The Ultimate Self Care Guide for a Better 2021
By Sadira Sittampalam
With no signs of the COVID pandemic suddenly going away, all of us must realise the importance of self-care in order to increase our physical and mental well-being. When you feel physically and emotionally well, it is a lot easier to navigate various stressors that we come across in our daily lives productively and healthily.
Physical Needs Sleep
Adults need around 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. This means that you need this amount of sleep within 24 hours and trying to ‘catch up’ on some sleep by sleeping more the next day or sleeping away the weekend doesn’t work. You need enough quality sleep regularly as sleep is integral in keeping your mood, concentration, and health in check. While not a lot of people sleep the required amount, it is actually pretty easy to get into a good sleep routine which will also help improve the quality of your sleep so that by morning you are a more productive and well-rested person.
Everyone knows that it is important to have a balanced diet full of plenty of vegetables and fruits as it protects and enhances your health, however, it is also just as important to think about how you eat. Do you eat rather ravenously, shoving food down your throat faster than you have time to properly breathe, or do you eat your food slowly and mindfully in order to enjoy your meals?
If you eat your food in front of the TV or while doing any other task really, you are not eating mindfully. Mindful and intuitive eating are approaches that help you feel more satisfied with food, which makes it a lot easier for you to enjoy foods in moderation without trying to restrict yourself which only leads to stress and guilt if you eat too much. Take this year to concentrate and appreciate the food you eat by paying attention to every bite. You will find it is a much more satisfying experience.
The most important part of healthcare is to be preventative and take preventative measures. While you may dread going to the doctor’s office for your annual check-up, you must go anyway as regular visits with a doctor can help you catch health concerns in early (and more preventative) stages. Even if you have felt fine all year with no real health problems, you should still schedule a visit. You should also use this time to ask your doctor about any mildly concerning health issues you may have bugging you but haven’t had the time to check out properly.
Intimacy doesn’t always refer to ‘sex’, and in this context, it means other types of physical contact. Touch is a basic human need and therefore is important in maintaining good health. So some ways you can fullfil this intimacy is getting a massage (either professionally or with a friend or partner), hugging a loved one, finding a cuddle buddy - or my personal favourite - getting a pet, or finding ways to interact with animals such as by volunteering to pet-sit.
Modern guidelines for physical activity have recommended adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. Exercising often feels like an unpleasant and unenjoyable activity, however, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you make it something fun or even recreational, you will probably want to do it more often. So try adding activities that you enjoy such as biking if you don’t like running or even a team sport if you like social interaction.
Mental Needs Reducing Stress
Stress plays an important part in mental health, which could also be playing a role in your physical health as stress has been proven to be one of the causes (but not the sole cause) of various ailments such as diabetes, heart problems, and high blood pressure. This is why you should always be aware of your daily stressors and find ways of dealing with them healthily. Setting certain boundaries might help with this. So things like learning to say no when you would rather not do something, not volunteering for extra work, communicating your needs to others, and taking some time for yourself and other self-care practices.
Improving cognitive abilities
Expanding and strengthening your mind has a lot of benefits for your overall wellness as it allows your mind to always be open to learning and exploring new things. You can boost your cognitive skills by learning something new by picking up a new hobby or continuing an old one, reading or playing brain games to improve concentration.
You could start playing chess, try to pick up a new instrument, or start doing the daily crosswords or sudoku puzzles in the newspaper. Furthermore, to ensure optimal brain function you should also give your brain enough time to recharge.
If you find that your attention is easily broken when performing a task, it could suggest you aren’t giving your brain enough time to relax. Technology is a big part of this phenomenon as it makes your brain over-stimulated with so much instant gratification. Therefore, having some technology-free time where you can do things like walk around your neighbourhood or doodle is pretty important to keep your brain in tip-top shape.
Another way to care for yourself is to take the time to develop yourself as a person. Not only will this improve your sense of self and self-image, but it will also allow you to lead a more authentic, meaningful life and improve your relationships. You should aim to further educate yourself in some way, spend time with people you wouldn’t usually spend time with, and perhaps learn about different cultures. This will expand your worldview and help question things you thought you knew.
Emotional Needs Mindfulness
Emotional self-care often revolves around getting in touch with how you feel on a day-to-day basis and noticing what you need to feel fulfilled. Meditation or journaling are therefore great tools in order to be more connected to yourself. Sharing your feelings with others is also a good way of looking at your feelings as you realise a lot more about yourself when trying to convey it to others.
If you often feel lonely, you might need to make more of an effort to meet more people that you actually enjoy hanging out with. You might have friends, but if they are not giving you what you need emotionally, you should try and seek out other people who would fulfil your emotional needs. The same goes for people who feel overwhelmed, or even irritable around people who should consider making time to be alone. Furthermore, while you can fulfill your needs with the family and friends you have now, you should always look to branch out and make new connections as that will help you grow as a person too.
Everyone needs time to be by themselves. Knowing yourself is an important part of self-care and not taking the time to be by yourself could lead to detrimental consequences when you are forced to be alone for whatever reason. This could mean taking a personal day from work when you feel disengaged, creating a space for yourself at home where you can go and not be disturbed, or making time for your favourite hobby.