Pre-S: This is a guest post by the lovely Jessica Watters of Designed By Jess!
Let me be straight here - I really enjoy my work, and I want to be able to run a successful business.
However, as a psychologist, I know that in order to do that, it is essential that I look after myself. Not only is self care super important for our mood and psychological wellbeing, it also plays a really key role in our physical health.
If we feel in a slump, feel anxious or depressed, or get physically sick, how can we possibly run a successful business? Stress, anxiety and being overworked leads to burnout and exhaustion, and so to combat this, and run a successful and thriving business, it is crucial that we practice self care.
Self care comes in many forms, it doesn’t have to just mean having a hot bath and trying to relax (although this can be awesome!). This article will highlight 7 ideas to increase self care that you may not have thought of :)
Positive Self Talk
Everyone talks to themselves in their head - we psychologists call this “self talk” (I know, fancy huh?!). What’s cool about our self talk is that we can actually use this everyday occurrence to our advantage to help us feel better, reduce anxiety and improve our confidence.
Self talk can be practiced in 2 main ways to help us look after ourselves.
One way is to practice saying things to yourself using words like “I can” and future goals. For example “I can do this”, “I can make this work”, “I can build my business” or even “I can have a great day today”. Talking to ourselves about our ability to conquer the task and achieve our goals can increase our confidence and ability to get the job done.
Another simple way to practice is to be kind to yourself, also called self-compassion. This could include saying things like “it’s ok”, “you did well” or “that was a great effort”. Self-compassion has been shown to improve psychological wellbeing and our feeling of happiness.
While this might not be a traditional form of self care - it is about being gentle on yourself, not saying negative things all the time and instead trying to be kind and supportive. Yum.
I know, mindfulness has been a bit of a buzz word over the last few years. But it is for good reason.
In a nutshell, mindfulness means to be mindful of the present moment. It means not thinking about what I might have said to someone earlier today, or what I have to do this afternoon. It means thinking about what is happening around us, and within us, in this moment. This little tool can ultimately help us avoid burnout as it allows us to let go of daily stress, stop overthinking, and feel content and at ease.
Mindfulness is a skill. It isn’t easy initially (our mind will continue to wander forward and backward) but like any new skill, practice makes a big difference.
A great way to start your mindfulness practice is by listening to some guided mindfulness recordings. One of my favourite apps for this is Smiling Mind, which has mindfulness recordings for all different ages. It even has bite sized mindfulness sessions that go for 1 minute, 2 minutes or 4 minutes. Now you can’t possibly say you don’t have a spare 1 minute in your day to practice some peace of mind!
This is one I have personally had to work really hard on. I am not naturally a very organised person. I tend to like going with the flow and seeing what happens. However, and this took me a while to realise, this was actually increasing my stress levels and leading down the road toward burnout.
I often discuss with my clients that trying to remember everything we need to get done is like juggling with many balls. We have to constantly keep trying to keep track of where each ball is, constantly remind ourselves of them, or we fear we’d drop something.
This takes a lot of mental energy and means that we can’t fully stop and unwind.
Instead, find a way to put those balls down, all in a neat little row. It reduces mental energy, reduces stress, increases productivity and lowers the likelihood of burnout.
I played around with a few different ways to get organised. I tried a paper and pen journal, as I really liked the idea of having something tangible and beautiful, although, unfortunately, this never really worked for me. I would forget to write things down, or forget to check it.
Now I just use common free apps on my iPhone. The ones I use the most are: reminders (for literally everything - even to remember milk on the way home), notes (awesome for longer lists or things I need to keep track of - like blog ideas, things I want to do that day or a travel packing list) and the calendar app (perfect for meetings, get togethers and catch ups).
Together they buzz, bing and alert me to help me stay on track, remember everything and reduce my stress.
Related post → 11 Ways To Plan The Most Productive Week Ever
This one is so underrated, yet so important. Play can help us feel happy, young and joyful. It is such a fun way to practice self care.
Play might mean playing with your kids or dog - literal play, or it could just mean being silly and having fun.
