Taking the time to “Look after Number 1” is often so difficult for us all with the pace of life – work deadlines, kids activities, life admin, etc etc – but it is so important for our overall wellbeing, especially because we can’t always rely on others to help or support us and we need to take the reins ourselves.
Here are 8 top tips to help practice the art of looking after yourself which focus on changing our thoughts and our behaviours – doing so can have a direct impact on our mood. Everyone is different so you might not relate to some of these, but give some of them a go and find what works for you!
1. Turn off the Screens & focus on the Sights, Sounds & Smells Around You
Sometimes taking some time out away from our computers, ipads or phone and stepping into the backyard with a cuppa and focusing on the sights, sounds and smells of nature around you can help to refocus. Or you might find that going for a quick walk while listening to some tunes is your thing. Work out the kinds of sights and sounds that help you to relax and hone in on them!
2. Focus on your Thoughts
Sometimes, just unloading your thoughts on paper in a journal can be a good way to declutter your mind, although this may not be for everyone. Others find that flipping any negative self-talk we may have into positive self-talk or mantras helpful. These are positive statements about yourself that remind you of your self-worth. So, you might remind yourself that you are a good mother/father/worker/partner, or that you have some wonderful qualities (e.g., loving, reliable, thoughtful etc). But these statements have to be realistic and believable to you, not some “pie in the sky” comments. Repeating these internally to yourself during tough times or making them part of your morning or nightly ritual can be helpful. And if you can’t rely on yourself to say these in your head, you could jot them on a post-it note and stick them on the fridge or in your car or wallet, or put them on your lock screen on your phone. Some examples include:
- ‘I’m not good at this’ to ‘I am doing the very best I can’
- ‘I just can’t do this!’ to ‘I can do this!’
- ‘I give up – this is too hard’ to ‘I accept the things I cannot change and change the things I can’
- ‘I’ll never be that smart, pretty, skinny…..” to ‘ I am loving and kind and deserve happiness’
3. Find a Self-soothing Hobby
Find an activity that uses your mind and/or body to make or do stuff. Things like a fitness class, cooking, colouring in with the kids, drawing, knitting or even origami can help your mental health. Just be sure to schedule it in the diary so you make it happen, otherwise life will get in the way!
4. Laugh More
Laughing can actually help to make you feel better in the short-term, even if you have to force it at first. So, if you are feeling stressed, pick a comedy to watch that evening, or go out for coffee with a friend who you know always makes you smile.
5. Pamper yourself
This doesn’t need to be an expensive outing at a day spa. Although a massage or facial or manicure/pedicure sounds wonderful, you can also do all this at home without the expense. This can be as simple as running yourself a hot bath, or having an extra long shower, rubbing some luxurious lotion of your face and body, or reading a trashy romance novel.
6. Organize Your Space
When your office desk is a mess or your house is upside down, this can affect your mood. Taking some time to get organised and put things away, or do a spring clean of your cupboards or rearrange some furniture can help to cleanse you mentally.
7. Connect with Your Community or “Tribe”
Finding a group of people you can relate to and connect with is really important so you can bounce ideas off one another or simply have a whinge about life in general. This sense of community might be an online Facebook group, or it could be a fitness group you attend, or a group of mums from school, or local friends and family. When life is getting tough, schedule in a workout or catchup to debrief and unwind with others.
8. Find some Silence
Sometimes finding some quiet time and not talking to anyone can help to recharge. This might mean getting up 15 minutes before everyone else to have breakfast in peace or staying up 15 minutes later to have some quiet time to yourself while doing some light stretches or deep breathing – whatever works for you!
Remember, you are going to be less effective in dealing with life’s ups and downs if you don’t take the time to look after yourself first. If you are falling apart, everything else around you eventually will. And sometimes we can’t rely on others to take care of us, but we have to do the hard yards ourselves. So, schedule in some YOU time and make it happen!