Self-care... who has the time, right? Whether you’re homeschooling, on the frontline, doing another Zoom meeting marathon or busy binge-watching Bridgerton, the idea of making room for self-care feels like yet another thing on your ever-growing to-do list. But, here’s the thing - self-care isn’t optional, especially during uncertain times. To thrive in this “new normal” we all need to make wellness and self-care a non-negotiable part of our lives. Because, as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs dictates, when all of our personal needs are met, space is created for us to grow and develop into the best versions of ourselves that we can be.
The resounding benefits of wellness and self-care
Engaging in wellness and self-care activities (yes, naughty time counts) can allow you to focus on your needs, and help you discover what you’re missing on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. That perspective then makes everything else (the things you actually need to do – like work and keeping up social relationships) less overwhelming and more achievable. Other benefits of self-care include:
- Improved immunity
- Increased positive thinking
- Reduced stress (and less susceptible to it)
- Managing anxiety and other emotional health issues that can cause depression
F the C-19 word, let 2021 be the year you take care of yourself because self-care isn’t just indulgent – it's about survival! Read on for some great advice on how to look after yourself over the coming months, and make this year your best year for growth yet.
1. Learn to say “no” to keep your mojo
People pleasing is so much easier than self-care, because it makes us feel important and valued, but saving space for yourself is so important for your wellbeing. In addition to making time for yourself, this might also mean you need to set boundaries to protect and preserve your own needs.
Think of it like a sliced up pie – something with finite slices or segments for you to divide between different things. Whether it’s work, social, physical, spiritual or otherwise, we all have needs that we value. Being a reliable “yes” person for others can have its many benefits, however in one way or another it’s likely your needs will fall by the wayside, which will ultimately catch up with you and prevent you from overall growth.
Consider this your permission to release any negative feelings you may have around saying “no”, whether you believe it’s rude or may push away the people you love. Securing time for yourself allows you to learn about yourself, nurture yourself, prevent burnout and ultimately be more present for those relationships around you.
2. Create a skincare routine that helps you glow
Our skin literally covers our entire being, it’s the biggest organ and barrier between the human body and the external environment. That’s why our skin holds many secrets:
- Signifying our age
- What we do for a job
- Our life experiences, injuries, illness
- Stress levels and anxious habits
- Facial expression imprints and marks
Our skin is a valuable part of our bodies, yet often overlooked. Well, it’s time to show your skin some gratitude and take good care of it. Get your skincare routine right, and you can also ensure your skins longevity, elasticity and overall health.
Creating a skincare routine – and sticking to it – is one of the greatest acts of self-care you can perform for yourself. Whether you’re using body lotion while your skin is still damp from the bath or shower to hold in all-important moisture, or implementing a good, twice-a-day facial skincare routine, you’ll reap the rewards in years to come, and your mental health will thank you for dedicating some time to you.
What is a good facial skin routine?
We suggest the following:
- Cleanse (or double cleanse if you are wearing make-up).
- Apply an acid toner to exfoliate and prepare your skin to absorb key ingredients and moisture. Did you know that one gram (or 0.03 oz.) of hyaluronic acid can hold up to six LITRES of water? Wait for it to dry before the next step.
- Next, apply your liquid serum. Remember this is the crucial step in your routine to target your skin concerns.
- For dry and ageing skin, follow with a facial oil.
- Then apply your moisturiser, massaging gently into the skin.
- During the day, always finish with a broad-spectrum SPF (30-50+).
3. Do go chasing waterfalls and stay hydrated
Our body needs fluids to maintain proper functioning, and dehydration may lead to constipation, dizziness, confusion and low blood pressure. Now, while it’s well-known that the standard guidelines for keeping hydrated is generally two litres (or eight 250ml cups) of fluids a day, which fluids are you drinking? As a nation that loves hot drinks, there’s a good chance if you’re a Brit that you’re sipping cups of tea or coffee. Yes, there’s water in there, but no, it doesn’t count. Because too much caffeine can actually increase anxiety and dehydrate you.
Here’s the thing. . . when we drink any beverage, our bodies filter everything but the water we actually need, with the rest either being absorbed as energy, causing unnecessary chemical reactions within our bodies or getting flushed out of our systems. By skipping the middle-man and drinking predominantly water (this can be flavoured by fresh cucumber or lemon), you’ll give yourself a shortcut to proper hydration and your body, skin, and mind will all reap the benefits.
Just remember that if you’ve had a day that’s been heavy on movement, you’ll need more than your two litres to replenish any fluids lost through exercise.
Quick hydration test
To test your hydration levels, pinch the skin from the back of your hand and pull it away for around three seconds before letting go. If it pings back into shape immediately then you’re already well-hydrated. Any delay suggests there may be some dehydration going on – combat this by keeping a full, 1L water bottle with you, or by your desk as you work. Your instincts and impulses will kick in subconsciously as long as you have water within reach – and you’ll keep hydrated, allowing your body and mind to work clearly.
4. Declutter your space to clear your mind
The old adage “tidy home, tidy mind” may feel a bit preachy and trigger flashbacks to being told off in your youth, but there’s a reason it’s stuck, it’s true. How many times have you had more serious things to do, only to be distracted by things that need a quick tidy? And how much time have you wasted looking for something amid a huge pile of knick-knacks – leading to more stress and distraction from the things you really needed to do? Clutter has a negative impact on your mental and physical health, it can leave you feeling anxious, stressed and even depressed!
