Self-Care Practices

Five Recommended Starting points for Self Nurture

When we feel depressed, anxious or are beset by impossible problems, classically we can forget about self-care.   I know that as therapists we can bang on about this without much detail, so here is a short list to highlight what I mean by it:  

Nutrition. –  it’s obvious that you can help your mental health hugely by just eating a good diet.  Most people will say their diet is not perfect, but you can start by just eating regularly and to satiety.  The Zoe Health Study, and Professor Tim Spector, recommend an intake of 30 plants per week which sounds unattainable, but when explained, it seems that herbs, spices, nuts and seeds, even coffee, count as ‘plants’, this becomes much more doable.    There’s a minefield of advice out there which I won’t replicate, but please try to eat what you know is good for you, within your budget and from sustainable sources.  If possible, go for locally grown / produced and fresh and put it together yourself.  There is a mountain of evidence for how good nutrition acts on the mind and brain chemicals, so by doing this you’ll be helping yourself massively. 

Hydration – water is so important for all metabolic processes, essential for thinking and good for weight loss too, and we can all drink more of it.  If you come here as a client, you will notice that I always have a glass of water ready for you.  If you can’t stand water, herb teas, hot drinks are good, so long as you don’t add loads of sugar to them.  

Adequate rest – try to make the time once a day to stop and take stock.  If you can, have an earlier bedtime or a later wake-up time, and take time out of your day to do nothing.  So often we combine eating with sending emails or going for a walk with catching up on phone calls.  Remind yourself, you are not a machine, and you must have well-deserved breaks, without guilt.  When we fail to rest fully, we eventually break and burnout. 

Enjoyment – it may sound odd when you are thinking of coming to therapy, but often part of the process is about reconnecting with what you used to love and what used to give you joy.  Once you have found that source of joy again, try not to become distanced from it again!  

Purpose – a lot of therapeutic work can be about identifying what Purpose means to you, as its personal to everyone and changes through life.   In fact, at certain periods in life, it may feel extremely elusive.  The main happiness studies done by Martin E. P. Seligman over the last 20 years have revealed that a sense of purpose was essential to wellbeing. If you want to find out more, he has numerous questionnaires on his website, where you can literally explore the component parts of happiness and find out how happy you are right now! 

Last words:  

I like to think about the above, the 5 Pillars of Self-Care, in terms of the old CBT exercise, The Circle of Control.   Very simply, what goes inside the Circle are the things that we can choose for ourselves e.g. how much water we drink, whether we eat vegetables regularly, how much exercise we do, the quality of our thoughts, what we occupy our time with. 

What stays outside of the Circle (and therefore outside of our limited range of influence) are the things we can’t do too much about – the weather, the neighbours, people who judge us, the ULEZ scheme, who is the President of the USA etc. 

So establish what works for you specifically; whilst it will undoubtedly take more effort than doing nothing, what you do today will pay off exponentially over time!