Six tips to start your self-care journey
Kym Friese’s monthly mental health column aims to help anyone suffering from any mental health concerns. If this article raises any issues for you please contact the resources at the bottom of this article.
Self-care is a hot topic brought up often, but what does it actually mean and how do we apply it?
Self-care is an essential self-initiated act that focuses on your personal, physical and emotional wellbeing, with the idea being to maintain and improve your mental state and overall functioning to prevent burnout.
Many of us likely relate, as many of us may put our self-care last due to time constraints. Often, we fit it into our schedule as a reward as opposed to viewing it as a necessity to place our physical and emotional wellbeing first.
The belief that self-care is a selfish act is untrue! It’s about ultimately knowing what your mind or body requires to ensure you’re content and functioning to your full potential.
You’d be familiar with the term: ‘work-life balance’. Self-care is a fundamental ingredient to creating that balance between your work and personal life.
Think about this for a moment—if you are unable to take care of yourself and find yourself fatigued, teary, headachy and anxious, tell me, what good are you going to be to your loved ones or work colleagues if you’re unable to apply good self-care practices to yourself?
If you have been neglecting your self-care, you need to start creating a routine that works for you. Below are some tips to help you get started, remembering self-care varies person to person, so start small allowing yourself to steadily set a routine you are comfortable with.
Tip 1: Plan and organise
Plan your self-care activities to blend into your routine, don’t become complacent believing it will fall into place. Be diligent, lock in dates for things like yoga, a massage, a GP appointment for medication review or a psychology appointment.
Use a method to ensure you remember, I lock dates into my phone calendar and a whiteboard on the fridge as a reminder system. Find one that works for you!
Tip 2: Schedule self-care leave
Do you have access to a rostered day off? If not, why not use a day’s leave once a month to give yourself a long weekend? You can use this as a ‘mental health day/weekend’.
By planning it, you give your employer notice and it becomes part of your monthly routine to reclaim your work-life balance. You could go away locally to a retreat, beach or somewhere that feels like a sanctuary and safe place to you to ensure you can fully recharge.
Tip 3: Set boundaries
Set boundaries to help you unwind when you come home and incorporate this into your weekend. This could include cutting off time for phone calls, only checking work emails between certain hours once you are home or switching your phone to silent at a negotiated time.
Tip 4: Eat right, sleep tight
Eat balanced meals during the week and treat yourself to takeaway once or twice a week. To compliment this, ensure you get enough sleep. On average, as adults we need about seven hours of sleep nightly.
Tip 5: Move your body
Exercise regularly, choose something you can commit to and enjoy! Exercise is known to increase serotonin levels to the brain which in turn enhances mood.
I walk my dog before work for 30 mins daily and do a resistance band work out three times a week on scheduled evenings which works for me. You might find something completely different, and that’s okay.
Tip 6: Relax your mind
Implement relaxation into your routine, mindfulness works for me particularly when I am anxious. It can be good to set time aside for your loved ones to grab a coffee, dinner or even have chat on the phone.
Lastly, try to do one thing each day that puts a smile on your face. My little joy is my coffee and trying different syrups, biscuits or sweets to go with them. This is small but effective for me and never ceases to put a smile on my face. Try and find your ‘daily smile’.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:
- Lifeline – 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, beyondblue.org.au/forums
- MensLine – 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
- Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet – healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au
By Kym Friese
Kym Friese is a Kamilaroi woman and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 19 years’ experience in Mental Health and Community Services. Her qualifications include BA Health Ageing and Community Services, Masters Social Work, Dip Counselling, Dip Community Services (AOD and Mental Health), and Cert IV Training and Assessment.