Wednesday, 9 March 2016

5 Simple Solutions That Actually Improve Your Self Care

I'm going to be completely honest with you - I haven't always been good at taking care of myself. I snack on chocolate to get me through terrible downs, I don't eat healthy meals as often as I should (although a mac'n'cheese ready meal certainly does the job) and I avoid getting help and support when I know, deep down, that I need it. The worst part, although it should be a comfort, is knowing I'm not alone in this terrible act of self-harm, and it's is exactly that.

If you're not taking care to give yourself the nutrients, vitamins, sleep, rest and required intake you need to survive a fit and healthy lifestyle, than you're seriously causing yourself harm, physically and mentally, and more so now than ever, I understand and appreciate just how bad that is.

I find I look after myself even less when I'm blogging. I get absorbed. I get distracted. I get wrapped in the words and the movement of my fingers across the keys. I forget the basic human needs because I'm so preoccupied, and that hinders my health. It hinders my wellbeing. It hinders my recovery.

So, today I wanted to share with you simple steps you take to improve caring for, and about yourself more, no matter what it is you do, or don't do, to help you in the long run. What's the phrase - 'if you can't help yourself help someone else'? I couldn't agree more..

1. Drink plenty of liquids (although not too many fizzys!)

One of the bigger problems I suffer from is not drinking enough liquids during the day, especially enough water. If we measured the water in the cups of tea I drink, we'd probably be laughing, but we're not, because that doesn't count. You should be aiming for at least 8 glasses of water a day, although this can be through juice with added water. I try to aim for 5-6 and focus on keeping myself hydrated throughout the day, water or not.

I've changed a few little things to encourage this. Simple steps like keeping a fresh bottle of water beside you throughout the day, whether you're staying in or going out, and a great step to encouraging you to drink more. I also find that the bigger the bottle, the more I drink, because I aim to drink it all. I also keep a drink with me during the night too, which has certainly made going to sleep or waking thirsty a bygone.

There are other ways to increase the amount of water and fluids you get through the day, for example, if it's sunny, make your own fruit ice lollies, with real fruit and their juices and get to eating one or two a day. You can also teach yourself to have some water, or a drink in general while doing a specific activity, for example, when you get up to make somebody else a drink, have a glass of water, and straight after you've used the restroom.

Getting into the habit of drinking more (and I don't mean the booze, you don't need help that with that!) will not only keep you hydrated, but it will improve your overall health, you'll find restroom breaks less painful, and you might even find yourself more rejuvenated too. Of course, you should reward yourself with a glass of wine (or five) or a bottle of pop (a large one please) every now and again, but remember that keeping those fluids high is a must.

2. Remember to eat (and naughty foods don't count!)

I know I know, those sweets are so much easier to eat, and quicker than cooking an entire meal, but they're not helping you, in fact, they're probably making you eat more in the long run, and that's the crazy talk talking. As good as that chocolate bar is, and the less time it takes you to eat, the more your denying your body's natural need to nutrients, for energy, for quality food that keeps your body working at it's best. By trying to make your body do more on less, you're just going to burn yourself out, and that's not okay.

So, how we cut the crap (literally) and start eating more sensibly?

A small step like stopping eating on the sofa or the couch and only allowing food at the dinner table can drastically change the amount of food you eat, especially the bad things, but it also encourages you to eat proper meals too. Nobody likes to cook a ready meal just to sit at the table looking at the sorry plate of food you could have spent an extra 10 minutes cooking from scratch and loving more.

Other steps to consider are to set alarms or regular breaks for you to eat during, meaning you'll look forward to meal times rather than dreading them or putting them off, creating a weekly plan of what your meals will be and when, so you can prepare ahead of time and not be left needing to eat something at 9pm at night, having not eaten since 7am that morning, and arranging to eat with other people, family members or friends, even getting neighbours together can make mealtimes all the more enjoyable, and it creates a social occasion too, which means taking care of yourself more inside and out.

