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How to take the best care of yourself

8 minute read

In today’s fast-paced world it can be hard to carve out a little time for ourselves

Many of us spend time caring for others, burning the midnight oil at work, or wrestling with household chores. But looking after ourselves is crucial if we want to stay fit and healthy in mind and body.

So all things considered, how can you best take care of yourself? Here are some ways to look after number one…

Carry out a body scan

How are you? When someone asks that question it can be natural to respond with a ‘fine thanks’, rather than really thinking it through. Body scanning is a way of asking yourself ‘how are you really?’.

Find a quiet spot and take a moment to centre yourself with a few deep breaths. Once you feel calm, turn all your attention to your body and let your mind slowly travel from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, observing any sensations you feel. Make a note of any feelings, aches and pains – both old and new. If your attention wanders, gently bring it back to focus on your body. When you finish, end the practice with a few calming, deep breaths.

Understanding how you feel and where you might be holding tension can be the first step on the path to releasing stress and finding more relaxation.

Revamp your diet

A good diet is a crucial part of staying healthy in both mind and body. But this doesn’t mean following strict diet plans or tapping into the latest fitness craze. Rather, it’s a great idea just to follow sensible eating patterns.

Make sure you eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, that you don’t overindulge on sugar or saturated fat, and keep caffeine consumption to the recommended 400mg per day (that’s around four average cups of coffee).

It's also sensible to ensure you consume less than 6g of salt per day, and that you stay well hydrated – consuming at least 6-8 glasses of fluid (and yes, cups of tea count!) per day. Avoid sugary drinks, and stick to just one glass of fruit or vegetable juice within this count.

Running a body on a bad diet is a little like running a car with impure fuel – it may chug along, but it won’t be at its best. And sooner or later, you might well break down.

Read more: Use the joy of Spring to break free of a negative headspace

Focus on your breath

It may seem odd to look at something that we’ve all been doing naturally since day one. But it’s important to be mindful and aware of our breathing. During periods of stress, you may start taking shallower breaths, which can cause problems such as fatigue, dry mouth or even, over time, affect your cardiovascular health.

From time to time, looking at your breathing patterns and focusing on taking mindful breaths could really help to calm your nervous system.
To take charge of your breathing, try this simple exercise:

  1. Find somewhere you can sit comfortably without being disturbed.
  2. Draw your breath in through your nose, then release through your mouth.
  3. Breathe in gently, taking your time and aiming to count to five.
  4. Then release your breath, again trying to count to five.
  5. Continue for five minutes.

Taking a moment to check your breath can help stop stress in its tracks, and give you back control of this important bodily function.

Build an exercise habit

NHS guidelines suggest we should be trying to reach 150 minutes of activity per week – or 75 minutes if that activity is vigorous rather than moderate – and that we should aim to exercise on at least 4 or 5 days in every 7. But it can be hard to find the time and inclination, especially if we’re busy and tired. The good news is that repetition and creating a regular habit can make exercising easier – eventually your body will want to go to the gym.

Experts agree that forming a new habit can take anything from 18 to a whopping 254 days. But once you meet this threshold, you should find getting off the couch becomes an automatic part of your day.

Until then, try to find new ways to ignite your love of movement, whether it’s joining a yoga class, tapping into the wealth of resources online, or finding out about your local sports centre.

Read more: Money worries can stress you out. Here’s how to address that

Make time for friends

When we’re stressed or busy it can be natural to want to squirrel ourselves away. But socialising is a crucial part of staying well. Statistics show that those who are more socially connected – whether to friends and family or within their community – tend to be happier, have fewer problems with mental and physical health, and even live longer than those who lack social connection.

With this in mind, try to find time in your schedule for friends and family – whether it’s meeting for a coffee or a walk, going out to the theatre or even chatting on the phone. Not only will you relax and have fun, you’ll also give yourself a great health boost.

Give yourself a treat

Being well isn’t necessarily about being perfect. Sometimes it’s simply choosing a little pick-me-up to boost our mood. If you’re used to putting yourself last, switch things around and make sure you find the time to put yourself first from time to time. There’s a lot to be said for treating yourself.

Whether it’s a relaxing bubble bath, getting your nails done, indulging in your favourite sweet treat or setting time aside to curl up with a good book, make sure you siphon off a little time just for you. Studies have demonstrated how indulging ourselves from time to time helps to boost our self-esteem and gives a real happiness boost – so why not give it a try.

While it’s hard sometimes to pay attention to ourselves or find a moment in which to practice self-care, incorporating a few key techniques into our daily lives could make a real difference to both body and mind.

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