The global pandemic has changed the world as we used to know it. Not only has it affected society’s physical health, but the economic and social effects are far-reaching. And no-one has been spared. In these times when anxiety and fear is at an all-time high, looking after the body and mind could not be more important.

Enter self-care. And before you scoff at the idea and say self-care is a luxury only for the rich and those with plenty of time on their hands, the World Health Organisation defines self-care as the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote and maintain health, prevent disease, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.

 

So not only does the WHO stress the importance of self-care to promote physical health, but the need to focus on mental health, and to prevent disease too.

With all the uncertainty and anxiety during these current times, stress levels are high and energy levels are low, which not only has a negative effect on the mood, but it weakens the immune system, leaving us less able to fight viral infections.  

 

 

There are five types of self-care: physical, social, mental, spiritual and emotional. And looking after yourself holistically, (ie ticking all five boxes) is vital for both body and mind – especially during these stressful times. And if the WHO is not enough to convince you, studies have shown practicing self-care has been known to reduce stress, improve your mood and boost energy levels, making you better equipped to tackle life’s challenges.

 

So, be sure to add the following self-care tips to your to-do list:

 

SELF-CARE TIPS TO DECREASE STRESS:

Stress has a sneaky way of manifesting itself in all aspects of the mind and body. By reducing your stress levels you will be more resilient to whatever life throws at you, physically and emotionally. 

You can decrease stress by:

 

  • Meditating or deep breathing exercises. This will clear the mind, slow the heart rate, increase oxygen intake, and tell the brain to slow down.
  • Going for a brisk walk. Regular exercise is better, but just going for a walk will release endorphins which helps with anxiety.
  • Practice yoga. The art of yoga encourages mindfulness, conscious breathing and relaxation.
  • Taking a supplement with stress-reducing properties. The herb, Holy basil for example has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Taking a bath. Not only does this give you some much-needed alone time, but a bath is a conducive environment for meditating. Also submerging your body in warm water decreases stress hormones.
  • Lighting a scented candle. Make it a candlelit bath and further relieve stress. The scent from the candle will stimulate the mood sensors in the brain and the soft glow will further aid in setting the scene for the ultimate in relaxation.
  • Feeling all your feelings. Acknowledge how you are feeling and either write them down, or chat to a friend or a professional. Often just talking about how you are feeling is a release in itself.
  • Spending time with family and friends. Connecting with loved ones, sharing happy memories and basic social interaction helps you better cope with stress. 
  • Listening to soothing music. Music activates the brainwaves and soothing music calms the mind.
  • Spending time with your pet. Studies have shown that spending time with a pet can not only calm anxiety but lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, and increases our immune system too!

SELF-CARE TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR MOOD:

Your mood not only plays a major role in your decision-making, but research shows a positive mood leads to greater productivity, better (and happier) relationships and generally a more positive outlook on life. Besides, no-one likes having a grumpy person around.

Here are some tips to improve your mood:

  • Exercise regularly. Working out releases endorphins (the ‘feel-good’ hormones) which gives an instant mood-lift. And the benefits go far beyond the immediate pick-me-up.
  • Listen to upbeat music. Just like soothing music calms the mind, upbeat music will boost your mood.
  • Tidy and declutter. There’s nothing like a messy kitchen or desk to put you in a bad mood. A good declutter and tidy up will not only improve your mood but you will feel more focused and motivated too. 
  • Talk it out. Vent if necessary. Airing your frustrations to a friend is better than bottling them up inside. And you’ll feel better for it afterwards.
  • Volunteer. Not only will you be making someone else happy, but there is evidence that people who help others are happier in general and have a higher self-esteem.
  • Check in with a friend. The connectedness will boost your mood, and your friend’s too. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Studies have shown that mindfulness or focusing on the present moment improves emotion regulation which will lead to a better mood.
  • Eat dark chocolate. Dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins – the feel-good chemicals we have mentioned a few times already – as well contains serotonin, a natural mood-booster. 
  • Laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine. A good belly laugh stimulates brain activity which can help to enhance the immune system, reduce stress and you guessed it, improve your mood. 

 

 

 

SELF-CARE TO BOOST YOUR ENERGY LEVELS:

We all have busy lives, with work and family demands taking centre stage, resulting in depleted energy levels and pure exhaustion at the end of each day. As the saying goes you can’t pour from an empty cup. Here are some tips to replenish your energy levels:

  • Create a realistic to-do list and stick to it. Often the thought of how much you have to get through in a day is exhausting in itself. Be realistic about what you will be able to achieve. And as you tick each item off, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. 
  • Exercise. (There’s that one again) The more you exercise, the more mitochondria your body produces, which in turn produces more energy. 
  • Avoid smoking. Stopping smoking will improve your circulation and increase oxygen supply, which will increase energy and reduce tiredness. Plus, it will give your immune system a boost.  
  • Eat healthily. Foods such as nuts, whole grains, bananas and fish give you energy to sustain your energy levels throughout the day.
  • Limit alcohol. Alcohol has sedative qualities, and makes you lethargic and drowsy.
  • Drink water. Water is involved in all bodily functions, including the production of energy and dehydration can result in fatigue, so it is recommended to drink plenty of water throughout the day for optimal energy levels. 
  • Get enough sleep. It’s obvious, we know. The body cannot function without adequate sleep. Notwithstanding the myriad of other health benefits, a lack of sleep will leave you fatigued and not able to function optimally.
  • Take a supplement. Magnesium, for example helps convert food to energy and Holy basil provides a sustainable, lasting energy. 

You’ll notice a lot of overlap in the above tips, with many of them being interchangeable. It goes without saying that improving your mood, will boost your energy levels and decrease stress. Decreasing stress will improve your mood, and boosting your energy levels will control stress, and so on. And earlier, we touched on the fact that stress, low energy levels and a low mood weakens the immune system too. Look out for a future article on how to build your immune system. 

So, the next time you tell the kids to amuse themselves for 30 minutes so that you can enjoy a hot bubble bath, lose the guilt. You’re practicing self-care, which is vital for your physical and mental well-being.

World Health Organisation