12 ways to better self-care

What does real self-care look like? Sometimes it’s doing the hardest things – like getting into a good morning routine and doing a workout even though it’s the last thing you feel like. Prioritising your sleep and sorting your finances may not sound like self-care, but the experts say it’ll be a whole lot more nourishing in the long-term than a hot bath or a slice of chocolate cake.

We have complied 12 top tips with the help of our experts so you can start loving yourself more.

1 It’s good to talk…

Waterford-based GP Dr Mark Rowe says self-care should not be seen as selfish care. Rather it’s a gift to yourself and everyone who matters in your life. He says one of his top tips to people when it comes to looking after themselves emotionally is to make sure they have people in their lives they can talk to. In some cases this may include talking to your GP if you’re stressed or anxious, or to a trained counsellor. “It may be just off loading with your friends instead of bottling up your feelings,” says Dr Rowe.

2 Don’t just pay lip service

On the other hand, it’s also very important to be a good listener. According to Dr Rowe, who is an expert in lifestyle medicine, we have a habit of asking someone how they are but not really listening to their response. He advises that the next time we ask someone how they are doing, we should take the time to really hear their response.

Being a good listener, he says, is the other side of the coin to opening up and talking to someone.

3 Prioritise your sleep

Sleep expert Lucy Wolfe says sleep is a bit like fitness – you can improve at any age and it’s never too late to get your sleep back on track. Her top tip for maximising your sleep is to go to bed at the same time every night. For adults she recommends going to bed between 10pm and 11pm and waking no later than 7.30am every day. Having a pre-sleep ritual like reading or listening to music before bed will help get your body get ready for some shut-eye. Meanwhile, she says exercise and heavy meals should be avoided two to three hours before bedtime. It is important to commit to at least seven to nine hours in bed every night.

4 Show me your friends

According to life coach James Sweetman, we all know people who are like “drains” in our life, sucking the energy and positivity from us. “Over the years these drains have been gently edited from my life, so I have more time to spend with the ‘radiators,’ people, when I’m in their company, I feel better about myself and the world in general,” says Sweetman.

He says it’s important to make adjustments in our personal lives to make more time for the radiators, giving the drains less of our precious time. “What I’ve found is that when I cease reaching out to people who are drains on my energy, the connection tends to fizzle out naturally,” he says.

5 Do something that scares you

Staying in our comfort zone may feel like the easy option, but realising our true potential may only happen when we step outside of that comfort zone and take bold actions to go for something we really want.

According to psychologist Brock Bastian, when we push ourselves to the edge of what we can handle, we become more connected to the moment and less preoccupied with unnecessary worries. This can be the case when it comes to something as simple as your workout.

In her book My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown, Meera Lee Patel talks about how fear was holding her back. “If I’m saying no to something because I’m scared then I make myself do it”. One of her rules is to exercise daily.

6 Plan your meals

Weight Watchers coach Fiona O’Sullivan says having healthy meals planned and prepared means you are less likely to go off-track and snack on rubbish. And she says it also means you don’t have to waste time thinking about food for the week.

“The two vital pieces of equipment for me in the kitchen are my slow cooker and my soup maker. Both allow me to produce wholesome, nutritious, tasty meals that will keep me on track for the week,” says Fiona.

She explains that with a little planning you can rustle up healthy dinners for you and your family without the stress of starting to cook from scratch every evening.

7 Decide on a form of exercise

Fitness guru Paul Byrne says being fit and healthy in any decade of your life will have a knock-on benefit as you face into the next decade. Paul says the main thing is for people to find something they like.

“Hill walking and swimming are all excellent. Find something you enjoy and set yourself a challenge. There’s something for everyone. Once you’re working out, you’re investing in yourself,” he says.

8 Be drink aware

Drinking above the low-risk guidelines or binge drinking puts you at high risk for health-related problems.

According to the HSE, risk varies from person to person and depends on the particular health problem – breast cancer risk is increased from only one drink a day, whereas liver cirrhosis affects mainly people who drink heavily over a long period of time. In most cases, though, the more you drink, the more your risk of harming your health increases.

For more information, log on to askaboutalcohol.ie

9 Make time to meditate

Dr Ann Donnelly has a busy working life, balancing her work in palliative care and a thriving holistic practice in Derry City. But she insists on a daily meditation practice. “I get up early. I go on a brisk walk no matter what the weather, followed by my Chi Do practice to feel the energy flow in my body and then I meditate,” she says.

“Some mornings it’s not for very long because of time but I find that my focus is clearer, my motivation is stronger and it takes me less time to achieve more. This has a knock-on effect of proper downtime in the evenings,” says Dr Donnelly.

10 Get outside more

By stepping outside the door, you are doing much, much more than getting fresh air. In July, a team of researchers from the University of East Anglia looked at the data from 20 countries including Australia and the UK and found that exposure to green space reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure, among other benefits.

Just a few weeks ago it was announced that Scottish doctors were to start prescribing birdwatching, rambling and beach walks in the Atlantic winds to help treat chronic and debilitating illnesses for the first time.

11 Make time for your finances

Personal finance expert Frank Conway likens our physical fitness to our financial fitness, applying the rules of “start early” and “stick to the plan” to both. He says knowing exactly what your spending habits are and setting financial goals are key to well-being in the financial area of our lives. Living within your means, increasing your financial knowledge by learning where the best savings deals are and sticking to the plan are all tasks crucial to taking care of yourself, he says.

12 Get rid of stuff

Frances Murphy of MnF Decluttering says instead of buying more clothes and shoes, go for a coffee with a friend or plan a nice meal. Frances says people often shop to fill an emotional void in their lives and advises people to stop, breathe and count to ten before making a purchase. She says this can give people the freedom to live their lives instead of being overwhelmed with stuff.

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