It’s easy to get caught up in everything that life throws at us. Whether you’re going to work, looking after children, hitting project deadlines or simply running daily errands, before you know it the day has gone by and you are getting into bed, already thinking about the next day.
It’s good to be busy. But, all too often, we are busy investing our time on everything except ourselves and this can lead to feeling stressed and run-down. When this happens, we are neither able to be our best selves at work nor give our best to those around us. That’s why it’s so important to take some time out of our busy lives, even if just once or twice a week, to focus on ourselves. Even if this means getting up that little bit earlier, it will be worth it!
Self-care is a broad term that encompasses just about anything you do to be good to yourself. Looking after yourself brings many benefits to your day-to-day life:
- You’ll be more productive
- Your physical health could improve
- Your self-esteem may get a boost
- You’ll know yourself better
- You’ll develop the ability to give more
The 5 categories of self-care
- SENSORY self-care is about calming your mind using senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, taste. By focusing on the sensations surrounding you, it enables you to live in the present moment. This takes your mind off resentment from the past or worrying about the future. In the morning, savour fully the taste of your cup of coffee or tea or when going for a walk, become aware and appreciate the smell of the country air.
- EMOTIONAL self-care is about confronting your emotions rather than pushing them aside. It’s healthy to feel them, accept them and move on. Keep a daily journal and be honest about your feelings.
- SPIRITUAL self-care involves being in touch with your values and what matters to you. Meditate daily, or practise your faith, if you have one.
- PHYSICAL activity is not only good for your physical health, it helps release stress too. It’s important to remember though that physical self-care does not just involve being physically active, but also giving your body the time it needs to rest. If this means having a day of watching Netflix, or spending a day relaxing at the spa, it’s still physical self-care. Go on a walk, stretch, fill your lungs when breathing in and breathing out. Ensure you get 7-9 hours sleep per night whenever you can to give your body a chance to recover.
- SOCIAL self-care is important as our happiness generally stems from our connections to people. Knowing that you are not alone with your struggles can be extremely consoling so it’s important to make time to see friends who make you feel good. However, we are all different and have our individual ways to form bonds and interact with those around us; some of us wish to be part of a large group, others prefer more intimate friendships. Organise a date to have lunch with a friend. Pick up the phone to talk to a friend you haven’t seen for a long time.
Ten self-care tips from Connor
Everyone is different, and therefore what may help one individual may not be enjoyable or helpful for someone else. We asked the Connor team to share what they do that makes them feel good. As you will see, there is a true range of self-care activities here.
“I’m conscious of my energy, when it’s naturally high and low during the day. Mornings are my high energy times so I use them to exercise (running and home hiit) sessions and my ‘brain work’ for work – so strategy, design, and writing. In the evenings I try to have a no digital hour before bed so that my brain can relax, I enjoy talking with my family and cooking, and I now read a fiction story for at least 15 mins before bed. That is helping me sleep much better.
I am also very conscious of getting my 8 hours a night so I can give each day my best. This means that, since I’m regularly up for work at 5.30am, you’ll find me turning in by 9pm religiously. There has been so much evidence collated about the importance of sleep in our long-term health and short-term ability to perform at our best that this has become really important to me.”
“I used to obsess about keeping going at things until they were done. But what I came to realise is that I was being counter-productive. Now I make a really conscious choice to completely step away from those kinds of tasks when I am feeling like I need self-care.
Instead, I go and do something different that takes my mind off the task, for example watching one of my favourite movies or listening to a piece of yoga music. This allows me to escape from those ‘just keep going’ feelings and takes me to a place of calm and space in my thinking. When I feel ready, I can then proceed in a better way and reach my desired outcome more quickly..”
“For me, having recently returned to work as a Director, and as mum to a 10 month old who is starting to walk, I don’t get a great deal of time to myself at the moment! So I have been learning to appreciate the little things and just taking a moment to stop. For example, when Archie was down for his nap last week, my temptation is to run about doing housework or catching up on emails but instead I just took a moment to sit with a cup of tea, without any technology, and just chill for a moment. A mindful cup of tea.”
“I find a dog walk is great if I ever feel overwhelmed and just need some head space and time to myself. Or, if I need a bit of a distraction and me time, I paint or draw – I find this very relaxing and a complete break from anything else.”
“I like to unwind by playing video games. They’re a great source of escapism when the world feels like it’s a bit too much, and they have some incredibly compelling storylines. Plus you can play video games in any weather!”
“Self-care can sound indulgent to some or a bit not-British! And somehow I think we can dismiss it as we barrel on through our busy lives, looking strong and together, when what we need is some form of self-appreciation or attention. When I feel I need to lift my energy, to bring me back to what matters, I start with noticing all the small things that bring me joy.
Right now, this includes my Miniature Schnauzer ‘s ears flapping as he runs towards me for a treat, to the Goldfinches balancing precariously on our bird feeder to get their fill; from the smell of my favourite shower gel in the steam of my morning shower, to the scents of wet leaves and the last mowing of the grass verges in our village; really tasting my sweet and sharp morning freshly squeezed orange juice, savouring it; watching the leaves glow as they turn from light pink to deep red on the virginia creepers and maples in our high street gardens; cooking and then eating an autumnal stew or curry, settling into autumn comfort; or, watching the flames in our log burner turn from roaring to caressing the dry logs as I reduce the airflow.
All small aspects of beauty that having just written about them I feel 10 times better than when I started! And I am someone who really struggles with the lack of light and warmth from autumn through winter. This form of mindfulness, coming back to now and recognising the unexpected joy available to me if I just take time to notice – is a great source of comfort at this time especially.”
“In a world that can feel volatile and unpredictable at times, a gratitude journal is ideal for feeling grounded and present. Every evening, I write down 5 things I am grateful for – however small or big they are. There is always something to be grateful for! Neuroscience has proven that gratitude brings happiness – and reading through what I have written down in my journal, from time to time, is a real eye-opener. As Robert Brault said: “Enjoy the little things. For one day you may look back and realise they were the big things.”
“Two areas that are most important to me with regards to self-care are (i) boundaries and (ii) listening to what my body is telling me.
I have got much better in recent years in appreciating the importance of setting boundaries, by which I mean knowing when to say “no” to something, however tempted I might be to support or be available for someone else, in order to focus on looking after myself and not over-doing it or stretching myself too far. Learning to say “no” also means that I am able to say “yes” to other things, including taking time for self-care.
Listening to my body is about consciously noticing – and not ignoring! – the signs that tell me I need to pay more attention to my health; in a way, its also part of being aware of and honouring my boundaries. This is about self-compassion and self-care and not about being selfish; if we don’t look after ourselves then we cannot be available to support others as well as we want to be (its the analogy of putting on your oxygen mask first before supporting others to do the same).”
“For me, my main therapy is getting close to nature. A walk in the country can refresh my mind and refocus my senses. I make sure I regularly get a big fix of the countryside by doing some hill walking in the lakes or by the coast in Dorset.
Helping others can transform one’s mindset from the minutiae of day to day anxieties and take us to a different place. My voluntary work really is self-care as much as giving back to the community.”
“Having a regular gratitude practice helps rewire our natural bias to seeing negative things more easily. I have a gratitude jar, a book by my bed to write down three things that made me smile that day and if I forget I mentally make a list before I go to sleep.
Other things are prioritising sleep, choosing not to drink alcohol anymore and making sure I spend time with people who fill me up. And of course there is always singing!”
We hope these testimonies will encourage you to go and find a little bit of time for yourself today. Remember that prioritising yourself is not a selfish or self-centred thing to do. Being connected to yourself empowers you and enables you to connect with others in the best possible way.