For example Zoe's awesome Harry Potter references would be a wonderful example of play! Just being herself and having fun! Not taking everything super seriously. Enjoying herself and making her and others smile.
You could play an old game (Mario Brothers is one of my favourites!) or maybe just laugh with a friend. Play helps us learn, inspires creativity and keeps us refreshed, which ultimately keeps burnout at bay.
I could do an entirely seperate article just on sleep. It is super important, and often I think we undervalue it and not give it the attention it deserves.
Did you know that lack of sleep has actually been used as a torture technique, and can even lead to death?! Woah, that got heavy- but it is important to highlight just how critical sleep is.
Sleep helps us store memories, improves brain function and improves mood. Some genes in our body that help repair damage and heal us actually only turn on when we are asleep. So finding a good routine is really beneficial.
Many health experts recommend between 7 - 9 hours of sleep per night for adults. Some may feel better with a little less, some a little more.
A few simple ways to help increase sleep include:
- turning off screens (or turning off blue light) half hour before sleep
- creating a bedtime and wake time and being relatively consistent - to create a good sleep pattern
- having a nice hot shower, bath or herbal tea before bed - heat can be relaxing for the body
- doing things that are less mentally stimulating - like reading or watching a TV program (that doesn’t suck you in and mean you “just have to watch one more”)
Getting rid of clutter and junk not only clears our work or home space, it also clears the mind. (Click to tweet this!)
Our brain is powerful and amazing; however, because it can take in so much information, it would get quickly overwhelmed and then slow down (hello frozen computer!). So, in order to keep our brain working at optimal speeds, it learns to ignore things.
The more stuff you have in your visual field, the more your brain needs to keep working to ignore it all. Not only can this be tiring for your brain, it can also increase stress and anxiety. It slows the brain down, it overwhelms it with additional stimuli, and makes our brain feel like work isn’t finished.
It literally impacts on our ability to relax, feel a sense of calm, and limits our creativity. Not cool.
But the solution to this is easy! Get rid of things and tidy up! Not only can this feel really satisfying - as we can immediately see the results of our handy work - it also helps us relax, feel calmer and have an overall sense of ease.
Better still, if you donate some of your things that you no longer want or need, you also get a great feeling from helping someone else! Double win.
Related post → How To Get Out Of A Slump
Last, but certainly not least, is physical activity. Physical activity is clearly fantastic for our bodies as means we move them about, stretch them and use those muscles, but it is also wonderful for our brain. Some of the research in to physical activity has even shown that it can help depression as much as antidepressants can.
Physical activity can have a positive affect on our brain, and help make us to be more creative, less depressed, less anxious and can increase our ability to problem solve.
So why not get a little more active? This could mean taking a walk or hike, trying out yoga, doing pilates, going for a run or swim, or doing a dance class, or even dancing around the house!
It doesn’t have to be “a work out” or viewed as “exercise” (yuck! Ha, only kidding - but I do find calling it exercise can sometimes make it feel like a chore). It just needs to be a way to move your body and get the blood flowing.
What to take away:
There really are no hard and fast rules about how to have to look after yourself. (Click to tweet this!)
The more I work in practice with clients, the more I learn that, even though we all have a lot in common, we also have a lot of differences too. I tend to think that the weirder the self care idea, the better - as it means it is more unique and tailored just for you.
But the key is - practice and management. If someone was trying to do anger management would we suggest that they wait until they get angry and then try and manage it? No, we look to find ways to reduce anger and practice new techniques.
It is just the same with stress management and self care. It shouldn’t come last and only be done when you feel your about to burnout, it should be practiced often. And given that it feels so good and can be so much fun - why not?!
Jess is graphic designer and clinical psychologist, working in NSW Australia.
She has over 5 years experience in private practice working with clients, and is passionate about helping people find their ideal work / life balance. She provides tools to make work easier (such as her design services as well as tips on design software and programs) and writes articles to help improve your life (such as how to reduce overthinking, get more creative and self care ideas).