There are multiple challenges in life that can exacerbate stress, create disillusionment, and contribute to emotional fatigue and burnout. It is important that these challenges are managed in order to ensure we remain at our best.
Self-care is a term that is often referred to in order to counteract the stresses of life. Self-care refers to activities and practices that we can engage with regularly to reduce stress and maintain both short and long term wellbeing.
Why is self-care important?
We know that exposure to intense or prolonged levels of stress and anxiety at work can result in:
- unplanned leave
- high staff turnover
- poor work
- presenteeism (being at work physically, but not mentally)
- poor performance
- workplace injury.
Outside of work, you may face:
- relationship breakdowns
- immune system issues
- muscle and joint pain
- upset stomach and other health conditions.
Without self-care, we can become overcome with stress, anxiety, and all the ill-health effects that come along with them. But there are many ways to reclaim your time and commit to self-care, which can bring greater balance into your life.
What sort of self-care should I practise?
Self-care means going beyond just surviving and considering what you value in your life and what happiness means to you. Self-care techniques depend very much on individual preferences, but the below options might give you some inspiration to get started.
Learn to say no
When you have so much on your plate, something’s got to give. Learn what you are realistically capable of and create clear boundaries. This can be tough to accept and enforce initially, but it is integral to your wellbeing. Learn how to gauge your wellbeing by recognising when you are at your best. For example, when I am feeling my best, I usually get to the gym around 3 times a week. Understanding this will help you identify when you need to pull back and what tasks need to be de-prioritised in your life.
Reassess your technology use
Technology has become such an integrated part of our life that you may not realise how much unproductive time is spent on it. Some apps have been made that can record how long you spend on it each day and you can even choose to limit your usage if you like. Limiting mindless technology time can free you up for more valuable self-care activities.
Start a positivity/gratitude journal
Every day, list good things that happen to you, and achievements you make. It’s very easy to be caught up in the problems that still need attention without acknowledging achievements. By documenting your wins, you’ll become more aware of your strengths, where your time and attention is being spent, and what is most rewarding to you.
Write a love list
List all the activities you enjoy, and think about how often you’ve done those activities in the last month. If you haven’t done many of the activities, make a game plan to integrate some into your regular routine.
Food and physical activity
While most people strive to eat well and exercise regularly, it can be hard to achieve. Try to make time at the start of every week (or on the weekend) to prepare lunches for the week. That way, you will know you are eating well and don’t have to worry about the stress of preparing lunch every morning. To improve your level of physical activity, schedule a short burst of exercise for a time of the day when you know you are most energetic. You can work a little extra time into your day by setting your alarm five minutes earlier each day. Eventually, you will have an extra hour up your sleeve, and the gradual nature won’t be a shock to your system.
Maintain your basic needs
Regularly see how you are tracking against Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
- Food, water, warmth, rest, health
- Security, safety
Belongingness and Love Needs:
- Intimate relationships, friends
- Prestige and feeling of accomplishment
- Achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities.
When people are under pressure, they often sacrifice basic needs, such as sleeping and eating well. If you are skipping breakfast and drinking nothing but coffee all day, your quality of sleep may suffer, which then ripples out to other parts of your life.
Self-care is the understanding that you are responsible for you own well-being. It is not something we can do for a day to recharge and then neglect the following week; it requires commitment. But you don’t need to make monumental changes all in one go- start small and stick to it. If it’s important to you, you’ll find time for it. At the end of the day, it’s only through feeling your best that you will be able to give your best to loved ones and the world.