3. Get enough sleep (four hours is not enough!)

The most important thing about sleep is that you get the right amount. Too much and your body won't produce enough the hormones it needs to work at it's best, and you'll feel groggy and less energised throughout the day. Too little and you'll be running on empty because your body hasn't had time to rest. There's a reason there's a recommend amount of sleep to get, and it's there because that's what you should be trying to get.

But what are the recommended numbers, and how can I achieve it?

Teenagers need around 8-10 hours of sleep, with a minimum of 7 and maximum of 11, while adults ranging from 18-64 years tend to need around 7-9 hours, with a minimum of 6 and maximum of 10-11. That's a recommendation of at least 6 hours a day, and we all know that's a pretty difficult feat at the best of times, but it is possible with a few minor changes to how you approach sleep.

One of the best ways is to cut the amount of technology you use directly before sleep, and take time to do something much more calming, like reading or listening to soothing music. A less cliche step is setting deadlines for yourself in terms of getting into bed, or ending your day, for example, you might decide that everything in the day must be done by 9pm, and if it isn't, it can wait until tomorrow, or you might decide that you want to be in bed and ready for sleep no later than 10, and find ways of sticking to it.

I also tend to find the sleep is much less disturbed and better received the earlier you sleep. Calling it a night at 1pm and waking up at 8am might not sound all that bad, because you're getting the recommended amount of hours, but going to sleep earlier at 11pm and waking up at 6 can make you feel more motivated, more productive, and more allows you to sleep and wake alongside the weather too. Sleeping at 4am and being woken at 6am by the sun glaring through thin curtains sucks, trust me.

4. Take a step back from stressful activities (you really can!)

Did you know that you really can separate yourself from stressful situations no matter what it is you do, or don't do. Not matter what the activity is, or what about it is actually causing the stress, you can make changes that not only make it more manageable, but maybe even cut out the stress completely, easily making your self-care possible.

If work is the cause of your stress, speak to your manager about lowering the work load, or how specific aspects of your work are making staying on top of your duties improbable or even impossible. Most of the time, employers are understanding about these things, and value their employees health and wellbeing.

If you have an activity that you feel you do out of duty or because it's expected of you, then really consider how that activity affecting you and ask yourself if it's really worth it in the grand scheme of things. Is visiting that family member worth it when all you feel is the overwhelming urge to return home to escape the miserable feelings you have when you're there? Is it really worth doing those extra tasks for a work colleague when it puts extra pressure on you, and you never get a thanks, or the recognition?

Better still, is what's causing your stress really worth the actual stress you're feeling, or not?

Cards on the table, I bet your ass it isn't. When you stress yourself out, you become less likely to really take care of yourself. You forget the simple things that need to be done, or you get even more stressed because you remember them, but don't have the ability to them, like sleep, or eat. Being able to see what is adding to your stress levels and take action towards separating yourself from those actions, if only temporarily will increase the amount of self care you give yourself.

5. Ask for support/confide in others (no matter how scary!)

Without a doubt this is my biggest problem, and call it pride, call it not wanting to bother people, call it being old enough, big enough and daft enough to deal with this on my own, sometimes we all need reminding that we can't always deal, and we're not always bothering people, and we don't always have to put our pride above our own health. One of the best ways you can help care for yourself is allowing others to help too.

Whether that help be a friend or family member or a professional, asking for help, or admitting an extra hand would be greatly appreciated isn't weakness as it takes strength to admit such things. I recently had to ask for more serious help, more serious than I ever had before, because I'd let my self-care get so low, and as scary as the prospect is, of confiding in others things I don't want to share, or how scared I feel, or how paranoid I am that I'm going to sound so absolutely stupid, asking for help has allowed me to focus more on helping myself in the ways I know how to.

You might not need serious support, you might just need a hug every now and again.
You might not need somebody to be there physically, but talking is just as powerful.
You might not need medication, or a therapist, company with a friend can work too.

In some ways, asking for help and support is like delegating blogging tasks. You can't do everything on your own, so you invest in scheduling tools, or image software that makes the bigger, more time consuming tasks less time consuming, or stressful, or demanding, which allows you to focus on the more important tasks, like content, and connections, and communication. Sharing the load can help you to focus on helping yourself in little ways, while other support helps you tackle the bigger problems.

