The always-on nature of modern life can often lead to stress and burnout, but is self-care really the solution or just the latest buzz word? We say it is.
When some people hear the term self-care they picture booking yourself in for spa days or spending hours meditating. This isn’t the case, although the big things are great, small things every day are actually more beneficial. Just like brushing your teeth, if you brush your teeth really, really well every month, it isn’t as good as three mins every night and that’s the same mindset people should approach with self-care.
Not paying attention to self-care can lead directly to stress and burnout. Self-care is consciously working on helping both mind and body through times of stress as well as helping us recover from stress. The three main areas that are important to self-care: diet, sleep and activity.
Self-care means paying attention to what you’re putting into your body. Ever experienced that 11am slump? Or been too busy to eat? An 11am slump is a sign the brain doesn’t have enough fuel to perform optimally and due to lack of energy runs on our emergency systems. This leads to irritability and memory problems – to compensate we often reach for caffeine or sugary foods.
Waiting long periods between meals can cause those slumps, make sure you have healthy snacks ready. It’s important to include protein in every snack and meal, as it slows down the release of carbs. Also, replacing white bread, rice and pasta with whole grain versions and to get more fruit and veg in your diet.
One of the first signs that our bodies are off-balance is poor sleep. A good night’s sleep can be a miracle drug from preparing us for a busy day ahead to helping us recover from stress and when our sleep becomes disturbed, it’s usually a sign of increased stress.
We recommend if you’re struggling to sleep, try out the following: • Reduce your caffeine: Half of the caffeine you consume will be in your system 8 hours later and ideally we should avoid caffeine after 12 noon, but if you’re only starting to take out caffeine, a more realistic time can be 2pm. • Switch off devices: Cutting screen time an hour before bed is key, screen time such as social media is incredibly addictive as we can spend hours endlessly scrolling. • Calm a busy mind: After a hectic day our minds can be busy but our bodies are tired, leading to struggle sleeping. Simple 3 -5 mins breathing exercise can slow down the brain waves leading to good quality sleep.
If we’re stationary all day, stress hormones can build in the body. Exercise and movement are a great way to release the stress out of the system.
Take steps towards better self-care by bringing more movement into your day. Not everyone enjoys exercising and that’s ok, simple things can make a difference, small things such as taking the stairs or going for a short walk with the dog can make a difference. In terms of stress, long periods of exercise such as cardio can be quite stressful on the body and shorter periods of exercise is much friendlier exercise.
Taking time to put yourself first
Some people feel self-care is indulgent, but you should compare it to advice given when flying – tend to your own oxygen mask first. It’s important to stop and think, when you keep looking after everyone else first then who’s looking after you? We know this can be hard - especially for parents. Look for those small opportunities in the day when there’s a bit of time where no one is making demands from you, it could be first thing in the morning or the last thing at night. Start small and build it from there.
Self-care isn’t selfish, so make sure you prioritise your mental health. Don’t forget health insurance plans come packed with great benefits for mental health such as access to professionally trained counsellors. Talk to us today about the best plans for mental health cover.
The information contained in this article is from https://www.irishlifehealth.ie/blog/self-care-to-avoid-workplace-burnout. Source, Irish life Health, 2020. Cornmarket cannot be held responsible for content contained on external websites.