows it can also improve your mental wellbeing by raising your self-esteem, which can motivate you to set goals then act to achieve them.
3. Learn new skills. Research shows that gaining new skills can improve wellbeing by boosting self-confidence. Learning can also provide a sense of purpose and enable you to connect with others through a shared interest. Many assume that large chunks of time are necessary for new learning. However, short blocks of time can be just as useful - if you focus.
4. Get enough rest. Make your bedroom a comfortable sanctuary where you can relax. Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock so that you don't rely on your phone to wake you. Banish all electronic devices to take away the temptation to read email or surf the net instead of resting.
5. Build mindful minutes into each day. Pressing 'pause' on your day helps to ground you in the present moment. A simple approach is to focus on the senses, which can include taste, hearing, sight, smell and touch. Try breathing in the fragrance of your morning beverage before drinking. Notice the soft feel of water on your skin and smell of the soap. Stretch and scrunch your bare toes into the carpet. Why not go for a 'savouring walk' to combine movement with meditation. Spend 20 minutes walking outside, preferably somewhere green and take time to notice what is around you.
6. Eat well. Stay hydrated. If you find tap water boring, try adding a sprig of mint or a dash of lime or slices of cucumber. The NHS Better Health website has a range of free tools and apps to help stay healthy by eating well.
7. Tame workload. Time is your most precious asset. It cannot be saved, nor recovered once lost. The better you manage your time, the better you will feel with more energy to get things done that are important to you. Start with an audit of what you are doing. Then create three lists for things to Do, Ditch and Delegate to bring it under control.
8. Keep breathing. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply. Enjoy feeling composed through a focus on the breath. Try Box Breathing: breath in for four, hold for four and out for four. Repeat at least three times, then breathe normally.
9. Show gratitude. When you’re washing your hands, use those 20 seconds to think of three things that you are grateful for. Taking this time to reflect on what is good in your life will help you meet guidelines for lowering the risk of viral infection and reinforcing a positive mindset.
10. Choose how you respond. You can't control others behaviour and emotions, but you can choose how you react. Pause and breathe into the moment before deciding your response. Reflect on the difference a measured approach has on your wellbeing and ability to not only cope but to thrive.