Although making the effort to look after yourself properly feels like something you don't need to focus on, it's important that you make time for it. Your health and wellbeing is paramount in achieving almost anything, and if you don't, it will affect other aspects of your life. Taking time to drink a little more water, or have set times for meals, or even just to take a walk with a friend and talk when things are getting too much with without a doubt help you on your way to anything, so it's worth doing.

Do you look after yourself as much as you should?


  1. Awesome post, Amanda - I totally get everything you've said here! I know I'm a huge culprit of not sleeping enough and drinking enough - it can be difficult to pull myself away from my laptop to do these essential things! Love how you put in some strategies as well - I know that for me, until recently, I had viewed asking for help as a sign of weakness of sorts? Honestly a great post, Amanda! :)

    1. Thanks Geraldine! Glad these little tricks can be of help to you :)

  2. I'm eating a bowl of ice cream right now with a half a packet of hot cocoa mix sprinkled on top-no regrets :) I'm actually maintaining a 50+lb loss, and having gone through the experience of being overweight and a pre-diabetic, to now having a bmi of around 20 and a normal glucose number (woot!), I have a much different perspective on food than what I used to have. I've learned to eat everything I enjoy, but with a focus on moderation and balance. Ice cream, chocolate, chips etc are fine in moderate amounts, but I also make sure that I'm eating a larger amount of veggies, fish, whole grains etc. I also do IF (intermittent fasting), and this has really helped improve my quality of life, and there's also promising research about IF and longevity of life issues, so I'm pretty geeked about that as well (I fully plan on living to be 100 and maintaining the library at the nursing home, buwahaha!).

    As for drinking fluids-I pretty much have diet Coke running through my veins instead of blood lol! But I do make sure to drink water and the occasional green tea as well :)

    1. That's amazing! I agree, everything bad in moderation for sure, like fizzies and high in sugar foods, but as long as you're happy with what you're doing and you're looking after your health, go for it! :)

  3. I need to start doing these things. My body has been a wreck lately.

    1. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of care and attention :)

  4. AHH THIS IS REALLY GOOD. *nods* My parents are really very intensely interested in good eating, so I'm okay there. XD I never have never. Not even fruit juice because it's actually not so good for you because it spikes your blood sugar and doesn't particularly hydrate you? Fizzy drinks are just pretty bad all round. XD SO YEAH. I'm definitely agreeing with the eat-healthy aspect of this. Your brain works SO MUCH BETTER when it's being cared for with good food.

    AH SLEEP. HOW I MISS THEE. Ahem. Insomniac here, yup. But I do aim for 6 hours so at least that's a start. ;D

    This post is so helpful and sensible. I LIKE.

    1. I don't know how I could cope with no sleep, I think it'd drive me crazy, you know? THANK YOU. Sometimes I have to be sensible and share sensible things, and it sucks, but if you liked it, SUCCESS.

  5. @Cait: Fruit juice often has more sugar in it than a coke. :D

    I've always been very good at taking care of myself sleep-wise. I get 8-10 hours every single night.

    These days I've also been really good at hitting the gym and eating better. I basically have the exact same dinner 3-5 times a week because it's so good and so simple: asparagus and paprika chicken. Deliiish!

    But I have no shame when it comes to indulging when I feel like it. ;) Everything in moderation. Sometimes I moderately schedule in chocolate chip cookies or hot chocolate. Once in a while (like last weekend) I say screw it and eat half a bag of ginger biscuits.

    I think a big part of self care is not being too strict. Let yourself indulge, whether that's by planning dessert/snacks into your day, or by saying "screw it" once in a while and just doing whatever. If you're too strict, it often leads to bigger, more frequent binges that are hard to get out of.

    You have to give yourself a little bit of freedom if it's going to become a sustainable lifestyle.

    1. You're seriously looking after yourself there Ashley, but I agree, being flexible and having choices and being able to indulge is a big part of looking after yourself and being happy, so I couldn't agree more :D

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