Self-Care: Looking After Your Mind, Body & Soul
Mar 9, 2021
What is self-care? Self-care has become a popular buzzword lately that seems to simply mean “treat yourself!” You’ll see images of people doing face masks, getting massages, or going for pedicures labelled as self-care. Of course there is nothing wrong with any of these things. If you love getting your nails done, that’s great! However, self-care is about so much more than just the occasional treat.
Self-care is about taking good care of yourself – your mind, body, and soul.
Why is self-care important? The past year has taught many of us the importance of looking after ourselves. Not just our physical health, but also our mental health and sense of well-being. Practising good self-care helps you keep your mind and body healthy, which in turn helps you better manage stress and life’s inevitable ups and downs.
People in our society today are busier and more stressed than ever. It’s important to take steps to slow down, improve your health, and decrease the risk of burnout. Practising self-care not only reminds us to slow down, it also helps us prioritize the things that truly benefit us.
Tip #1: Sleep and Screen Time
Our first self care tip is…sleep! Sleep should be an important part of your self-care routine. Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your health and your stress levels. Make sure you are getting the amount of sleep that you need every night.
It’s also important to have a good sleep routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. You might also want to re-think the late night snacks! It’s good to avoid eating or drinking right before going to bed, as it can disrupt your sleep.
Avoiding screen time right before bed can also improve your sleep! Try to avoid watching television or browsing on your phone or computer right before going to bed. There are so many other ways to wind down before sleep – try reading a book or listening to some relaxing music instead!
Tip #2: Diet and Exercise
Our second self-care tip is to eat healthy foods! I know many of us (myself included!) have been more tempted by our not-so-healthy comfort foods lately. But it’s important to remember to still have a balanced diet! Don’t forget your fruits and vegetables, and good proteins such as fish. And of course, home-cooked meals are always best if you can cook at home.
On the topic of diet and food, I’d also like to mention gut (or digestive) health. Gut health is very important for your overall health and well-being! If you have any gut issues such as digestive problems, stomach aches, or suspect you might have a food intolerance such as lactose or gluten intolerance, this is especially important. Talk to your doctor, naturopath, or nutritionist about what might be right for you. This may include taking digestive supplements, probiotics, or avoiding certain foods. A healthy gut is a happy gut!
And of course we can’t forget exercise! We all know exercise is good for us, but many of us forget to incorporate exercise into our daily routines. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout to count – even just going for a walk can have benefits for your physical and mental health!
I personally enjoy going for walks and doing yoga or pilates a few times a week. There are so many free resources available online. You can find exercise classes on websites such as YouTube for all ages and skill levels, and many of them don’t require any special equipment. There is so much you can do right from your home!
Tip #3: Slow Down
This isn’t slowing down in the physical sense – we are talking about slowing down your lifestyle. And the #1 tip to accomplish this is…learning how to say no!
Learning how to say no is so important, especially if you’re the kind of person who finds it difficult to say no to things. You might find yourself with a full calendar and more commitments than you can handle! Take some time to think about what commitments are most important to you, and plan your schedule accordingly. Especially if you’re feeling stressed or overworked, it’s important to consider what you actually have the time and energy for. Saying “no” to something doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Sometimes you have to prioritize your own health and well being, and that’s perfectly okay!
I also find that setting aside time to read every day helps me slow down. What could be more relaxing than an evening spent by the fire with a good book and a cup of tea? It doesn’t matter what you read – it could even be a magazine or a cookbook!
Not sure what to read? Check out what your local library has to offer! My library has recently started some great new services. One of their services is called “Which Book Next?” where the librarians match you with books you might like based on books or authors that you’ve enjoyed. They also offer “Grab and Go” bags, where you can fill out a form with the genres you like and what you’re looking for (such as books, DVDs, or music), and the library staff will pick out some new things for you to try. See what’s available at your library – you might just find your next favourite book or author! And who doesn’t like getting lost in a good book?
Tip #4: Spend Time Outside
Our next self care tip is…get outside! There have been numerous studies on “nature therapy” and how it affects the brain. Countless studies show the benefits of spending time in nature for both our physical and mental health.
The Japanese have a practice called shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing,” which simply means spending time in a forest and quietly taking in the atmosphere. This practice has been shown to have real health benefits. Even just looking at pictures of the outdoors can help soothe your mind!
If you live in a rural area, great! There is plenty of nature to be enjoyed, whether it’s a walk in the woods or the countryside. If you live in a city, try to find a quiet park or conservation area where you can go for a stroll or even just sit and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
If you have a pet, even better! Spending time with a beloved pet, in nature or otherwise, is also great at reducing stress. Having a dog is also a wonderful excuse to get outside for walks! So grab your furry friend and spend some quality time together.
Connecting with nature is a great way to feel grounded in the present moment. Even five minutes spent in nature can do wonders to lift your spirit!
Tip #5: De-Clutter Your Space
I’m a big believer in the “clear space equals a clear mind” philosophy. If your home or space is messy and cluttered, it can be hard to feel calm and relaxed.
If you feel like your stuff is taking over your space and you’re not sure what to do with it, get out the Marie Kondo books and start de-cluttering! Sort through your papers, your closet, your kitchen – whatever area needs it most! It’s a great way to clear your mind, get a boost of energy, and also to help the less fortunate. Personally I like to go through my home at least once a year to see if there is anything that can be donated. It helps me keep on top of the clutter, and also helps me feel like I’m supporting a good cause. So get de-cluttering today! I promise you’ll feel so much better when your space is fresh and clear.
Tip #6: Mindfulness
Mindfulness is another buzzword you might have been hearing lately. What does it mean? Mindfulness simply means directing your attention to the present moment, instead of letting your thoughts run wild.
By allowing your mind to rest on the present moment instead of being consumed by a million different thoughts, you can allow yourself to relax and accept that everything is okay at this moment.
Mindfulness can be considered a form of meditation, and is derived from Buddhist traditions. Many studies have shown the positive effect of mindfulness on mental health. There are many books and websites about mindfulness that can help you get started. Search online or check out what’s available at your local library if you’re interested in learning more!
Meditation is another practice that can have many positive effects on mental health. If you are interested in trying meditation, there are many resources online as well! If you’re not sure where to start, try following a guided meditation video. There are many available for free on websites such as YouTube!
One of my favourite relaxation techniques is yoga. A big part of yoga is focusing your attention on the present moment and letting go of invasive thoughts. And of course you get a really good stretch at the same time! There are many different types of yoga, but if you are a beginner I would definitely recommend starting with a gentle yoga session that is intended for beginners. There is even “chair yoga” that you can do sitting down! There are so many great yoga instructors offering free classes online.