Simple self-care actions if done every day can help us build health and prevent illness physically and mentally. Once I understood the basics of physical self-care I found there were mental actions I could implement that worked with the physical ones. Overall there are 15 different principles/practices that contribute to my own self care. The first 3 steps that work for me I consider the basics and are good ones to start with:
Physical Self-Care Steps 1-2-3
1. Water/Hydration. For me this is drinking over 3 litres of water every day. The hunger that you feel sometimes will more likely be thirst than hunger. The slump in energy you get during the day will likely be partially (if not totally) caused by a level of dehydration. With a lack of energy, a contributing factor will be a lack of water. Upping your water intake significantly and consistently will improve your energy levels and wellbeing noticeably. You don’t need to start on and maintain 3 litres per day. Start with 1 litre, or 2 litres and build up over time. The key is consistency. It takes daily practice to build up to this level of hydration every day.
2. Movement. This isn’t ‘exercise’ it is just the amount your body moves during each day. I move over 10k+ steps a day not including any ‘exercise’ (which would be cardiovascular or resistance based training). Your body needs to move to improve energy levels and your wellbeing. 10k+ steps sounds like a lot and isn’t something you may be able to do straight away. Just work towards it and build up over time. It doesn’t all have to be in one go. Over the course of a day body movement adds up. I enjoy a walk first thing in the morning with a coffee. It’s part of my routine. Everyone is different and will learn to enjoy daily movement in different ways that suit them.
3. Fuel/Nutrition. What we consume is almost solely responsible for our energy and wellbeing in a health sense. The food, the drink and the substances all make up what we fuel our bodies with. Whole or processed foods, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, other substances/stimulants all affect our bodies and minds in the short and long term. The choices we make now create our health reality later. Over time to increase energy levels, our health and our wellbeing we should introduce more whole foods (non processed) and plants into our diets. Reducing or removing alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and other stimulants is crucial to ensuring our bodies are fuelled in the best possible way.
Over time, making different choices and reducing the less healthy choices with the better options for our bodies, you will see a change in your overall energy and well-being. It takes time, it takes consistency and it takes practice. I don’t recommend cutting out things totally and immediately unless that works for you. Maintaining a healthy relationship with food is an important life skill to cultivate. No food should be banned or ‘not allowed’ it just needs to be moderated. When it becomes a choice whether you consume something or not, instead of you being consumed with something you are ‘not allowed’ to eat, you have started to master a more healthy relationship with food.
The better meal choice each day, the evening of not drinking alcohol, the one less coffee in the afternoon, all of this adds up and matters. Gradual and consistent always wins over dramatic and inconsistent. Make a decision to make better choices over time. You can feel better quicker, but it will take making the better choices more frequently, it’s entirely up to you. The better the fuel you choose to use, the better the output your body and mind has. Master these steps and you’ll be ready for the next ones…
Mental Self-Care Steps 1-2-3
1. Gratitude. This is finding and reflecting on what you are grateful for in your life everyday and writing it down. Whether you record into your phone, or into a notebook it can be as many or as few things as you choose it to be. When you have days in the future that are more challenging, it is a great thing to go back and re-read. A daily practice of gratitude is an important step to improving mental fitness.
2. Self Talk. We all have the voice in our head, we listen to it either consciously or subconsciously. Is your self talk an inner critic? Or an inner coach? Does it tell you that you can’t? Or you can? Does it tell you something is too hard? Or does it say that something is a challenge? The words matter. The voice matters. Our thoughts create our reality. If you have an inner critic you will be able to, over time and with daily practice turn this inner critic into a inner coach. With affirmations, with actively correcting the voice in your thoughts or by writing down the critical thoughts and re-writing them as coaching thoughts; There are a number of ways to tackle it. Your self talk defines your thoughts and therefore your actions. Take some time to really listen to what your mind is telling you. If you don’t like what it is saying or it isn’t helpful, you can change it.
3. Mindfulness. This can be meditation, deep breathing exercises, stretching or even just time in nature being quiet. Ideally it is time letting your mind be clearer and focusing on your breathing. Doing it daily for 30 seconds is a good start, build up to a few minutes, have a goal for 20+ minutes per day. Your mind will wander, you will need to patiently keep pulling it back to your breathing. It takes weeks of daily practice to start to see progress. Cultivating this skill has been one of the biggest stress relievers of my life. It takes time. Be patient, be quiet and breathe. Master these steps and you’ll be ready for the next ones...