New Year: Look after you

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At Mindfizz, January is all about falling in love with taking care of ourselves. Self-care is all too often overlooked, yet so important for our physical and mental wellbeing. Let’s face it, life’s challenges aren’t going to get any easier if we don’t take care of our minds and bodies. In a world fuelled by “busyness” and a self-reliance/winning through life culture, it can be difficult to justify taking the time to nurture ourselves. Self-care is not selfish: we all have needs and we all deserve to be loved. We are all enough.

To be truly effective, try to set aside time for self-care daily. This can feel like an impossible task but it could be as simple as taking five minutes out to focus on your breathing or writing down how you feel. The benefits are plentiful: Reduced stress, improved mood, improved work/life balance, and feeling calmer and more present. Call it emotional first aid. Note that while it’s wonderful, if your stress and anxiety is super high, it’s always best to tackle what’s causing it with a professional and then use self-care as a tool to help. 

What does Mindfizz think about self-care?

Claire: To be honest, my self-care record is pretty dreadful! I do know that my awareness of the benefits of self-care has had to increase in recent years. I spend most of my life choosing to be busy and pushing my physical and mental limits, so brief bursts of self-care are super effective for me. It just feels like a huge challenge to practise it (why should emotional first aid feel like this?). I still have to tell myself that it isn’t selfish to look after me as it’s critical for my wellbeing. Focusing on this for January should help!

Dawn: Self-care is vital for me! I often neglect myself but it's amazing what finding ten minutes to breathe can do, or actually getting outside and going for a walk/to my tap lesson instead of talking myself out of it can do.

This time of year can feel tough, when you have spent a lot of time around family and feel like you have been under a microscope a little bit. Now Christmas is over, it's time to get out from under the lens and instead look at what you want.

If you have made new year's resolutions, look over them now and check they are kind to yourself and not critical. What are you telling yourself about your long to-do list? Are there any unrealistic expectations on your list that could be ditched to relieve the pressure?

Look at the year just gone. Write down one (or more!) things you’re proud of that you did – it can be as simple as ‘made it this far!’. If you struggle, try to see yourself through the eyes of those that love you. Celebrate your strength.

Here’s our list of self-care prompts. Fortunately, the list seems pretty endless so we’re totally encouraging you to join us by submitting your own! See the end of this post for how to join in.

Our suggestions for self-care in January

Write it out! At Mindfizz we love writing about our thoughts. Writing down your feelings can ease stress and anxiety. And don’t label yourself as a bad writer, there’s no right or wrong! 

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Get outside and embrace nature. Go out and look at the stars or the moon and take a deep breath. Sniff a rose – or some flowers. This is apparently good for headaches. If hayfever is an issue, admire from afar!

Practice gratitude. Appreciate something you take for granted - the plants on your walk to work, the sunset….appreciate and remember you are here, you are alive, and you are fantastic. Use a journal or notepad at the end of each day to write down something (or things) you’re grateful for (this can simply be enjoying a good coffee or someone smiling at you and you don’t need an expensive journal, use a notepad if that’s all you have). In the evenings, make a habit of congratulating yourself gently for what you have done well that day. We are all too good at making stressful to-do lists and chastising ourselves for not getting everything ticked off, but the likelihood is that we are asking for a lot. Give yourself credit for what you have done – you will feel better very quickly!

Take a moment to be kind - it can improve your mood. Give away your parking ticket if you overestimated how long you needed, make a donation to charity of your choice, compliment a stranger or leave a nice note in a bookshop book/library book to brighten someone’s day (do not spoil the ending!)

Spend a few moments feeling present in your own body. Appreciate the skin on your fingers, and remember no matter what else, your aliveness is vital and beautiful. Take some long deep breaths.

Try a meditation! Headspace, Buddhify, and Calm are great apps and relatively inexpensive. Short or long bursts of meditations for different moods or situations – your choice! 

If you have pets, spend time with them. They'll be at home waiting for you and they love you unconditionally.

