This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so we asked mental health advocate Sabrina Greenberg from Anxiously Active to tell us why self care is so important for our general wellbeing and why we should be making more time for it in a 24/7 society.
In the 24 hours/7 days a week working environment we find ourselves in, taking time for yourself is portrayed as self indulgence. You should be writing blog posts on Sunday morning, you should be chasing invoices on a Friday night. Social media projects such a continual stream of people hustling during every waking moment, that the idea of stopping momentarily to prioritise yourself can make many feel uncomfortable or anxious.
Here is the thing, you only have one body, one mind.
You need those things every day for the rest of your life. You deserve to take care of them. If you want to pitch that next big collaboration or be fully present for your best friend’s wedding you need rest, you need to eat regularly, you need to breathe.
Self care is essential to not just your mental health, but your overall wellbeing.
It is not a trend and should not be promoted as such, but, similar to intuitive eating, or body positivity, it has been co opted by some in order to maximise profitability. How often do you scroll through social media and see #selfcare underneath a photo of a luxury face mask, a gorgeous but expensive scented candle or a massage table covered in fluffy white towels? The underlying message to these images are: self care is about indulgence and indulgence takes time and money. If you are self employed or trying to run a side hustle alongside full time work or parenting, the likelihood is you are short on both.
Now do not get me wrong, I love to treat myself. In the right situation it can bring a unique kind of joy, but fundamentally self care is not about material items. It is the process of recognising your personal needs and carving out dedicated time to honour them. This does not need to be expensive, it does not even need to take a significant amount of time once it becomes a regular part of your routine.
Here are a list of 5 easy, free and time-kind ways of practising self care:
- Clean up your working area: staring at piles of paper on a impersonal desk can be so demotivating. Take take to have declutter and print off some photos or your favourite memes so you have something that makes you smile in your eye line on stressful days.
- Watch reruns of your favourite sitcoms: Briefly lose yourself in some 90s nostalgia. Most sitcom episodes are 25 mins and make an excellent break tool. Just remember to be disciplined! We have all fallen into a Friends Netflix shaped hole.
- Do a brain dump: stream of consciousness writing is one of the most powerful de-stressing tools I use. Get a piece of paper and just write down anything and everything that flows through your mind. Try not question or judge what appears, is the process of getting it out that is important.
- Do some light stretching or go for a walk: movement maybe the most important way of managing stress but, do not let social media trick you into thinking that it must be brutal to be of any benefit. Doing high intensity exercise when you have high cortisol levels is ineffective and can make things worse. Get some air for 20 mins or follow a yoga flow on Youtube to increase blood flow and encourage deep breathing.
- Bake your favourites: There is a reason the Great British Bake Off is a national treasure. Baking is wonderfully cathartic. It is tactile, methodical and creative which can all be very calming. Plus, you have something delicious at the end to have with a well deserved cup of tea!
At its core, self care is about taking time to develop, maintain and improve your overall wellbeing. It is learning to protect yourself and make your needs a priority. Please remember, your mental and physical health is invaluable. Anything that you hope to achieve can only be strengthened by looking after yourself.