By Elizabeth Barlow
Self-care gets a lot of media attention and rightly so; it is of crucial importance. In the past few years you have probably seen the term thrown around the internet, used as a hashtag on Instagram underneath photos of bath bombs and face masks. In the wake of COVID-19, it’s a term that we are seeing more and more of, particularly in the mainstream media. But what is self-care? What is its value? And, most importantly, what are some practical self-care strategies that we can all try?
Self-care is the concept of consciously tending to one’s own being. What does that actually mean? It means showing up for yourself, taking a second to stop and look inside and reflect on how you feel. My aim is to attempt to demystify self-care and provide some accessible activities that you can do when you are feeling overwhelmed, run down or just in need of a bit of TLC. As Christmas and New Year are fast approaching in what is set to be a strange festive season for us all, let’s delve into some self-care ideas for anyone who is having a tough time.
- Daily Routines
Structure can be critical in maintaining physical and mental health. Most people will have time off during the holiday period, so make sure to try to stick to some form of routine. Even if it’s just aiming to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Get Enough Sleep
The importance of sleep for good mental health cannot be understated. Some studies claim that between 7-9 hours is a good amount of sleep for most adults but in reality, it’s different for everyone. If you feel like you aren’t getting enough sleep try going to bed 15 minutes earlier than you normally would, then keep adding 15 minutes onto each night until you find the perfect amount of sleep for you.
- Eat Well
Fruits and vegetables are good for us. Treats in moderation are good for us. We all know this but it’s so much easier said than done, isn’t it? The link between food and mood can be significant, so if you are interested, give ‘food and mood mind mental health charity’ a quick Google.
- Drink Enough Water
Humans are just more complex cucumbers with anxiety.
- Do Something Creative
Don’t think about whether the thing you produce matches the idea of the final product that you had. Just do something creative for creativity’s sake.
- Talk To People
Although we may be geographically separated from the ones we love this holiday season, we can still connect with them. Find a way to speak to people that you miss, plan a fun video call with your family or friends in other countries or different parts of Japan.
7) Fresh Air
Go outside, stretch your legs, and breathe in the fresh air — even if it’s standing on your balcony for ten seconds.
Any exercise is better than no exercise! Whether it’s a home workout, yoga, walking, or running, do something that you enjoy.
9) Find “You” Time
This is where the baths and face masks come in (thank you, Instagram). In all seriousness, identify what it is that you need to feel renewed and recharged, then carve out some time to do that for yourself. Baths, face masks, quiet walks, reading, guilt-free scrolling of social media, anything is ok.
10) Stop For A Minute Or Two
This can be difficult to do, especially if you are not in the habit of doing it. There are some great meditation and mindfulness sessions available on the Headspace YouTube channel.
11) Pay Attention To Negative Self-Talk
Self-talk does a lot to shape our mood, stress levels and whether we feel overwhelmed or not. Acknowledging how we talk to ourselves is important. If you notice that you are talking to yourself negatively or harshly try to question and reframe it. Try to talk to yourself gently, like how you would talk to a small child.
12) Try Not To Put Any Pressure On Yourself
This year has been incredibly tough for a variety of different reasons. For those of us anticipating Christmas or New Year in Japan without being able to return to our home countries, let’s be gentle on ourselves. Cried in the supermarket because you couldn’t find the thing you were looking for? That’s ok. Couldn’t muster up the energy to reply to messages or speak to friends? Also ok. It’s completely fine, give yourself the permission just to be. Rest and try again tomorrow.
13) Favorite Things
Watch your favorite TV show or film, read your favorite book or manga, wear your favorite clothes.
14) Clean One Room
The physical environment that we spend our time in can have a big impact on our mood. Open windows and let some fresh air and sunshine in.
Watch funny videos or do something silly. The internet has blessed us with thousands of funny cat videos. Bonus points if you find something Christmas themed to laugh at.
Let’s be gentle on ourselves this Christmas and New Year. Have a wonderful festive period, everyone!