We can’t take care of others if we can’t take care of ourselves. This sounds simple and straight forward, but it is often something many people overlook. It is important to understand that this concept applies not only to people in the health care sector providing frontline support, but to everyone! The need exists across all industries including families. If you are in connection with people and there is an opportunity to provide support to others, then this applies to you.
Self-care seems to be the first thing that gets sacrificed when we are faced with the stressors of life. Contrary to those negative thoughts and beliefs we have at the time, it is NOT self-indulgent. In fact, by taking steps of self-care and looking after your mental health and well-being, we are better equipped to get through those challenges and stressors that arise. By taking steps of self-care, we give our body and mind time to rest, reset and revitalize, which in turn helps us avoid or reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety. This is because we will have more energy and clearer mindset to meet the demands of life, however stressful they may be.
“… Please put on your own oxygen mask before helping others”. Sound familiar? This is a useful phrase which helps to remind us of the importance of self-care. Essentially, we will not be able to help others if we don’t look after ourselves first.
So what are some things we can do to address self care and to build up our own emotional reservoir?
- Set goals and priorities: Make a list of what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you feel you already have a lot on.
- Try a relaxing activity: Explore relaxation and/or meditation programs or apps, and schedule regular times for these activities.
- Make sleep a priority: Stick to a sleep schedule/routine and ensure you are getting enough sleep. Set up your sleeping environment so it is conducive to sleep. This includes refraining from using any screen devices for at least an hour before bed, and removing removing/covering all devices which omit blue light. Blue light makes it harder to sleep.
- Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated: Plenty of water and a balanced diet can improve your energy and focus throughout the day.
- Exercise regularly: Moving your body for 30 minuets every day is enough to boost your mood and improve your health. If you cannot do 30 minutes, do not be discouraged. Doing multiple, small bursts of exercise adds up!
- Focus on positivity: Identify and challenge your negative thoughts and thinking styles. The more you practice, the better you will be able to develop more realistic thoughts.
- Stay connected: Humans are inherently social creatures. Having a strong network of support and a sense of community fosters both emotional and physical health. Reach out to friends and family who can provide emotional and practical help.