Everyone knows that working in healthcare is stressful. Long hours, minimal breaks and huge workloads can lead to people feeling really fed up and burnt out. I’ve found that self-care has become a really important part of my life, and when I don’t make the effort it makes a huge difference to my working and personal life. I wrote about self-care in healthcare a while back, but this post is about how simply putting yourself first can be all the self-care you need, regardless of whether you work in healthcare or not. This is applicable to everyone.
Self-care has been a buzz word for the last few years, and the important thing to realise is, it doesn’t mean meditating, yoga and really long baths. If that’s your cup of tea then go for it, but it’s basically anything that helps you protect and look after yourself as a person, both physically and mentally. This could mean different things on different days, depending on your mood and your schedule, but the important part is scheduling it in, and making sure you actually do it.
If you broke your foot, you wouldn’t start walking on it straight away, because you’d know it would hurt, and it wouldn’t heal properly. Things might take longer or you might have to change your plans, but you’d want yourself to get better quickly. There’s no difference with your mental health. If you’re stressed, continuing to neglect yourself is only going to make things worse, and it’ll take much longer to recover. So using the broken foot analogy, adapt your plans to help yourself heal.
Here are some self-care tips that centre around simply putting yourself first:
- Don’t say “yes” to everything – I’ve found this really hard to do. I always want to say I’ll do everything and help everyone all the time, no matter what the request is, or how busy I am. But what I found is that I didn’t have much to give when I was helping everyone, because I was simply stretching myself too thin. Now I don’t feel guilty when I turn things down, or I take my time in considering whether to take something on or not. Don’t feel pressured to take on everyone else’s problems, because you really can’t pour from an empty cup.
- Plan a day for yourself – This can be more difficult for some people more than others, but having a day to yourself can do you wonders. Can you remember the last time you woke up and had a whole day to do whatever you wanted? If you have children, could you get someone to babysit for some of the day? Even if you can’t take a whole day, just a few hours can help. Try and schedule this day/part of a day to just do something for you, all other tasks and jobs can wait. This might be having a bath, going for a walk, or just wandering round the shops for an hour on your own. You might want to read a book or magazine in a café. But just having that bit of time to switch off can really help you tackle the tough times, because you feel like you’ve had the chance to recharge.
- Make the effort to look and feel nice – It’s really easy when you feel rubbish to not bother with yourself. Just having a shower, straightening your hair and putting on make up can make so much difference. I’ve spent really long periods of time not bothering to make myself look or feel nice and it can make a lot of difference when you make that little bit of effort. Putting your favourite outfit on can make you feel a lot better about yourself.
- Cooking or baking – This can be a bit of an odd one if you’re not really into it, but I honestly believe that cooking and baking is free therapy. There’s nothing more satisfying than following a recipe and having a finished product at the end of it. It allows your mind to be distracted and to focus on something else, and I always find I feel better after some time spent in the kitchen. It can be as basic or complicated as you like, but it’s a great way to distract yourself when you have a lot on your mind.
- Talk to someone – A lot of people would think putting yourself first involves not talking to people and spending time on your own, but personally I think the opposite can also help. There’s a time and place to be alone, but sometimes surrounding yourself with positive people who uplift and support you is a brilliant way to practice self-care. By talking to your friends and family about your problems, you might find that things become clearer and easier to manager.
You’d think that putting yourself first would be easily achievable, but to the average working person, it can actually be very difficult. You’d be surprised how much these little changes can add up to have a much bigger, positive impact on your life. So give it a go today, and try putting yourself first.
I hope you find these useful and you can find more blog posts on self-care in healthcare on my blog, www.lottielivewell.com.