I’ve spent the last decade as a mental health and addictions nurse helping others cope with some pretty difficult stuff. I must admit that I, too, have had my share of shitty days. In those moments, I’ve not always practiced what I’ve preached. Instead I’ve drawn the curtains and binged on Netflix and junk food. But ultimately I’ve learned the importance of self-care. I’ve developed self-care strategies so that when life gets tough, and it feels like no one is in my corner, I can look after myself. It’s my responsibility to treat myself well. Treating myself if not selfish – it’s sensible!
Here are my top 5 strategies for self-care:
Get into nature.
Countless studies have shown the benefit of green space on mental health and wellbeing. You don’t need to be an outdoor enthusiast to get the benefits: a walk along the river or sitting in the local park can work its magic too. Never underestimate the power of fresh air and sunshine.
My favourite outdoor activities include taking a walk by the beach, reading my book down by the lake, throwing myself around the tracks on my mountain bike, or drinking coffee in the garden.
Take time out.
Time to get to know yourself is important. Get in touch with who you are, where your head is, and what is going on in your body. Get to know how you think, how you process, and how you interpret the countless amounts of input you receive each day. Learn to recognise your triggers and how to avoid or counter them. Find your way of escaping and regrouping.
I love to do this by journaling, practicing yoga, meditating or reading an inspirational, challenging book.
We all know the health benefits of exercise, but putting that knowledge into practice can be hard at times, especially when we are stressed or feeling overwhelmed. Either way, the benefits can’t be denied.
I am not a natural athlete. I’m almost 40, and I’m a good 10kg overweight. But I absolutely love the buzz I get when I go out for a run. Even though my lungs take a little longer to feel the love, I know I’ll feel better once I’ve done it.
I bought myself a Fitbit this Christmas and have become strangely obsessed with making my 10,000-step goal each day. To reach my goal, I get outside in nature, getting a double benefit on this one.
Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. Jumping around like an uncoordinated monkey at a Zumba class is my idea of hell, but outside in the forest on my bike I’m as happy as can be. Find your thing and embrace it.
Get yourself into some good company.
As humans we are built to be in community. We need other people in our lives, but it’s also important to make sure we have the right people around us. We need people who speak positivity and creativity into our lives, people who have our backs and can be our cheerleaders when times get tough. But equally we need people who can be honest with us and keep us in check when we are stepping out of line, without being negative and dragging us down.
That balance can be hard to find, but both sides are vital if we want to keep a healthy view of ourselves and the world in general. Spending time with friends, whether to talk through a difficult issue or just to roll around in tears of laughter at each other’s stories, is so important to our well-being. I have learned that in my busiest most stressful weeks, if I am to have any hope of remaining sane by the weekend, I have to make time for that coffee, phone call or dinner date.
Do something you love.
More than anything, you need to find some things you love and do them as often as possible. My somethings are as simple as drinking a glass of wine, soaking in a hot bubble bath, or reading my book while people watching at a café. These can dramatically alter my stress levels just because they are some of my favourite things. Travel is my ultimate “got to,” and the thing I love to do above all. Even when I’m not travelling, I’m scanning the flight websites, looking for cool destinations, and chatting to mates about where they are, what they are doing, and seeing and working out itineraries for possible future adventures….. Travel is my happy place, and if you can find yours then you are on to a winner.
Everyone is different, but my self-care strategies might give you a good starting point to explore and find your own. If you are struggling to find what works for you, always remember we are here to help.
Please Note: The tips shared here are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any mental illness. Additionally, they are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. While we’re here to support, encourage and share resources that have helped us, we encourage readers to seek the advice of their own physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions they may have regarding their mental health.