In my previous post I had talked about the importance of self-care. I have not been able to post for a while as I was taking care of my own health issues. Now that I feel better and able to pick from where I left off, I would like to talk some more about self-care techniques.
Self-care essentially is just the simple act of looking after and responding to your needs – these could be emotional, physical, intellectual or even spiritual. Why is it so important? Because you are the best person to figure out what you need and when, and therefore the best person to take care of those needs. Self-care techniques, practised as a part of your daily life, will improve the quality of your life. By making time for yourself on a regular basis, you will not only become a better person but your relationships with others will improve as well.
So how does one begin, you might ask. Well, since self-care will mean different things to people according to their own personalities and needs, self-care techniques will also differ from one person to another. Here are some general ideas that might suit many people in today’s world of stressful jobs and lives.
- Take care of your health – Follow a balanced diet, go for regular check-ups, avoid overdoing sugar and processed food. I gave up white sugar a year ago. Now my love for chocolate and sweets often makes me slip up here and indulge in a bite of dessert every now and then, but my daily cups of tea continue to be sugarless.
- Exercise – You don’t have to join a gym for this. You could opt for yoga, Zumba, or even just a long walk every day. Exercise isn’t just about losing weight or looking good. The biggest benefit of exercise is its positive effect on a person’s mood. When you exercise, the body releases endorphin, the feel-good chemical. It dulls your perception of pain, uplifts your mood and reduces stress levels. I used to go for a walk every evening for an hour after work; with winter setting in I have replaced the walk with Yoga. It’s helping me with my chronic back pain as well.
- Get sufficient sleep – Sleep is often the first casualty of a stressful and busy life. Often people boast of getting by with just 4-5 hours of sleep a day. However, it is a scientifically proven fact that the average human being needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep a day. How many hours do you typically sleep? Lack of sleep will lead to higher levels of stress and eventually exhaustion.
- Don’t overcommit your time – If you have a lot of responsibilities weighing on you, it is likely that the first thing you will neglect is your own self. To avoid getting to this stage, avoid over-committing your time at work as well as socially. Don’t take on too many things at once. Only say yes to things you want to do and have the time/energy/inclination for. Some people might feel this is selfish behaviour, but trust me, putting yourself first every now and then is necessary. You can’t do it all – wouldn’t you rather just do selective things, but then do them well?
- Learn to say no – This follows from the previous point. You cannot be there for everyone every time. Saying no graciously is an art that I am still struggling to learn, but I know it is an important one. I have also realised that the people who are important to me, who are close to me, will usually understand and accept the “no”.
- Take breaks – Every day, take out time for short breaks. Watch a funny video, or do a crossword, or call a friend. Do something apart from your routine activities, just for yourself.
- Laugh – Laughter really is the best medicine. Just like exercise, laughter also leads to the release of endorphins. In addition, it stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles and decreases physical symptoms of stress. Watch something that makes you laugh and see the difference it makes.
- Develop a hobby – It could be something common like reading, or unusual like geocaching. The idea is to find something that allows you to unwind and feel good about life. It could be a daily solo activity, or something to do once a week with friends. Schedule time for it, just like you schedule your work meetings.
- Meditate – I have started meditating very recently, so am not an expert at this, but I can say with certainty that it helps in dealing with anxiety and stress. Meditating for just 10 minutes every morning will help you start your day in a more relaxed manner.
- Avoid negativity – You don’t need to watch that highly negative, alarmist news channel. You also don’t need to listen to that toxic person at work who can only whine and complain. Switch off. Walk away. Tune out. Look for positivity instead.
- Take a social media break – How often during the day do you check your Facebook or Instagram feed? There is a whole body of literature out there on how social media usage is addictive and even leads to depression and anxiety. Do you really need to get real-time notifications from Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest/Whatever? Trust me, if you switch off notifications, life will not come to a grinding halt. I did this a few months ago and wish I had done it earlier. Switch off notifications; don’t check these accounts the first thing in the morning (I bet that’s what you currently do); once a week go off the grid if you can.
- Indulge yourself – Do something that gives you joy and pleasure. It could be a massage, or a movie night, or a glass of wine on the weekend. Find your own bliss.
I have only listed twelve self-care techniques in this post; there are many more that can be thought of and followed. At the end of the day it is not so much about how you do it but why. You need to do it for yourself, so that you are in a good place physically and emotionally. Moreover, by taking care of yourself, you will also take care of your relationships. Only when you are at your best, will you be able to give your fullest to those that matter to you.
If something about this post resonated with you, do comment. I’d also love to hear from others on their own self-care techniques.
Have a great week ahead!