Self-care for beginners: Tips for a healthier happier you
Whether you've been feeling low or, overall, things are relatively good right now, self-care is something that everyone can benefit from.
Self-care is taking a little time to check in with how you’re feeling and establish healthy habits that improve and nurture your everyday mental wellbeing. The best methods are often the simplest and self-care doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym every day or restricting yourself to rigid, unattainable routines.
For anyone finding the concept of self-care a difficult thing to get to grips with, we’ve put together some more manageable ways to make it part of your daily life.
Life gets busy, and when your mind is elsewhere, it’s easy to resort to snacking or stress eating instead of cooking proper meals. Some people even forget to eat altogether.
While it may feel like you can save time by cutting out meals, your ability to function slows, you’ll become tired more quickly and your mental wellbeing will suffer as a result. Here are some things to try:
A balanced diet
By eating balanced meals that include the five main food groups; carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, protein, dairy products, fats and sugars, energy is released slowly throughout the day. With more sustained levels of energy, you may see an improvement in your mood.
Not all snacking is bad for you
If you’re feeling peckish between meals, try to push aside those chocolate cravings by replacing sugary foods with a healthy snack containing lots of protein, like nuts.
Trying to keep mealtimes at roughly the same time every day is a great way to get into a routine of healthy eating.
To avoid the need to grab last minute junk food, make sure you set aside time to buy your ingredients to cook with.
Without adequate, quality sleep you can feel tired, irritable, and generally out of sorts. At the same time, sleeping for too long can stop you from looking after yourself in other areas of your life, such as eating properly and exercising, or doing the things you enjoy like hobbies and socialising.
There is a lot of advice out there on how much sleep you should be getting, ranging from 5 - 10 hours. However, it’s important to remember that everyone is different and not to focus on the numbers too much.
Instead try reframing the thoughts that stop you getting out of bed — ‘What’s the point in getting up?’ or ‘nothing good ever happens in the day’ may sound familiar. Try to reframe this kind of thought as ‘staying in bed will limit the opportunity for something good to happen’.
Reduce your caffeine intake
Cutting down on tea, coffee and chocolate will make it easier to wind down and improve your sleep cycle.
Try not to nap throughout the day
While you may be taking them because you struggle to sleep at night, naps reduce the quality of your sleep overnight.
Avoid screen time late at night
Staying up watching TV, working on your laptop or scrolling on your phone are one of the most common reasons so many of us go without the sleep we need.
Establish healthy habits before bed
Have a bedtime routine that helps you wind down and schedule any exercise at least two hours before bed, as physical activity will make you feel more alert.
You don’t need luxury spas to improve your wellbeing. Staying on top of simple personal hygiene practices like brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, washing and combing your hair, bathing, and even keeping on top of your laundry can make a massive difference to the way you feel about yourself.
Create a routine
When you’re not feeling like yourself, changing into clean clothes and brushing your teeth can be easy to put off. However, once you get into a regular routine, looking after yourself becomes something you do out of habit.
The later you leave it the less inclined you’ll be to wash, dress or brush your teeth. And when there’s lots on your mind, it can be easy to forget about taking care of yourself all together. Try setting a daily reminder on your phone to help jog your memory.
Set small goals to start with
If you’re finding it incredibly tough to find the motivation to carry out a thorough personal hygiene routine, start small and reward yourself for achieving your goals. For example, buy yourself a bottle of luxury shower gel for showering before bed every day for a week. Just remember to not make having the things you like dependant on achieving every single goal you set.
Keeping your home tidy has positive calming effects on our wellbeing and has been proven to benefit overall happiness. Put simply, decluttering your environment, helps declutter your mind too.
Take pride in your living space
While saying tidy is important for hygiene, practicality and spending less time looking for things, it can also improve the way you feel about your surroundings and your sense of self worth.
Take it one step at a time
If the thought of a deep clean feels daunting, break up the task into smaller ones. For example, start with the washing up, take a break and leave the vacuuming for another day.
Don’t let tidying become an obsession
It’s important to remember that everything can be taken to the extreme. When tidying goes from an act of self-care to an obsession, it can have a negative affect on your wellbeing.
It’s not just your physical health that benefits from exercise. With the release of serotonin and endorphins – the body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals – your mood can improve naturally with the help of a bit of movement.
Even just a little exercise can make a difference to your overall well being. While joining a gym, taking up running or working-out at home are all great ways to stay fit, you can still benefit from starting small and fitting exercise around your everyday life. It could be as simple as cycling to the shops or finding a way to walk part of your commute to work.
Make it social
Exercise is also a great opportunity to socialise or join group based activities like sports teams or dance classes. Try thinking back to the hobbies and activities you enjoyed in the past and picking things up where you left off.
There is no right way to care for yourself
As you’ll hopefully have guessed from the name, ‘self-care’ is about you. Everyone has different lives, commitments and responsibilities and you can’t always put your ‘self’ first.
You might find some techniques more helpful than others or you may choose to adapt them to better suit your lifestyle. Either way, it’s important to always think of self-care as a healthy habit rather than a one-off cure.
If you’re stuck in a negative cycle and feeling too low or overwhelmed to complete everyday activities and acts of self-care, take a look at our free CBT-based therapies.
Available in person, online or over the phone, they can help you better understand your feelings and begin your journey to feeling like ‘you’ again.