Studies show distractions like these don’t just eat up your time during the distraction, they derail your mental progress for up to half an hour afterwards. Keeping your surroundings tidy can help deter distractions and keep you focused. So, before you’ve started for the day, pop on some of your favourite music, clear your clutter and allow yourself the physical and brain space needed to pull together that task you’ve been putting off.
5. Decide what you want, then make it happen
Raise your hand if you start your daily to-do list with a couple of things you’ve already completed just to feel like you’ve already achieved something? We all need a little boost to get us moving, but did you know there are ways to both prolong that boost and help you achieve your long-term goals?
It’s one thing having a list of goals and dreams, but it’s another making it happen. The trick is to master structure and organisation in your daily life, so that you have the room to plan for the long-term. While many of us have big ideas for the future, we’re so busy trying to cross off the next item on our to-do list, we rarely get time to actually work towards them.
Studies show that people with written goals are 42% more likely to achieve them than people without written goals. Telling a friend about your goals will increase this rate to 78%. So, brand-new page or [insert digital equivalent of your choice], actively write down your long-term goals, dreams and hopes. Then tell others about your list to leverage the feeling of accountability, which will help you achieve them.
Goal setting tips to get you started
If you’re staring at your blank page in a blurred overwhelm about big ambitious goals, then divide the big goals into a sublist of smaller, more digestible targets. This way, you’ll complete tasks more frequently, boosting your positive achievement vibes and powering you through to the next task – and your dreams. For example, if you’re a design graduate stuck in a job you hate but you want to design your own clothing line, your goals list could look something like this:
- Research latest trends / textures / patterns
- Find fashion design communities to join
- Design one garment this month
- Attend at least one educational event this month
6. Consider the benefits of digital detox periods
Half of us admit to using our phones before 7am – often while we’re still in bed. Many of us know this isn’t good for our mental health, but we can’t seem to stop. Trouble is, scrolling through the picture perfect lives of others on Instagram and absorbing the world’s woes on Twitter hardly counts as starting your day on a high. In fact, it’s the direct opposite, it starts us on a low.
Begin your day as you mean to go on, and implement an alternative morning routine that celebrates YOU. In her viral online seminars, The Science of Wellbeing, Psychology professor at Yale University Dr Laurie Santos recommends cutting out digital first thing in the morning and instead spending that time to practise gratitude and savour experiences for happiness.
Digital detox challenge
Pick three tasks from your daily life that you enjoy, then savour in those experiences. For example, it could be the moment you drink your first cup of tea. Be present, feel the warmth and comfort of that cup of tea. You might also love having a proper balanced breakfast, when you eat, savour each and every bite - the taste, smell, texture. It’s all about being present and thinking only about the task at hand, rather than checking your Twitter account with one hand and gulping tea in the other.
Ditching digital and centring your focus on these simple moments in time will help to teach yourself how to develop the space of consciousness, so you can be the observer of your mind and learn to really appreciate the present moment – giving you a far better head start to the day. Another alternative which may be useful at the end of the day – when a phone’s blue light can disrupt your ability to relax and sleep – is a minute-long breath work to allow you to slow down. This can be as simple as closing your eyes and placing your hands on your abdomen to feel the rise and fall of the breath. Allowing your mind to focus on the present moment and connecting with your body will create a calmer state of mind, encouraging you to fully relax before sleeping.
7. Make exercise more fun and balance your mood
Yes, we went there - you need to exercise! Whether you’ve been feeling down because of the seasons, anxious about the prolonged pandemic, or are looking to spark an energy boost in general, exercise can do wonders in terms of self-care. When you exercise you release endorphins, these lovely chemicals trigger a positive feeling in the brain and can energise your outlook on life.
However, as great as our intentions may be when we start a new exercise habit, often this trails off as time goes on. Either we lose motivation, aren’t progressing as quickly, or we’re just struggling to incorporate it into our day-to-day.
Looking after your body shouldn’t just be about exercise – it’s about finding a form of exercise that doesn’t feel like “work”, but feels like fun. Don’t exercise because you hate your body, or want to lose weight, or burn calories.
Exercise because you love it, and you’re proud of all it can achieve. Maybe you have flexible thighs, a strong core, or can hold your breath for ages. Maybe you have great stamina, or unwavering balance, or naturally muscular shoulders. Pushing your body to its limits looks different for everyone, and realising your potential and building on it can lead to such an exhilarating reward and a more balanced you.
Are you ready to put your ideas into gear in 2021?If you got this far, then hopefully you have some ideas on how to inject a little wellness and self-care into your routine this year. Remember – these are just guidelines, everyone’s idea of self-care is different.
Throughout this process, it’s important to remind yourself why you’re doing it: do you want to grow? Achieve your goals? Promote wellness within yourself? Start by picking one of the above, and adapting it to your needs. Even if you only manage to do one thing on this list, every little thing you do for yourself counts. It’s all about keeping it simple, finding an outlet you like, so whatever you do have fun with it, and tap yourself on the back afterwards as you reap the rewards. Begin a self-care task from this list today, no matter how small, and notice how much better that you feel.
You’ve got this!