You may or may not be aware that this month is mental health awareness month and in homage to that my TMIL (This Month I’m Loving… that acronym is totally going to catch on!) is self-care. Mental health charity Mind says that self-care can help to manage symptoms of many mental health problems, they can even help to prevent them starting in the first place.
We live in a fast-paced world with information overload, conflicting priorities and phones constantly demanding our attention with social media or text notifications. Leaving work at the office is harder when we have access to our emails on our smart phones and tablets. Invites to drinks or other social events or family commitments. All of these things mean that our stress levels are likely to be higher than ever and according to NHS Digital a sixth of the population, between the ages of 16 and 64, have a mental health problem with women now more likely than men to suffer from a common mental health problem.
With this in mind, it’s now more important than ever that we dedicate time from our busy lives to do something just for us. For me, and it will come as no surprise for anyone who knows me or has read my other posts on here, my idea of self-care is spending time in the gym. Mind tells us that looking after our physical health is an important part of self-care and I fully support that. When I’ve had a crazy week at work and feel stressed it manifests itself with a feeling of anxiety in my stomach. Stepping up to the bar in the gym (the barbell, not a bar that sells alcohol!) and concentrating all my physical energy and mental focus on lifting it; concentrating on my foot position, are my hands in the right place? Roll the bar away and then back so that it’s the correct distance from my shins (this is my weird thing and not a necessity of a deadlift!), lower my hips, lift my chest, tense everything and push the ground away from me through my legs. The bar lifts and my heart is pounding from the exertion. In that hour I’ve spent in the gym my brain hasn’t thought about work once. Exercise releases endorphins, which we all know makes us feel happier. I’m not joking when I post Instagram pictures of myself in the gym with the caption ‘In my happy place’!
I do understand though that exercise isn’t for everyone. Not everyone loves the idea of slogging it out in a sweaty gym and taking themselves out on a 10-mile run. But it doesn’t have to be as intense as all that, exercise for you might be as simple as going out for a walk or swimming. It’s important that you chose an exercise that you enjoy doing so that a) you want to keep doing it and b) it doesn’t feel like a punishment!
There are other ways to take care of yourself though and it’s really down to the individual. You might enjoy taking time out to read a book; getting yourself cosy under the duvet and getting lost in a good book might be your happy place. Or maybe it’s treating yourself to a manicure at your local salon or spending money on a 30 minute massage. I think women in particular often feel guilty for ‘neglecting’ our families or selfish for prioritising ourselves over others, but it’s so important that we do take the time out of our lives to do something that’s just for us. Something that makes us feel good and takes our minds off the stresses of everyday life. What is your go to for self care?