The concept of self-care is something I’d like to think that many of us are aware that it’s something that we ‘should’ be doing. Many a guru, article, social media post, tv programme (the list goes on..) tells us what we ‘should’ be doing.

In the work I do in the education of people about mental health, mental illness and how to be proactive with our wellbeing. I find the same theme comes up time and time again- whether that be with teachers, construction workers, NHS workers, lawyers or accountants. And that is the theme of ‘not enough time.’

It is not so much the ‘what’ to do, but the ‘how’ to fit it in, within the climate of today’s world. For those working full time, there may be family commitments, caring responsibilities, other demands on their time outside of work.

In the Mental Health First Aid courses that I run, the homework after day 1 is to have a ‘happiness hour.’ However, I always stipulate that it doesn’t need to be a full hour. For me what is more important is that people dive into something that they wouldn’t normally do.

It is incredibly important when we are feeling well we try out new things. Experiment and suss out how different acts of self-care affect us.

Remember that our needs will change over time. As our wellbeing fluctuates, so will our self-care needs. How busy we are in a given week will also influence what is achievable and realistic. For example, if you have a week of very early starts, long working days and late evenings, the chances are it is unrealistic to fit in a number of exercise classes of an evening. The last thing you want is to feel pressurised with your self-care routine.

Self Care in a Busy Week- some practical ideas to get you started

That’s not to say we should put self-care on the back burner in those busy weeks though. It is about being creative with time. Here are some ideas of how you can bring self-care into those really busy weeks:

  • Park a little further away from the station, or on the school run. Or get off the bus a stop sooner. 10 minutes walk away then doubles to 20 minutes of walking.
  • Incorporate breathing exercises where you can. Perhaps on your walk or drive into the office. Or while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Breathing is fantastic to lower stress and anxiety levels.
  • Spend your break outdoors.. A short mindful walk (where you focus on all of your senses- what can you see, hear, smell, taste and feel?) 20 minutes of being in nature can be enough to lower stress and anxiety. It also promotes creativity, it energises and makes us more productive.
  • Create boundaries at the end of the working day to help switch off. If you use public transport why not download a meditation app to use on your journey home. If you are working from home create boundaries with a self-care task to signify the end of your working day. (Go for a walk, an exercise class, read a book, spend time getting creative or play an instrument)

The 5 Ways to Wellbeing- proven ways to improve our wellbeing

If you’re unsure of the things you should be doing, the 5 ways to wellbeing are a great place to start. These are 5 things which are proven to improve our wellbeing. They are:

5 Ways to Wellbeing

Give

Take Notice

Stay Active

Keep Learning and

Connect

There is a great tool called the ‘Every Mind Matters Mind Plan’ which creates a mind plan for you based on the 5 ways to wellbeing. It takes just a couple of minutes of answering a few short questions to generate a personalised plan. And if you don’t like the sound of an activity it suggests, you simply swipe past to generate another!

How to fit it all in

Now as I said at the start of this article- it is not so much the ‘what’, it is the ‘how’ to fit it in which poses the biggest challenge. I wanted to share with you my top tips in terms of ‘how’ to bring self-care to life when you are a busy person.

Build up a repertoire of self-care options

Try out lots of things when you’re well. Have a repertoire of things you know will work for you. Aim to have a mix in terms of duration as well as for differing energy and wellness levels. I can’t say that I love exercise, but I do love the way it makes me feel afterwards. Sometimes when energy levels are really low after a week of early mornings and late nights, yoga stretches are the order of the day! Again, better to be doing something, than nothing.

It is always easier to try new things when you are feeling well than when you are struggling with your wellbeing. Try out what works for you and build your toolkit.

Have realistic expectations of self

Realistic expectations of self. This means being mindful of your energy levels and how you feel. Sometimes you will need comfort. Other times you will need to burn off that adrenaline and cortisol build up in a more rigorous activity. Listen to what your body is telling you. The key is to do something rather than nothing at all.

Have realistic expectations of time

Realistic expectations of time. If you have a particularly busy week of early mornings and late nights ahead, keep this in mind when planning your activity for the week. Don’t set yourself up for failure! 20 minutes of HIIT is better for us than a planned hour long exercise class that never happens because we run out of time. Similarly, a relaxing soak in the bath with a book may be unrealistic with young children around. Don’t make self-care a frustration and a chore by feeling pressured to shoehorn it in. Plan ahead and be realistic with the time that you can give.

Don’t add self-care to your ‘to do’ list

Fit into your existing routine rather than an addition. We want to avoid self-care being another item on the to do list. Look at your existing routine to see how you can add in the self-care activity. Check out the practical ideas already mentioned in this article above.

Choose things you love

Choose things you love to do! Self-care is about making you feel good and topping up your wellness. It shouldn’t feel a chore and if it does feel a chore perhaps review your self-care activities. Some great questions to consider:

  • Does the activity ‘light you up’?
  • Does it help you manage emotion?
  • Do you feel calm afterwards?
  • Do we feel energised, motivated or calm?

If the answer to these isn’t yes, perhaps the activity is no longer right for you at this time, or your expectations are too high right now. This is when we need to select another self-care activity from our repertoire.

It may be that you and your team need some more help with this. We run workshops specifically on self-care- a real practical guide. Helping you and your team to understand what self-care is, how to manage it and to create a personal self-care plan. Giving people the skills to do this is beneficial for everyone from the individual, the workplaces and those around them. Get in touch for a no obligation chat on how we can help. jennifer.rawlinson@flourishinmind.co.uk

Jen Rawlinson

Director, Flourish in Mind Ltd