We hear a great deal about building resilience in the workplace, or for professional, business, and project purposes. But what about your personal and mental resilience?
Resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity and taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with such situations.
And, let’s face it, we’ve not been short of adverse situations of late. In fact, research by the Stress Management Society found that 65 percent of people in the UK have felt more stressed since Covid-19 restrictions began in 2020. Key causes for concern are feelings of disconnection, uncertainty, along with a worrying loss of control.
And that’s not even taking into account the anxieties we face as sustainability professionals on a daily basis as we strive to create a better, greener future for everyone.
Often ignored, but totally necessary, self-care involves any action or behaviour that will help avoid or overcome health problems and sharpen mental and physical health through better self-esteem, stress management, and overall well-being.
Maya Angelou, poet and civil rights activist, was spot on when she said:
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”
So, for once, it’s time to prioritise yourself with a healthy dollop of self-care and here we focus on just that.
What is it, exactly?
Self-care is not a new concept, nor is it exclusive or complicated. Self-care is just what it sounds like – It’s about taking care of yourself.
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. In theory, it’s dead simple but is frequently overlooked or dismissed. However, good self-care is key to improving our mental resilience, boosting mood, reducing anxiety, and developing a good relationship with yourself and others.
This article outlines why taking care of yourself means compassionately accepting yourself for who you are instead of burning yourself out trying to be everything to everyone all the time. As it turns out, there are many different self-care practices, and naturally not all of them suit everyone so this helpful feature is worth reading as it takes you through the reasons why you need at least some sort of self-care in your routine.
Understand what self-care isn’t, is also important. It is not something that we force ourselves to do, or something we don’t enjoy doing. However, people who bash self-care most certainly misunderstand it Let's dispel some negative stereotypes about self-care. If you think of self-care as indulgent or selfish, you’re thinking about it wrong. These examples of fake self-care are a good starting point to shift your mindset.
Clinical psychologist, Dr Agnes Wainman, nicely explained it as: “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”
It’s not selfish
If you think of self-care as indulgent or selfish, you’re thinking about it all wrong. As well as considering what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves it’s also, in turn, about being able to take care of others. How can we possibly help or care for others, and be the best version of ourselves if we don’t practice self-care?
If you’re still dubious, see this article on the differences between self-care and selfishness and If you feel guilty for taking care of yourself and finding ways to relax, remember you are actually being smart; you can dig a bit deeper on this subject here.
What are the benefits of self-care?
Self-care offers lots of benefits, many of them interlinked, and important to our overall health. Committing to looking after yourself should improve your wellbeing all round as well as building and maintain your mental resilience. Self-care is the key to living a balanced life and can: protect your mental health; boost your self-esteem; reduce stress and anxiety; improve your physical health; and even lead to better relationships. That’s a lot of benefits, and you can read more about each in-depth here.
It’s a really good way to ensure we refresh and recharge ourselves, so that we can feel and be at our best and, if you do struggle with any mental health issues, self-care techniques can help manage the symptoms and even help prevent some problems from developing or getting worse.
Where to start?
Sticking to the basics at first in sensible and, over time, you’ll develop your own routine and rhythm on how self-care can work for you. It really needs to be something you actively plan into your life, rather than something that just happens by chance so adding activities to your calendar, telling others your plans to others, and actively looking for opportunities to practice self-care is important. Make sure that you are aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels, and what outcomes you enjoy or notice.
It’s probably a good idea to create a no list, with things you know you don’t like or don’t want to do. Things like not checking or answering messages and emails at night; or not answering your phone during lunchtime, are examples of this. Read our blog on how to say no.
Get enough sleep! Adults usually need around seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and we have a whole blog on how to get decent sleep right here, along with loads of tools and tips on achieving it.
Exercise is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health as it increases serotonin levels, which helps to leading to improve mood and energy. What’s important is that you select a form of exercise that you actually enjoy. Using relaxation exercises or practicing meditation is also a great idea and, what's more, you can do this pretty much anywhere and at any time of the day.
Make sure that you do at least one pleasurable activity every day; from reading a book or watching a favourite TV programme, to cooking or calling a friend for a chat. It's important to have fun, and we've even written about that previously along with some practical hints on how to have fun!
And don’t forget, as with everything, self-care takes practice. Now it's time to check out our tools and tips to help you practically put your self-care plans and ideas into place and get boosting your mental resilience.