Self care has been a real buzzword of the past few years. As society switches on more to how (and why) we should be looking after our mental health, phrases such as ‘self care’ and ‘treat yo’self’ are often used to encourage people to pour that glass of wine, take that bubble bath, and buy that indulgent item for yourself.
But are self care tips like this really contributing to ‘self care’ and improving mental health?
Treating yourself to a pamper evening, a slice of cake, or just getting a good nights sleep, are short term solutions for a low mood. They’re all immediate forms of self care that provide some instant relief to whatever is eating you. However, there are more meaningful, if slightly less fun, forms of self care that are much more essential to long term happiness. Picking up these forms of self care will contribute to long-term mental wellbeing as well as good physical, financial and social health too.
Read on to learn more about the self care tips that will give you long lasting mindfulness and help solve common worries.
Make Active Choices
Exercise is a touchy subject in regards to helping with mental health. “Just go for a walk” is the sentence many of us hate to hear, as it suggests all our problems can be cured with a bit of fresh air. Though I’m not magically cured as soon as I step outside of my front door, making active choices in my free time has helped me feel more confident in my physical health, and has given me the sense that I am taking care of myself.
You don’t need to become a gym bunny to make more active choices. Self-care in the form of exercise can be easy to fit into your existing habits.
- Go for a walk around your neighbourhood (maybe choose a playlist to help lift your mood)
- Feeling stressed and anxious? Do yoga or gentle stretching to regulate your breathing and channel your energy into calming movements
- Try and fit exercise into your daily routine – walk to work, book onto a regular exercise class or set yourself a realistic goal to achieve
- Commit to a regular activity with a friend, whether this is a weekly walk or sport you play together
Building exercise into your routine gives you a reason to leave the house and benefits you physically. Gentle exercise won’t cure any mental illnesses but, for the average person, it will improve your mood and general wellbeing.
Learn to Cook
I am a fundamentally lazy cook, and preparing food has always been the last thing I’ve wanted to spend my evenings doing. I move very slowly in the kitchen and like to do things at my own pace, which has been criticised in the past by teachers, exes, and parents who would take over (with a great deal of fuss) out of frustration. I’ve been trying to reverse this bad habit that I’ve picked up by cooking from scratch more often.
Learning new skills is a way to build your confidence and expand your interests, but cooking also gives you a sense of mindfulness and control over what you’re eating. While I’m not here to tell you that processed foods are the devil, and that no one should ever eat sugary or fatty foods, being more aware of how much sugar, fat, carbohydrates and protein you are eating will help you realise which foods give you energy and which make you feel more lethargic.
Very importantly, learning to cook and turning it into an activity you actively enjoy makes you more likely to be able to bring yourself to cook when you’re feeling low. If food and cooking is really something you struggle with, consider a recipe subscription such as Hello Fresh or Gousto, where ingredients come pre measured with detailed instructions.
Improve Your Financial Health
Having a good handle on your financial health is a weight off your mind and will see you being better off with more breathing room. This is an area so many of us find daunting but, with the best will in the world, it’s never going to get more manageable or less scary by ignoring it.
If you avoid checking your balance towards the end of the month, spend all your money within days of having it in your account, or have multiple credit accounts & loans, it is time to look after both yourself and your finances.
I’m no financial expert, so couldn’t possibly go into details without some heavy research first, but each of these three simple financial self care tips are a step to consider in working your way to being financially confident.
Consolidate your loans
If you have multiple credit accounts and loans, find out if you are eligible for a personal loan that can cover your total debt and consolidate it into one place & payment schedule. Avoid going to high-interest lenders; talking with your own bank is a good place to start when looking at rates. Do some maths and calculate the individual totals you will be paying back on your current loans (including interest rate) and ensure this is higher than your selected loan before you proceed.
Sign up for a mobile banking app
Signing up for a mobile bank such as Monzo (WITHOUT an overdraft!) gives you a chance to effectively keep your day to day budget away from your current account. When you struggle to make your money last a full month, transferring a weekly budget to this account gives you a set amount that you simply can not go over. Go further with this and leave your card for your current account at home, making that money more difficult to access on the go.
Download a budgeting app
Finally, download a budgeting app such as MoneyDashboard or Emma. This will give you complete visibility across all of your accounts from one place and may be a less daunting place to check your current balance. In the UK, you can sync your current accounts and some savings accounts, to give you near-live figures, while you can add loans, credit accounts, and savings manually (free on MoneyDashboard, a premium feature on Emma).
Build Calming Playlists
Now for a quick and easy one you can do right this moment!
My taste in music has always leant to the more lively and heavier side of pop punk and emo but, as I often find my pulse racing as a symptom of anxiety and stress, this often didn’t help my mental health.
Though I’m in no way suggesting that a pop punk habit can not go hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle, the last thing I needed was anything that got my heart racing. By moderating my listening habits, avoiding listening to heavier music through headphones or on a bad day, I managed to reduce my adrenaline surges. It was also a great way to find new music I otherwise wouldn’t have stumbled across!
Spotify playlists have been a great way to find calming music to chill me out. I particularly like the Lo-Fi Beats and Chill Track playlists, which are regularly updated, and have also been listening to the Stranger Things, San Junipero, Moon and Finding Nemo soundtracks.
There are no overnight miracles here. Nothing I’ve said will make you feel great instantly, but sometimes self care needs to be about looking after your whole self, as well as your mind. Follow these self care tips and you’ll soon find yourself mentally, physically, and financially better off.