1) Practice Self-Awareness
In order to properly take care of your self, the number one resource you will need is Self-Awareness. Self-Awareness is defined as the ability to accurately recognize ones own emotions and thoughts, and how they influence your behavior. When you are able to check-in with yourself and know exactly how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and how those things connect with your behavior, you will be practicing Self-Awareness. With this skill, you will be aware of your own needs and will be able to respond with creative ways to implement self-care.
2) Sleep Matters
Sleep is essential for our overall health and wellbeing. It helps us recharge and get our energy back up and running. Just like any battery operated device, we need to plug in and recharge. The difference is if your body has run out of battery, it doesn't shut down like you're phone would, but you may begin to feel cranky, easily angered, with low motivation, and just not feeling at your best. Sleep doesn't only need to happen at night, naps are also just as effective to boost your energy. Any type of opportunity you have to let your body rest, is an opportunity to take. Maybe you will need to reconsider binge watching your favorite show at night if you know it will cause you to lose your much valued sleep. It is a give and take, and with self-awareness, you will begin to learn your limits. If you are finding it difficult fall as sleep or stay asleep at night, reach out to a medical doctor to rule out any medical condition. If your lack of sleep is due to stress, anxiety, or other mental health related issues, seek help from a therapist for your underlying issues that are keeping you up at night. Improving your sleep is vital to improving your overall health.
3) Exercise doesn't have to be HARD
Exercise relieves stress, improves mood, and helps you sleep better. It doesn't need to be lifting weights or a tedious task that you feel the need to avoid, it can actually be fun. Yoga, going out for a walk, a light jog, or anything that makes your body move can be considered exercise. You can also try to just move your arms and legs around, dance to your favorite music, play an active game with the children, anything that will get your heart rate up and increase blood flow to the brain to improve your overall mood. Youtube also has great resources with guided exercise routines. Here is one that I can share with you, it is a type of mindful yoga. - exercise does not need to be severe, if your body is moving, you are exercising, and if you are exercising, you are getting your body physically tired and preparing it for a good night's sleep.
4) Self-Compassion is key
Replace critical thoughts with compassionate thoughts. Let yourself know that it is ok for you to make mistakes, for you to have setbacks, for you to procrastinate, for you to have a load of laundry waiting to be folded for a week, it is ok. Be gentle with yourself. Everyone has personal behaviors that take over and get in the way of being our "ultimate self" at all times. Be patient with yourself and know that you can make small changes each day, but that change will not happen overnight. Give yourself permission to just be. Feel what you feel and give yourself permission to take your time. This is a skill you will need to practice. When you realize you are criticizing yourself, catch that thought, put it in your pocket, and say to your self, "I'm sorry, I will be patient, I will give you some time". Practice and build the skill of self-compassion, once you are able to give compassion to yourself, you will be able to give compassion to others.
5) Daily Gratitude
Reflect on everything that you are grateful for on a daily basis. It could be physical objects, people around you, your experiences, your job, or anything you are grateful for. Some people are grateful for living in the USA, or for being a parent, for having a pet, whatever it is that brings you joy. It is easy to forget and overlook all of the things we have around us that we appreciate and are thankful for. By taking 5 minutes or even just 1 minute a day to shift your focus towards something you are grateful for, can make a BIG difference in your mood, stress level, and can decrease sadness and anxieties.
6) Reflect with a Journal
Journaling is something that people take for granted. It is hard to find any benefit in just typing or writing what we feel or reflecting on our day, but the truth is that journaling can actually help you to process difficult feelings, and generate new ideas. It is a way to reflect and see your progress.
7) Put the phone down
Take some time away from technology. In today's world, it is difficult to disconnect. There are social media accounts, news, emails, youtube videos, and even TV and Netflix, all of these things are considered technical distractions. Sometimes you can be stuck on a routine, of checking this, watching that, and not realize that you spent 0 minutes in a day focused on the present moment. By disconnecting and making a mental effort to just putting your phone on mute for a few minutes, going for a walk, or focusing on the physical world around you, you will become more centered. To achieve balance, it is good to take a break, look around you, and ground yourself on where you are at that present time, and connect with yourself as you disconnect from the online world.
I hope the tips above help you in some way. Remember that when you care for yourself, you are taking care of everyone around you. There is no need to feel guilt or selfish, YOU matter too.
Holly McIntyre is a Licensed Clinical Therapist. If you or anyone you know is in need of mental health support, please click below to schedule an appointment.