Self care is paramount to our overall mental and physical health. Without taking time out for ourselves we may become lost, frustrated, and hopeless. There are many basic self-care and lifestyle strategies that can help increase emotional health. As they say “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others”
What are some ways to manage our emotions?
Rest and eat well
1. Get enough rest. It is widely known that a lack of sleep or disturbed sleep affects our mood. Try to set a regular bedtime and wake time to get your body into a routine.
2. Eat a well balanced diet that includes fruit and vegetables. Think about what foods make you calm and energised. Then think about what foods make you tired and lethargic or feel low. Try not to yo-yo diet as this can have a huge impact on your mood and motivation.
3. Stick to a balanced diet incorporating carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, and fruits.
4. Avoid eating fast food on a regular basis- Fast food may make you feel sluggish and may be too expensive.
Reduce your caffeine and nicotine intake- reduce intake gradually as going cold turkey may cause mood fluctuations and emotional dips. Reducing nicotine and caffeine slowly may reduce agitation and keep you more calm and less anxious.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
5. Exercise regularly, this can involve going for walks or even yoga. Exercise releases endorphins which lifts mood significantly. Exercise can also help you feel productive and positive.
6. Take time to relax and do things you enjoy on a regular basis. Take time out for yourself to see friends, family, or go spend time in nature. Re-engage with previous hobbies or interests. Make a plan of things you can do for the week before the week starts and set small goals for yourself to do things for yourself.
Have your priorities
7. Prioritise things you need to take care of with the most important first. Write a to-do list that is numbered in order of priority. Break the tasks down and split them over days. This will reduce feeling overwhelmed by how many tasks you have to do and will help you feel like you are achieving your set tasks.
8. Treat physical illness- focus on your health by resting if you are physically unwell or seeking medical advice regarding chronic pain issues. Discuss effects of medication and your wants/needs related to this.
9. Associate with positive people- spend time with people who make you feel great, who empowers you, support you, and you enjoy spending time with. Try to do this at least once a week.
Practice mindfulness and gratitude
10. Think of things you are grateful for. At the end of each day, write down three things that you were grateful for that day. They can be as little as “having a bed to sleep on” to something as big as “got a new job”. Try not to repeat the same items daily and to think outside of the box.
11. Increase your positive experiences. Try to do one positive thing a day. Doing more positive things allows us to feel good and it gets us in the habit of having positive feelings.
12. Practice mindfulness daily. This can be using short mindfulness meditation exercises using many apps or online meditations or can be as simple as sitting in a park and watching the trees blow from the win or the clouds float across the sky.
You can also spend some time doing some colouring in or completing a crossword puzzle. There are hundreds of ways to practice mindfulness and you can find out more about this in our article “10 best mindfulness exercises under 10 minutes”.
Celebrate your efforts and wins
13. Reward yourself for your efforts and achievements. Ensure that you are rewarding yourself for all your hard work. That means that even if you set yourself the goal to get out of bed before 10 am and you managed to do it, make sure to reward yourself for achieving this.
Start with small goals and celebrate the small wins. Rewarding yourself can take many shapes and forms (verbal praise, treats, new outfit, doing something fun etc).
14. Finally, learn to say “no”. Sometimes saying no to somebody else means saying yes to yourself. Practice saying no to things you don’t want to do and instead communicate effectively what you would rather do instead.
A final word
Think about what other activities have you found useful or helpful in managing your emotions and use them to improve your self care.
What are some things you should avoid?
- Alcohol and drugs
- Chaotic living situations- as it will make it harder to unwind and build positive experiences
- Isolation from friends and family
- Excessive conflict with others- especially those with authority over you (e.g. your manager)
- Ignoring or not dealing with painful events
You may need to seek psychological intervention to overcome or combat some of the above or target areas that may be difficult for you to avoid.
For now, I ask that you re-read the list above and attempt at least one thing over the next week. Think about how you felt before the task and how you feel afterwards. It may be the step you need to start making yourself a priority.