To help, we have partnered with Ben, the charity dedicated to supporting the people of the automotive industry, providing support for life for them and their family dependents. Ben works with people to improve their lives by enhancing their health and wellbeing through its free and confidential online self-help, helpline, and support services. This post was developed by Ben and has been included on the CarGurus website with permission.
What is self-care?
Put simply, self-care is how we look after ourselves, and like most things, it isn’t something that exists in isolation. Our mind and body are our greatest assets, so looking after them helps us function at our best.
Life is busy, with many pressures and demands to juggle. Learning, observing, and engaging in self-care is a key life skill which helps us stay focused, feel happier and often lends itself to a better work-life balance.
Self-care can help you be the best version of yourself by looking after your body and mind. Making good self-care choices can help you move towards a desired outcome or support you to make positive changes in your life. Self-care can also increase our resilience (our ability to cope with challenges or bounce back) as well as enhance our overall health and wellbeing.
How to practice good self-care
1. Give time to yourself and others
Giving time and energy to others is a good way to look after your wellbeing – it’s often referred to as Altruism. Those who give to others are said to rate themselves as happier and more fulfilled. So perhaps have a think about how you could give back to others – is there anything you could get involved within your local community or volunteer for a charity?
This said, it’s also important to give yourself time. It doesn’t have to be for long or even too often, but time just for you is critical. You need time to think, reflect, and explore activities you enjoy which can refuel you and make you feel good about yourself. If you’re looking for a new hobby, take a look at Ben’s hobbies hit list for inspiration.
2. Be kind to yourself
A bit of kindness can go a long way, yet often it’s associated with being kind to others. We’re all guilty of being too hard on ourselves sometimes, so being kinder can have a big effect on our quality of life. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake or you don’t always manage to complete the ‘to do’ list!
Set yourself realistic, manageable goals. Prioritising and learning ways to avoid procrastination are also great strategies for being kind to yourself. Getting fewer things done is often better than the pursuit of perfection. Next time you hear yourself saying ‘I need to do this’ or ‘I have to do this’, take a moment and decide if this is true, do you? Or are you choosing to? Would you choose to if given the choice?
3. Prioritise rest and sleep
Sleep is king! We all need sleep, there’s no doubt about it. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can affect our mood, memory, and judgement. When we talk about getting enough sleep, it’s related to the quality of our sleep too. We all have varying sleep needs, but most adults need between 7-9 hours a night. This said, it’s normal for us all to go through periods when we don’t sleep as well. If that’s the case for you, don’t worry about it too much, but if it becomes more persistent then seek further support. If you’re currently struggling with sleep, then check out Ben’s tips for improving your sleep.
All too often, we spend our time rushing around, moving straight from one thing to the next. Taking some time out to rest can help us take stock and refuel. Even building in a short amount of time to rest each day can make us more productive and effective. For example, take time to notice your surroundings, your senses, and practice being mindful. Make time for things that relax you, which could include meditation, exercise, listening to music, or reading a good book.
4. Switch off…
We live in a world where it’s hard to detach ourselves from our devices. We’re constantly bombarded by emails, messages, notifications, and social media. An ‘always on’ culture makes it very hard to switch off. Evidence is suggesting that an unhealthy attachment to technology and the online world is not good for us. Too much time spent online can cause people to feel anxious about things they are missing out on, or make them compare themselves to what others are doing. Setting boundaries around the use of your device could be key to better self-care.
5. Let time flow by
Have you ever been so absorbed in an activity that the time has passed by without you even noticing? Positive psychology refers to this as ‘flow’. Experiencing flow is said to enhance your wellbeing because your mind is preoccupied with something you’re enjoying, with no real distractions.
When was the last time you think you experienced flow? Often when you experience flow during an activity, you’re likely to have achieved something too. For example, it could be playing sport, being creative, or taking part in a hobby. This sense of achievement is also said to enhance our life experience.
6. Make good choices
We can’t be good all the time, but our lifestyle and lifestyle choices are important. Unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, and drinking alcohol excessively are examples of not taking care of our physical health. Everything in moderation. If we don’t take care of our physical health, we’re likely to feel sluggish, lack energy, and experience a lower mood.
Key things to consider:
- Drink enough water
Our body needs 8 (8-ounce) glasses or 2L of water a day. Evidence suggests maintaining our levels of hydration helps us maintain a healthy weight, perform at our best, and reduce stress.
- A healthy diet
Try to consume carbonated drinks, refined sugars, artificial and processed foods in moderation, and aim to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Read the NHS Eatwell guide for more information about a healthy diet.
- Stay active
Being more active keeps our heart healthy, our muscles strong, and our head happy. According to the NHS, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and by doing at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as cycling or brisk walking) every week.
- Drink alcohol in moderation
The guidelines are to not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
For more information on improving your lifestyle, visit the NHS.
7. Work your core
Improving our core stability, range of movement, and muscle strength is a great way to support self-care. A strong body helps us maintain good posture, which plays a significant role in managing musculoskeletal health and wellbeing. Good posture can help us avoid aches, pains, and injuries, breathe more efficiently and increase our confidence. Yoga, Pilates, and classes such as Body Balance are all good ways to improve our core strength and stability.
8. It’s okay to say no
Clearly, there are some things we can’t say no to but sometimes we do have a choice, yet saying no isn’t always easy. The reality is that saying no can support our self-care and can also be liberating. It can feel uncomfortable to say no, usually because we want to be helpful and we don’t want to let anyone down. Let’s reframe this. While supporting and giving to others is good for us, it shouldn’t be at the expense of our own self-care.
So don’t be too quick to say yes if you’re not sure about something. Think it through and say, “can I come back to you, I need to check a few things” before you commit. Accept that it’s ok to say no. When we say no, it’s often quickly followed by a reason why we can’t help. We don’t need to justify the reason why and most people are unlikely to ask.
9. Prioritise energisers in your life
Have you ever been in a room where the people you’re with provide inspiration and view life as an opportunity? These people make you feel positive, they are warm, welcoming and you feel energised after spending time with them. These people are energisers and they are positive, they do good in their lives and for others, they keep things simple and have respect for others.
On the flip side, have you ever been in a room with people who make you feel tired, anxious, and disengaged? These people are energy sappers. They often view life as one big problem, they are quick to judge and can be envious of others. Energy sappers can suppress the motivations of ambitious people and they can create an unhealthy atmosphere of bad feeling and negativity.
Recognise those in your life who are energy sappers, try to minimise time spent with them and prioritise spending more time with energisers. Build a network of energisers around you who will be a positive influence, because our relationships with others make a real difference to our lives. Think quality over quantity, focusing on building real connections with a couple of people you really value, rather than trying to stay in touch with lots of people – especially if life is busy.
10. Know yourself and be the change
Get to know yourself, your limitations and thresholds. Think about your values, beliefs and what drives and motivates you. Whilst it’s important to acknowledge the areas you would like to change, reflect and embrace your personal strengths.
Knowing yourself is fundamental because then you can more easily be the change you wish to see. Taking the time to get to know yourself, your values and strengths will also improve your confidence and assertiveness. It will also help you be more open-minded and honest with yourself, which will enable you to receive feedback from others in a positive frame of mind.