2020 has given us plenty of reasons to feel anxious, stressed, and depressed. Although 2021 isn’t opening up to the sunniest of chapters, things are looking up and we must take care of ourselves accordingly to get through what will hopefully be the last big hurdle.
We hear the word self-care a lot, but what does it actually mean? Isn’t it just a fancy way of reminding us to take a bath, moisturise and wind down to Netflix once in a while? According to the Salvation Army, self-care is “about finding the balance between energizing your mind and giving it a break”. This balance prevents us from feeling overly stressed as well as overly lethargic and unmotivated (which in lockdown can be difficult to break out of).
If there’s any silver lining that came out of 2020, it would be that mental health awareness has become more widespread and more socially accepted. So in terms of what self-care will look like in 2021, we are looking at a more open picture where friends and co-workers are able to relate to each other more and speak openly about their concerns.
Outlined below are a list of self-care habits to bear in mind for 2021. In order to find that balance between energising and recharging your mind, creating both a sense of routine and dedicating to de-stress is crucial. It’s also important that we check in with ourselves and tap into our self-consciousness in order to assess where our mental health is at.
Create a Routine:
Stop hitting snooze
Hitting snooze repeatedly can actually make sleep more disruptive. Instead, setting a realistic alarm and being consistent with it will help your body learn to prepare for waking at that time and you will feel less tired over the course of the day.
Catch them rays and get outside
No matter how busy your day ahead may seem, it’s important to open those blinds, get that vitamin D and go for a walk to clear your mind and get you out of PJ mode.
Create a self-care planner
Whether in the form of a notebook or a PDF file, a self-care planner is great for those who love organisation and perhaps tend to overwork themselves. The planner should schedule a self-care check-in, and a mental health check-in. It’s also beneficial, at the beginning of each week to write 4-6 self-care tips relating to whatever challenge is preventing you from reaching that mental health balance.
Taking five to ten minutes out a day to take care of yourself will not only relax and revitalize your mind but smooth and brighten your skin which increases self confidence.
Get a massage
Not only does a massage feel great in the moment, it also has long term effects from boosting immunity, reducing anxiety and depression and lowering stress and blood pressure. This could be from a professional masseuse or even a loved one (considering the lockdown circumstances…)
Learn to say no
We’ve all been there; taken on too much of a workload and felt stressed out by the consequences for three weeks plus. Instead, learn to prioritise and manage your workload so that you don’t end up burning the candle at both ends.
Tap into your olfactory senses
Speaking of candles, scientists have found that the olfactory sense is the only one with a direct link to the limbic system – the area of the brain that plays a major role in emotional regulation. Try calming scents like lavender. This doesn’t have to be in the form of a candle- you could try incense, bath oils or room sprays.
All work and no play not only makes Jack a dull boy but also a boy whose mental health isn’t being prioritised. Make sure to take at least one full day off a week if you can – binge watch The Office, phone a friend, do some yoga, bake cookies, whatever helps you unwind and take your mind off your to-do list.
Put your mind at ease:
Banish the phone from the bedroom
Give your brain a break. Studies have shown that keeping your phone in the bedroom can increase chances of depression. A bedroom should be a sanctuary for peace, sleep and intimacy and scrolling through Instagram at 2am looking at celebrities with beach houses in lockdown isn’t going to channel this sort of zen energy.
Try and trade the BBC News page for an enjoyable book passage. Particularly in the evening, this acts as a form of escapism and helps your mind ease.
Do something nice for someone else: acts of kindness boost the wellbeing of not only the giver, but also the receiver and overall community
If you’ve seen the latest series of ‘Big Mouth’ you’ll know about the potential power of the “Gratitoad”. Practicing gratitude has multiple benefits, including increased optimism and most importantly – as so brilliantly highlighted in Big Mouth – reduction of anxiety. The issue with anxiety is its power to spiral into a big pile of worries and what gratitude does is help to put a temporary stop to that seemingly ongoing thread and hone in on the positive elements in our lives.
Tidy and declutter your living space
Research has shown us that living or working in a disorganised and messy environment can reduce creativity and focus and can even make us more sensitive to intense emotions such as stress or sadness. Take aside five to ten minutes a day to simply declutter your desk and bedside table – now watch your creativity flourish.