This month at Move On, we’ve been talking about the importance of self-care!
We recently asked our young people and mentors to choose six topics they’d like to discuss. They exchange their thoughts on one topic with our staff each month. We then share their thoughts and experiences here!
Our six chosen topics are;
- Coping With Stress
- Winter Night Positivity Tips
- Breaking Out Of Your Comfort Zone
- Leaving The House: Feel Confident
- The Importance Of Self-Care
- How to boost your concentration and motivation
The Importance of Self-Care
The over-arching theme of our Topics For Discussion blog series has been the different aspects of mental health and wellness. To date, we’ve covered topics such as stress, anxiety, and low confidence. We’ve offered personal insight into how these issues affect our service users, and advice on how best to deal with specific areas of mental health. It seems only right that we also dedicate a post to the importance of self-care, and how it can impact on maintaining a positive mindset.
Because self-care is a vital practice. There is evidence that self-care can help with the management of many mental health problems – or even stop them from developing in the first place. Practising self-care also improves our general mental wellbeing, helping us to sleep better, eat better, and enjoy better relationships with those around us.
But despite all these well-known positive effects, self-care is often something we neglect.
So Why Aren’t We Doing It?
There can be many reasons for this; lack of time, lack of funds, lack of perceived opportunity.
We’ve discussed the impact of the ongoing pandemic on mental health in previous posts. Many of us have been left with greater feelings of stress, anxiety or depression after such a long (and continuing) period of fear, isolation and uncertainty. As such, the need to take care of ourselves is greater than ever.
However, many of us are also finding ourselves busier than ever. Whether this is due to lifestyle changes, or simply trying to catch up on every social event we missed for two years, it can be difficult to imagine how we’ll make the space to take some time out for ourselves. Add to this the increasing financial pressure of the cost of living crisis, and the idea of ‘self-care’ as it’s been framed in recent years, begins to seem a fairly low priority.
One of our young people even identified that she struggles to practice self-care, as it feels “self-indulgent.” This isn’t at all unusual. Considering all of the factors named above, many of us now see self-care as frivolous, rather than as a vital daily wellbeing practice. As such, it’s often the first thing to go out of the window, particularly when times get tough.
What Does Self-Care Even Mean?
Perhaps we need to consider what self-care actually represents to us.
While the definition of self-care means different things to different people, the idea in recent years has often been adopted in clever advertising campaigns, coming to represent activities which take up a lot of time and, crucially, money. Massages, manicures, fancy meals, luxury holidays – really anything that falls under the umbrella of “Treat Yo Self” has been branded as self-care in recent years.
However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Self-care literally means any activity which makes you feel good, and helps you to look after your own mental and emotional wellbeing. It could be a big blowout activity, or just a small lifestyle change. Yes, it can be an hour on the massage table – but it can also be any simple, quick, and inexpensive act that fits easily into your day, and makes you feel good. Remember how many of us found solace in quiet walks in the park in Spring 2020?
Our Top Tips
With this in mind, our volunteers and young people came together once again to share what they do to promote their own self-care. Their offerings are simple and accessible to everyone. Crucially, they’re flexible, easy to adapt to your personal budget, and can take as much, or as little time in your day as you have to spare. We hope that you find some ideas in here to create your own self-care routines;
As we’ve discussed, making some time to pamper yourself is the first thing to come to mind when we think of self-care. True to form, several of our young people and volunteers identified this as a source of their own self-care. However, this doesn’t have to mean a day at the spa. A pamper day or night can be a nice bubble bath, taking some time to paint your own nails, or fifteen minutes to do a face mask. This can even be as simple as treating yourself to your favourite snack; one young person mentioned that pampering to her is a bar of her favourite M&Ms chocolate!
Spend Time With Others
Self-care for some of our contributors simply meant spending time with those they care about. Particularly after having had to distance for much of the last two years, we’re sure this is true for many. This can be friends, family; even your pets! What’s important is taking the time to connect to those around you.
By the same token, we agreed that taking the time to set some boundaries, and create some space for yourself can be an equally important element of self-care. One of our contributors finds this by;
“switching the world off – tv, radio, phone, social media – and losing myself in a good book instead. Also saying NO to things I don’t really want to do, rather than saying yes just to people-please.”
As we mentioned earlier, many of us are trying to see everyone and do everything right now after a sustained period of missing out. While it’s great to have this freedom back, this kind of social over-stimulation can also lead to a sense of burnout. It’s also valuable to take some quiet time to yourself – listen to music, read a book, and really consider switching those screens off. Heavy periods of time spent on social media and other platforms only increase the sense of constant demands on your time and presence – influencer Jade Laurice shares some advice here around self-care and social media.
Take Up A Hobby
Our young people identified that their familiar hobbies represent a form of self-care to them. This includes watching their favourite TV shows, and online gaming. However, they also shared that taking up a new pastime can serve the same purpose. This could be doing something creative such as painting or taking up knitting. You could also learn a new skill, or even a new language!
Exercise and physical activity, such as brisk walk or gym session, is good for your mental and physical health. One of our volunteers mentioned that she loves to practice yoga for self-care. Yoga and meditation are widely believed to be great for taking care of yourself – as well as improving your strength and flexibility, the practice can relieve stress, boost endorphins, and help regulate the nervous system. There are loads of free online yoga resources available now, the best-known being popular YouTube channel Yoga With Adriene. Our wonderful sponsors Merchant City Yoga also have a range of free on-demand classes and meditations.
Spending time outdoors was another popular tip. This can include gardening, going for a walk, or exploring your local area. Discover some new places!
Self-care doesn’t always have to be all about relaxation. One volunteer offered “an activity where you see the results, and feel an achievement in completing this”. This could be a big task like having a clear-out, finishing uni work, or completing a DIY project. (Don’t forget to check out our social enterprise Move On Wood Recycling for all of your DIY needs!). It could also be something smaller like cooking a nice meal; or even batch-cooking your meals for the week! See Tom Kerridge and Marcus Rashford’s FareShare Full Time Meals campaign for some great, simple and cheap recipe ideas.
Overall, we heard a range of ideas in this month’s discussions. Ultimately though, our self-care tips came back to the simple idea – whatever helps you feel well. Seemingly small lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet, were also mentioned. One volunteer also brought up their mindfulness practice – learn to recognise and acknowledge the things that you appreciate. They suggested taking the time each day to write down three things you’re grateful for in a notebook or diary. These don’t have to be big things; it’s almost better if they’re not. What’s important is finding the time to recognise the things that contribute to your own personal wellbeing.
If you have any questions or thoughts about self-care that you’d like to share, or about Move On generally, you can contact us here.
The NHS ‘Every Mind Matters’ initiative also has a range of excellent resources aimed at self-care for mental wellbeing.
Until Next Time…
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And be sure to keep an eye out for our next Topics For Discussion post. We’ll have top tips on boosting concentration and motivation – coming to the Move On blog soon!