Self-care is a buzz word at the moment, but what is it really all about? It sounds a little bit indulgent, perhaps even selfish, doesn’t it? Surely it can’t be right to focus energy on ourselves instead of giving our all to others – especially when we have young families and work responsibilities to take care of?
Well, as we’ve been exploring on the blog in recent weeks, learning how to successfully balance work and family priorities takes vision, preparation and practice. But it also needs us to be on top of our game. Dealing with competing demands on our time and resources requires us to be in top condition – both physically and mentally. Spending quality time on our own health and happiness is the key to avoiding burnout and overwhelm. The better we feel, the better we perform, and the better we can take care of our other responsibilities. Self-care is not a fluffy self-indulgence therefore, but a necessary strategy for making a success of career and family life.
If you struggle with self-care, here are some tips to help. Start practising every day. Adopting a self-care strategy now will pay dividends when the time comes to have a family in the future. Here are 8 top self-care tips to get you started:
1. Schedule daily time for reflection.
However busy your life is, make time to regularly check in with yourself; a few minutes of stillness a day where you can quietly assess how you are doing. What is working for you and what are you struggling with? Do you need to make any adjustments to your routine?
2. Make exercise a habit.
You don’t need to become a triathlete overnight (or ever!). The key is to exercise little and often so that it becomes an easy and enjoyable part of your lifestyle. Work out with a friend or personal trainer for added motivation and make sure you enjoy your chosen activities. Don’t force yourself to go to the gym if you would prefer a game of Frisbee with friends – both will work. Not only will you feel fitter, but also happier as your body starts releasing lots of lovely endorphins.
3. Eat for health and happiness.
We all know that the best diet is full of unprocessed food, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and is low in saturated fats, sugar and salt. When we are tired, feeling run down, or stressed, we often crave ‘quick-fix’ foods and drinks – sweet or fatty snacks, caffeine or alcohol. We can end up in a vicious cycle where these substances make us feel worse in the long run, more fatigued or more anxious, and so we feel we need more of them. To avoid this, plan ahead. Don’t keep unhealthy snack foods in the house if you’re likely to be tempted and make sure you have a larder stocked with nuts, raw veg and fruit for snacking. Nutritious food will obviously have a beneficial effect on your weight and health, but also on your mood. Studies suggest that a diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole-grains, nuts, legumes and pulses, unprocessed foods and foods that are high in omega 3 oils and selenium can help keep your brain healthy and anxiety and depression at bay. Now I know it’s hard to be good all the time! But I find that having a simple set of rules for my diet that I follow 90+ per cent. of the time, is enough to keep me healthy and happy. Why not create your own? Use mine for inspiration!
CLICK HERE TO GET INSPIRATION FROM MY
4. Get some rest.
Sleep is so important to our overall well-being. Sleep deprivation affects concentration, memory, performance, energy and mood and long-term can put you at risk of developing more serious conditions like diabetes and heart disease. If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, learn to take power naps on your commute to work, or for 15 minutes at lunch time. Develop good sleep hygiene in the evenings. Have a regular bedtime (if you can). Create a calm space – keep your room quiet, cool and make sure your mattress and bedding is comfortable and supportive. Make your room dark and do not use tablets, iphones or TVs as you settle down as these play havoc with your sleep patterns. (Unconvinced? read my tech slavery blog.) Make a to do list before you go to bed – decluttering your mind and clarifying things can help you have a more relaxed night. Think you can get away with just a few hours a night without paying a price? This in depth article on the importance of sleep to everything from brain function to weight loss should convince you otherwise – and give you some strategies for fitting more sleep into your schedule.
5. Get up early.
Studies show that early-risers are happier and more productive. I can vouch for that! For me, getting up before Paul and my 4 boys and having an early morning routine is the cornerstone of my work life balance strategy. Getting up early gives you time to devote to yourself and your well-being. Not sure what to do? Write a journal, reflect on your goals, take a long bath, read something motivational or inspirational, do some meditation or yoga. Whatever you do, make sure you’re not working and that you’re focusing on YOU. Want to give this a try but don’t know how? Read my blog on how to get up early.
6. Take note of your achievements.
We often forget to value our own triumphs and successes. Reflect each day and note them down – it will help you maintain a positive self-image. My favourite way of doing this is to record stuff – compliments, positive feedback, success stories – in a beautiful luxurious notebook. But if you’re more tech than tactile, why not use your phone? Screenshot emails that contain praise or positive feedback; take pictures of your happy face after a successful meeting or event and add a note; video record someone saying nice things about you, and store them all in an online notebook like Evernote in a folder called “I am Fabulous!”.
The internet and social media help us stay connected to others and apps can be invaluable help with organisation. But they can also make us feel anxious, overwhelmed by information and a little disconnected from reality. Switch off regularly and spend time immersing yourself in real life – with friends, family – and yourself. You’ll be surprised by how much calmer you feel. Need motivating? Reread my tech blog.
We are often too busy ‘doing’ to sit down and spend time making something. Be it craft, art, baking – whatever works for you, taking a small amount of some time out to focus on producing something with our hands can be a wonderful distraction from stress and a therapeutic activity that helps us be present and reconnects us with our humanity. I’m not much of an arts and crafter myself, but it works for others. I met a high flying female leader recently whose thing was sewing. A woman working a high stress demanding job with no time on her hands, who forced herself to find pockets of downtime for sewing. Amazing! If sewing isn’t your thing, what about cooking? It’s something most of us have to do. But instead of rushing to just get something on the table, why not slow down and make cooking more of a ritual. Less of a rush. More of an opportunity to destress and be in the moment.