‘True self-care is not bath salts and chocolate cake, it’s making the choice to build a life you don’t need to escape from’ – Brianna Wiest
Everywhere I look recently there seems to be something about self-care. It’s clearly an important thing to do for both mental and physical health, but what does it actually mean?
The dictionary definition of self-care is ‘the act of caring for yourself through activities and practices that you can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance short-term and longer-term health and well-being’
There’s already plenty of information out there, so I thought I would concentrate on a specific topic and have listed 8 self-care ideas we can do after an illness or injury when we are trying to get our life back on track. This is based on an actual list I wrote after I had been out of circulation for a while due to health problems and worries. Hopefully it provides some inspiration or validation for you too and I hope you like the quotes I’ve included!
‘I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival’ – A. Lorde
Get some fresh air!
It might sound like old fashioned advice, but fresh air really does helps us to feel better! Breathing in fresh air increases the amount of oxygen in the body, supporting our white blood cells to function more efficiently. It helps our lung capacity and we are more likely to breathe deeply which expels more toxins from our bodies, effectively cleansing from the inside out. Oxygen helps us to think more clearly and focus better and it increases the level of serotonin which helps us to feel happier too. If the sun is shining, we benefit even more (although be careful not to burn!).
Do some deep breathing/meditation
While we are outside, it’s a great place to do some deep breathing or meditation although it can be done just as easily indoors! Our mental health is a critical part of self-care and cultivating a healthy mindset through mindfulness is a great way to do this. Think you can’t meditate or don’t know how? Meditation literally means ‘to engage in contemplation or reflection’. You don’t have to do anything special. Simply focussing on our breath is an easy way to start, maybe counting each one to stay focussed. If anything else comes into our minds we simply acknowledge the thought and go back to counting. For me, this is something I’ve done as a tiny tweak, beginning with 60 seconds and gradually increasing the amount of time.
Set a sleep schedule
It’s so easy to stay up late if you don’t have anywhere to be the next morning but if at all possible we should aim for 7-9 hours sleep and keep the time we go to bed and the time we get up as consistent as possible. The easiest way to do this is to decide what time you would like to get up, then count backwards the number of hours you need to sleep to avoid feeling tired the next day. So if you need 7 hours sleep and you want to get up at 8 am, you need to go to bed by 12.30 to allow time to fall asleep and get your 7 hours. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is good for our mental and physical health.
Drink at least 2 litres of water and eat healthily
Looking after our bodies by eating the right foods and drinking plenty of water is such a simple thing to do in theory but when we’re recovering it can be incredibly tempting to turn to the wrong things for comfort. We may not feel like cooking a proper meal or we might simply reach for the nearest snack. Making sure we have healthy snacks available is the easiest way to avoid this and to stock up on fresh soups or other healthy alternatives is great when we’re not in the mood to cook. Dehydration causes all sorts of problems, not just physically but also mentally, so making sure we always drink at least 2 litres is so important.
Take some form of exercise and set a minimum number of steps
If we’ve been suffering from an injury or illness, we may need to take this very gently and it is always sensible to check with our doctor what is suitable if we’re not sure. There are thousands of videos on Youtube that can be followed in the comfort of our own home or we might want to create our own routine. I’ve recently bought myself a PowerPlate which is designed to build bone density and increase balance and coordination as well as burning off fat. I also set myself a daily steps target and if I haven’t achieved it by dinner time, you’ll find me walking around the house until I do!
See or speak to someone
If possible, we should all aim to have a face-to-face chat with someone every day but, even if it is just a text message, it’s important to try to have contact with another human being. It could be with a friend or family member or it might be going to the local shops and speaking to someone there or even phoning a support line or befriending service. Self-care here means building healthy relationships and setting sensible boundaries. There is so much support out there but sometimes it can be hard to see it if we aren’t in a very good place ourselves.
Do some form of self-improvement
Sometimes when we are recovering it’s hard to get motivated about anything much but taking time for hobbies or new experiences is important. Depending on our interests, we could think about starting an online course (or attending classes if that’s an option) or maybe working through a rehabilitation programme of some sort, whether that is for physical or mental health. Learning something new or developing an existing interest is a really good way to gently stretch ourselves and learn more about ourselves in the process. It’s also great for increasing self-esteem.
‘Mind. Body. Soul. These are the three things self-care is all about’ – Kathy Sledge
Be kind to yourself
After a period of being unwell or recovering from an injury,we might try to run before we can walk. It’s great to set small goals to motivate us but if we don’t achieve them one day, it doesn’t matter, it really isn’t the end of the world. We have to accept that sometimes we can’t do everything we want to but also that not achieving all we set out to do, doesn’t mean we’ve failed or we should give up completely. The best thing we can do is take one day at a time and be kind to ourselves.
I hope you found some inspiration in these ideas and thoughts. For me, I found that having a daily plan worked really well and I enjoyed ticking things off the list. I also included blogging in the self-improvement section, as writing my posts helps me to understand myself more and reading other peoples blogs is always interesting and enlightening. Whether we have been ill or everything is right with the world, self-care is important but we can easily forget in our busy lives. So the tiny tweak is to write a list of daily (or weekly if that works better) self-care activities and to make sure we stick to them.
Just in case you’re thinking that you don’t have time for self-care or that there are always others who come first, I’d like to leave you with something to ponder – ‘It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary’ – Mandy Hale
Until next time xx
If you enjoyed this post, please like it and let me know in the comments. What do you do to support you? Do you have any tips to share or thoughts to add? I love to hear your comments so do let me know!