Posts

Self Care, Part 2

Self Care: Part One mainly focused on learning how to set SMART goals. Now that you know how to set realistic goals for yourself, let’s explore other ways to engage in self-care:.

 

Remember:, self-care comes in many forms and varying degrees of difficulty, and your own personal self-care  all depends on you as an individual, and what your needs and wants are. I’ve compiled a list of 10 simple ways you can engage in self-care. Please keep in mind that this list has no specific ranking, and you could can choose to follow as few or as many of these tips as you want as part of your self-care routine.,  However, you’ll notice that many of these tips go hand-in-hand.

Hydrate

Staying hydrated is one of the most important ways to stay healthy. If you’re feeling thirsty, chances are that you’re already dehydrated. Some benefits of proper hydration include combatting fatigue, reducing high blood pressure, flushing out unwanted bacteria from your kidneys, slowing the aging process, and stopping unwanted weight gain. Remember that mental and physical health go handinhand, and when you’re taking care of yourself physically, it’s easier to take care of yourself mentally, and vice versa!

Limit Your Screen Time

Poor sleep can intensify symptoms of depression, so it is crucial that you pay attention to your sleep hygiene. Numerous studies have shown that blue light from a screen is harmful to sleep. By avoiding screens an hour before bedtime, your brain starts to relax, making it easier for you to fall asleep.

Sleep

This ties right in with limiting your screen time. Having adequate sleep not only sharpens your attention and improves your memory, it also lowers your stress and risk of depression. When you are less stressed, you have better control of both your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels, which play a role in your cardiovascular health.

Journal

If you’ve ever been in counselling, you will likely have experienced being given homework assignments, likely keeping some sort of journal or tracking activity. Keeping a journal is a good way to be reflective of your personal experiences. If you’ve had a bad experience, reflect on the 5 W’s (who/what/when/where/why) of that experience. You can even take that a step further and explore what you could have done differently to turn that experience around. It’s equally important to journal positive experiences. Positive experiences could likely be a reflection of progress in some aspect of your life, or be a positive motivation to you on a bad day.

Breathing Exercises

When you are feeling stressed or angry, your muscles tense up and your breathing becomes shallow. Deep breathing allows you to get more oxygen, thus releasing tension. Breathing exercises can also relax the mind and body by getting the necessary oxygen to your brain, and help with clearing uneasy feelings out of your body, and elevating your mood.

A Healthy Work-Life Balance

By maintaining a healthy work-life balance, you’re setting yourself up for a better quality of life. You’ll likely see that your wellbeing will improve. Sacrificing too much of your time for work won’t take long to start having negative effects like increased stress, constant bouts of illnesses due to a weakened immune system, and non-stop exhaustion. A healthy work-life balance will also keep you more productive, and give you more “me” time.

Many people work jobs that require a lot of time and effort, and sometimes large amounts of downtime just isn’t possible if you want to succeed. That’s why you have to find a balance. For example:, if possible, work from home on some days, or don’t sacrifice your free time just to put the extra hours in every single day.

Physical Activity

In addition to all of the physical health benefits associated with exercising, it has also been also known to improve your mood and boost your energy. If you can’t make it to the gym, taking a brisk walk helps too, as long as you get up and do something! Physical activity is a great way to blow off some steam after a tough day. Nothing better than looking and feeling good!

Eat Better

What you eat impacts your brain, and this includes the parts that regulate your mood. Foods that are vitamin and mineral rich, like fruits, veggies, whole grains and fatty fish, have been associated with a lower risk of depression. Now hear me out on this one! Eating better is not to say that you should never have that Big Mac, just make sure that you’re not having it every day.

Learn to Say ‘No’

When you’re overcommitted and under too much stress, you’re more likely to feel rundown. It could be saying no to that weekly late night dinner with a friend to get a few extra hours of sleep, to saying no to an extra shift at work. Many people don’t say no because they are afraid of being faced with a negative reaction. A tip for saying ‘no’ is to be quick with the response. That is, don’t hold up someone’s plans when you know you’re declining the invite. Be honest about why you’re saying no. If you have other commitments, or you just need to rest, let them know. You could also suggest an alternative like naming someone else that could take your place, or asking for a raincheck.

Take a Step Towards Tackling Something You’ve Been Avoiding

This could be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. If you’ve been feeling anxious about not finishing that report, but choosing to binge-watch your favourite Netflix show instead, you’re adding to your stress and anxiety. By finishing that report, you’re taking a lot off of your shoulders. Or it could be something more lifealtering: You’ve been telling yourself that you’re going to quit smoking for years, but never take the initiative to do so. Going to see a professional to explore cessation options may be the first step in the right  direction.

,

Self Care, Part One

“I just don’t have enough time for myself.” How many times have you said that to yourself? How often do you find yourself daydreaming of escaping your reality? It’s likely that you’re not taking the time to take care of yourself. I’m not just talking about your physical appearance; self-care runs much deeper than that.

Finding balance is not an easy task, and if you ask me, it’s an ongoing battle. If someone tells me they live the perfect life, I’m inclined to ask them if they’re a robot. We’re all juggling many different things while trying to be good parents, siblings, children, partners, spouses, employees and professionals, but to be truly good at any of those roles, we must take care of ourselves first. After all, how can we take care of others if we, ourselves, are not well?

Self-care is more than just unwinding in a warm bubble bath, but making the time for that is a pretty good start. And that’s just it: making time. Self-care is taking the steps to ensure that you’re feeling good both mentally and physically. Putting in a little bit of work each day will go a long way the long run. It may not be possible to take a vacation every 3 months, but it is possible to stop and take some deep breaths a few times a day.  

Self-care isn’t always pretty, either. It’s facing whatever ugliness that is holding you back from being the best version of yourself – a well-functioning one. It could be anything from going to the gym three times a week (because inactivity is beginning to take a toll on your physical health), to cutting out the negative person that always seems to bring you down. The key is to do something good for yourself.

I could write on and on and on about self care, but in the spirit of not being overwhelming, I’ve decided to break down some tips on self-care into several articles, to be posted throughout the next few weeks.

Like anything else you’re trying to achieve, setting a goal on what exactly you’re aiming for with your self-care is a good practice to have after you figure out what it is you actually want. It is key to be realistic with yourself; like all other goals, don’t set self-care goals you know that you can’t achieve. To make goal setting less overwhelming and actually achievable, I like to use the SMART approach:  A SMART goal is specific (S), measurable (M), attainable (A), realistic/relevant (R) , and timely (T).

Ask yourself:

(S) What exactly is it that I want to achieve?

(M) What will I see, hear or feel when I achieve it? What is the concrete evidence?

(A)Do I have the resources to achieve my goal?

(R)Why do I want to achieve this goal? Does it seem relevant or realistic for me?

(T) What time period do I want to get this done in?

 

You can tweak your goals as you go. Remember that this plan has to work for you. If something doesn’t feel right, make some adjustments and take it from there.

 

Here is an example of how a SMART goal:

(S) I want to become more mindful and relaxed before I start each day. I would like to do that by meditating for 20 minutes before work, 3 times a week

(M) I will make a short journal entry each day, describing how my day went, and whether I meditated in the morning.

(A) I will go to bed 20 minutes earlier the night before and wake up 20 minutes earlier in the morning to make time for my meditation. I will stream my meditation tape on the mobile streaming app.

(R) I don’t have very many coping skills to deal with stress. Meditation would be a quick way to help alleviate stress in the moment.

(T) I will check in once a week to ensure that I have met my meditation goals for the week.

I encourage you to try this, no matter how big or small your self-care goals!