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Be the cliché that has a nice bath. If you can’t afford a bath bomb, try sticking some salt in it - it’s good for soreness. Herbs or flower petals are good too if you can get hold of some. (Optional extras: candles, music/radio/book, and it's always nice to have a cuppa in the bath too!)

Get some form of movement going! January is a perfect time to try a new exercise; if hard-knuckle stuff isn’t for you, try a dance class, yoga, or aqua aerobics, or a good walk. Moving more helps your brain. Fact! The key is to find something you enjoy – if you hate it you will never want to do it, and life shouldn’t be a chore!

Declutter! It frees up mental space. Go through your clothes and throw out anything that makes you feel less than great – giving it to charity if in good condition is good karma too! Same for books!

Equip your handbags/work drawers/wallets etc with a photo of something or someone that makes you smile, and/or leave yourself a positive note.

If you are able, put a picture in your workspace that relaxes you and is totally unrelated to your job. It can be somewhere you want to be everyday, or just somewhere you have been that you like. Dawn's is currently of the Scottish seaside – an ideal retirement location.

Look forward to the following day, tomorrow is a new day and it can be better.

If you’re spiritual, take some time out to go to your place of worship or solitude.

Light some candles and stare at the candle flame. It’s mindful (scented candles are an optional lovely extra).

Indulge in some brain training or arts and crafts: colouring, a jigsaw puzzle, drawing, or wordsearch. These activities can both stimulate and calm the mind. 

Eat some nourishing food. We are what we eat! Try a sugar detox or try some healthy recipes or juices. Or simply embrace the benefits of green tea in January!

Swap the alcohol for something non-alcoholic (even if it’s trying a non-alcoholic beer). Alcohol has a depressant effect, read our blog here: "Binge drinking: Beyond the hangover"

Buy a plant! Plants can enhance air quality…and your mood.

Pamper yourself! Treat yourself to a manicure, massage or other treatment of your choice! Keep it simple and do it at home if you wish (try a new body lotion or new nail polish).

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Sleep! Don’t feel guilty about taking a power nap or sleeping in if you need it. Listen to your body. Sleep is powerful and all too often underestimated.

Hydrate! Buy a water bottle to drink plenty of water and feel the benefits – less fatigue and brighter skin are two!

Unplug! Switch your phone off or leave it in your car (hidden of course!). It will help you to switch off and relax and can ease “Facebook depression” (especially before bed).

Create a technology-free bedroom. Removing phones and other gadgets will boost sleep.

Remove the toxic things in your life! There’s lots, but the hardest is removing toxic people as we can be afraid of the consequences. It can be stressful, but it is also self-care. Stay close to those who have time for you and enrich your life.

Phone a friend. Let’s face it, not many of us use the call functionality on our phones anymore. Talking verbally can speak to our feelings more

Write someone a letter. Receiving a letter is a rare treat these days and it is lovely to receive post as well as send it! 

Go on a journey somewhere, it doesn’t have to be far. It can be a bus ride to somewhere you wouldn’t usually travel to, or a special trip you’ve saved up for. Explore and relax.

If you’re feeling ill, take enough time to recover. Don’t feel guilty about taking a day off to recover and be kind to yourself.

Think of your favourite ever cartoon character. Likely the thought will make you smile and if you are worrying, think of your cartoon character’s reaction to this (likely they will totally reassure you and make you smile).

Smile if you feel like it (can be towards an animal or human).

Recognise someone for doing their job well, their reaction of gratitude should make you feel happy.

Look up your favourite band or artist to see if they have any concerts coming up. You could also search for events or seminars of interest and plan ahead: invite a friend, and put it in your diary!

Honour your senses, find your favourite scent and sniff and appreciate it.

Gift yourself! This doesn’t have to be treating yourself to a super-expensive pair of shoes, but maybe a new notebook, a favourite drink, or just give yourself a moment…a moment of rest or acceptance.

Think back to what made you happy as a child. Maybe it was a particular smell or moment. Think about it, savour it, smile about it.

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Talk to your crew. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or simply need to have a rant, speak up. Choose a trusted friend and voice the unspeakable.