By now we are well versed in the importance of healthy living – looking after our physical health by eating a healthy diet, ensuring we have regular exercise, and checking in with our general practitioner, naturopath, chiropractor, physiotherapist and the like. But are we as vigilant with our mental health?
When we are absolutely at the end of our tether – feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed we might see our doctor or even bite the bullet and take medication or see a psychologist.
But surely there must be a way of keeping our mental health in check, preventing mental collapse, just as we do our physical health?
The answer to this is regular self-care; and this is achieved by taking some time just for ‘You’.
Now I can hear the chorus of protestations – I don’t have time for that! I would feel selfish! I have too much else that is a priority! I would love to – but I never seem to get to it! I take care of myself – I eat everyday….!
What is important for sound mental health and wellbeing is taking the time to unwind from daily stresses and general busyness. To really let go of stress we need to clear our mind of much of what has gathered there during the day and week, to enable us to totally relax and sleep soundly.
What is so important about regular self-care is that we can usually get by for quite some time without it; emphasis on ‘get by’! But we push and push, squeezing every conceivable fragment of energy we have to complete the tasks that we believe we need or should do, and this undermines our wellbeing foundations. And when we crack – which will eventually happen, the repair process can take an extremely long time, and we often find that we cannot return to many of the life activities we once enjoyed.
There is an element of burn-out in what I am talking about here, but the concept of self-care is a wellbeing blueprint that encompasses both our career and personal life.
So – how do we practice self-care in order to take total care of our self?
Time is usually the biggest obstacle so it is crucial to plan well. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime are central to sound health – both physical and mental, so these are a priority. These are also things that can be worked in with the family and workplace – so start with determining how to eat healthy meals and fit in regular exercise – even if your exercise regime is kick-started or even limited to a daily walk during your lunch break.
The real essence of self-care boils down to taking time just for you; and this might sound extremely indulgent! Whilst it might sound selfish, think of it this way: how can you take care of family, work, and do everything else you expect of yourself if you are flattened with fatigue and drained of energy? You can’t!
I often refer to self-care as personal pampering, and activities such as a massage or a session at a day-spa can work wonderfully well. However, personal pampering does not need to cost a lot of money. It can also be time where you sit uninterrupted with a favourite book and a cup of tea, and if being uninterrupted at home is difficult, arrange for your children to be engaged in something else with someone else take over the child-mining responsibilities to give you that break. You may prefer to go to your local cafe for coffee and a read of the paper, watch your favourite television series or soak in a bath. We all have different ideas of pampering and it doesn’t matter what it is – just as long as we do it!
So get planning – find some space in that busy week of yours to factor in some top quality personal pampering. Make sure you do this regularly, and you will be well on the way to ensuring your self-care enhances your mental health and general wellbeing.
Wishing you peace and calmness –