Even for the most optimistic types, the last few years have been tough. Constantly confronted with a doom-laden news cycle, it’s no wonder that self-care has gone from being seen as “a bit woo” to an important aspect of daily life. And, as January strikes, it’s a good time to think about the daily rituals you can adopt to make you feel better.
We’re not talking elaborate routines or expensive gadgets here; just easy ways to feel a bit better even as the days are dark and gloomy. Here, we’ve spoken to three experts to discover their practical self-care tips for giving yourself a boost.
The therapist and founding partner of Self Space on his stress-busting self-care tips.
Name it to tame it
In times when things can feel out of our control it can be helpful to get specific and name the things that are stressing us out. This might sound overly simplistic but in naming them we are better able to pinpoint what’s going on for us rather than sit within a build-up of vague stressors.
Say it out loud, to yourself or to someone you love. “I am [insert feeling] about [insert thing that is bothering you]”.
What you’re really doing is activating the part of your brain that is in charge of complex cognitive behaviour and decision-making. From here you can plan and orchestrate our thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals. It’s not just venting.
Come back to the present
Periods of change, or stressful situations, can cause us to worry about the future.
The present moment can be a needed anchor in these moments, preventing you from getting too lost in anxious thought. There are many strategies for reconnecting with yourself in the present moment, some as simple as a warm drink or the company of a loved one but you can also support this process by getting in touch with your body and paying attention to how it’s responding to change and the stress it brings. Short-term strategies include;a ritual involving breathing to help you relax and restore such as breathing in for four, out for six. The breath is a powerful tool for grounding and something we have instant and easy access to.
Write it out
We’re not going to breathe or journal our problems away. But from this place of calm, we are in a much stronger position to support our whole selves. Sometimes it’s too easy to become fixated on events or situations over which you have no power or control. But rather than focusing on moving what you can’t, you can set your sights on what you can control.
Ask yourself and write:
- What, today, can I be in control of?
- What am I not in control of?
- What is within my reach?
- What might I need to commit to accepting?
- Who or what can help me?
Focus on what you can contribute
Think about ways you can contribute to your community (or communities in need) in a way that leverages your own relative privilege while balancing your own needs. Helping feels good, for us and for others.
Of course, we have to look after ourselves in order to best support others (a bit like the “attend to your own oxygen mask first before helping others” analogy) — but cultivating community in this way not only improves our mental health and reduces stress,but improves the mental health of others too. It helps us move beyond ourselves, beyond our own stressors.
If you find yourself in the position of being able to give more than you need to receive, do so. Depending on who you are and your strengths, this might mean listening to someone who needs to be comforted and heard, cooking a meal for a friend who hasn’t been looking after themselves, reaching out to a friend who is lonely, volunteering and so on.
If you’re full up and unable to give outwardly, think about how you can apply this very principle to yourself. What are your three biggest needs right now? How can you meet them or get them met?
The fitness expert and founder of ROAR shares advice on looking after yourself through fitness and nutrition.
Go for a morning walk
Don’t save this only for the summer. Even if it’s dark and raining and you have to wrap up and take an umbrella, just a brisk 10-minute walk is guaranteed to improve your mood. You’ll feel the benefits of fresh air, daylight, elevating your heart rate and deeper breathing. A morning walk can help clear your head and improve your mindset, and will lead to healthier decisions for the rest of the day.
READ MORE: 5 ways to get your steps in during winter
Set an exercise goal
A lot of people will go to the gym to lose weight, but instead of spending all your time trying to train more and eat less, instead try setting performance goals. This could be a strength target, such as being able to lift a certain weight. When you’ve set your goal, set a solid plan to achieve this. It’s much more rewarding than simply slogging away without a specific target.
Ditch the highly-processed foods
Food is fuel to nourish your body. Synthetic foods, most protein bars, “diet” and “low fat” products are not good nutrition and will have lots of ingredients that do more harm than good, so read the labels and chose more natural foods.
You don’t need to be a gym bunny to improve your health. Get off the train a stop earlier, take stairs instead of lifts, cycle to work, join a sports club, take the kids for a walk at weekends – whatever works for your lifestyle. Be more active and you’ll soon see and feel the benefits.
The celebrity hair stylist and founder of Headcare shares tips for turning your grooming routine into me-time.
Wash your hair in the bath
Instead of diving into the shower, have a relaxing bath. There’s something beautiful about gently pouring water over your head, it’s more gentle than a shower (and you can always rinse afterwards if you have issues with soap in your hair).
Buy a heat cap for your hair…
…And then wear it while watching a film, reading a book or listening to brown noise. It’s a great way to help you relax.
Brush your hair 100 times a day
Your relaxation receptors are in your temples and across your scalp, so a good brush will help stimulate these.
Open your windows after a bath
Then wrap yourself in a warm duvet and drink a camomile tea to feel cocooned.
READ MORE: 13 of the best fitness YouTubers