By Kathryn Knights, Management and Leadership Tutor at Professional Academy
During stressful periods we tend to focus outward and self-care can end up taking a back seat. Yet, it’s during stressful times that we need to care for ourselves the most – putting our own self back in the driving seat of life.
Practicing self-care not only helps us feel better it also helps us function better. Our energy levels are boosted, we make better decisions and we are able to give our best to others.
Giving your best can be as simple as just being kind to others. Kindness was the theme of the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which took place in May 2020. Being kind creates real benefits for everyone.
In April 2020, the Mental Health Foundation worked with YouGov to conduct an online survey of 4,246 UK adults aged 18+. They found that 63% of UK adults felt their mental health improved when people were kind to them, and the same proportion agreed that when they were kind to others it had a positive impact on their own mental health.
That’s pretty powerful stuff.
To summarise, by practicing self-care you will be able to give your best and be kind to others. This will not only make you feel good it will make the people on the receiving end of your kindness feel good too.
It all begins with self-care.
Here are some ideas that will help you get started with self-care. And getting started is all you need to do. Rather than attempting all the ideas below, pick one, embrace it fully and start to feel your happiness levels increase.
Caffeine has an average half-life of five to seven hours. This means that if you drink a caffeinated drink at 6pm, 50% of that caffeine will still be active and circulating throughout your brain tissue five to seven hours later. Caffeine also decreases the quality of your deep sleep. So even if you drink caffeine and manage to stay asleep with out any problem, the depth of your deep sleep will not be sufficient. As a result, you are likely to wake up feeling unrefreshed.
Switch out the caffeine for herbal teas such as, chamomile, ginger or peppermint that contain no caffeine at all. They’re a good replacement if you crave a warm drink, particularly in the afternoon or evening.
Blue light from phones and other devices can disrupt the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sending you off to sleep. Some critics dispute this and say evidence shows that the amount of light given off by your screen probably isn’t enough to disrupt sleep. Whether you believe the evidence or not, what is true is that the addictive nature of social media and our need to feel constantly up-to-date means we find it struggle to put our phones down. This can lead to us going to sleep later or struggling to concentrate during the day.
Give your eyes and brain a rest from your screen. Read a book, listen to relaxing music, be in nature, journal, cook – all provide much needed respite from your screen.
Mindfulness meditation can positively impact mental and physical health. It can help to reduce levels of stress, improve sleep and even improve the relationships we have with others.
So, what is mindfulness mediation and how does it work?
According to the Headspace website: ‘we like to think of meditation as exercise for the brain. Through meditation, we can build up areas of our brain and actually rewire it to enhance positive traits like focus and decision making and diminish the less positive ones like fear and stress. Most importantly, this means there is a possibility to change your brain for the better in a way that is long-lasting’.
Try downloading the Headspace or Calm app. They make it easy for beginners by providing short guided meditations and helping you track your progress.
Drinking more water will help you to think, focus and concentrate better. It will also improve the complexion of your skin and aid digestion. Whilst some of those benefits probably won’t come as a surprise to you, many of us still struggle to drink the NHS recommend six to eight glasses per day.
Try downloading the Waterminder app to help remind you to drink regularly and stay hydrated throughout the day.
Physical activity reduces negative moods and increases positive ones, leading to improved self-esteem and cognitive function.
But, how do you become more active?
Consider whether you want to be in your home or outside and then choose something you will enjoy (or think you will enjoy!). Remember that being physically active is broader than just playing a sport it could be going for a walk, doing housework or even doing some gardening.
How do you keep it going?
Exercising with another person is a great way to stay motivated, but if you can’t exercise in person then messaging apps are an easy way to ‘check in’ with each other to see how you’re doing.
Social media is another useful tool. Facebook is full of support groups and a quick search should help you identify a group of like-minded people who can help you stay motivated.
Apps can also be beneficial as they give structure and help you map your progress. For example, Couch to 5K helps new runners learn how to run 5K, without the fuss of having to create your own training plan.
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. Social media and the internet make it almost impossible to find a suitable point at which to stop consuming information because it is always ‘on’. However, it’s important to give yourself time to focus on enjoyable and fulfilling activities.
Humans are one of the most social species; we need to be with other people.
Human touch helps our brains to develop properly when we are young and when we hug another person the ‘feel good’ hormone oxytocin is released to heighten our mood.
Connection though conversation is another way we can boost our wellbeing. The saying, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is true. Sharing your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member will help you feel better when facing challenges and also help you to maintain a strong support system.
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