Health & Wellness

Why self-care is so important

Seven simple strategies to help you look after yourself.
Published 12 February 2017

7 self-care ideas & tips

Have you ever listened to the safety demonstration on a plane? The flight attendant will instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others in an emergency. The idea is, if you run out of oxygen, you won’t be able to help anyone. The same rule applies for everyday life, too. You have to take care of yourself to better enable yourself to take care of others.

But there’s more to self-care than simply eating well and moving more. Taking care of your mindset will also make a big difference to becoming a more confident, self-compassionate and healthier you.

1. Practise mindfulness

With people now living such busy lifestyles, it can be easy to slip into a mindset of dwelling on the past and fretting about the future. As a consequence, we sometimes forget to be ‘present’ and don’t fully experience what’s right in front of us, including the food we eat.

Being in the moment (including practising mindful eating), allows us to become more conscious of flavours and sensations, which can increase our sense of satisfaction and our overall experience. The concept applies to everything in life, but studies have shown that being mindful of what we eat has a significant impact on not only the enjoyment of your food but also your waistline.

At meal times, make food your main focus. Enjoy the process: savour every bite; notice the smell; how it looks; the texture; and the flavours as you chew and swallow. Notice the change this makes to your sense of satisfaction – you might be surprised!

2. Find ways of coping other than food

Some emotions have the ability to make you hungry, but is it for food? Experts suggest it might be the exact opposite. If you’re feeling sad, lonely or bored, it can be tempting to try and eat to mask that sensation, however eating won’t take away that feeling, at least not for long. Before reaching for your favourite snack ask yourself why you’re eating. “Being aware of your eating triggers is the first step to making healthier choices,” suggests psychologist Dr Susan Albers. Instead of turning to food and emotional eating, try reading a book or magazine, take a long bath, catch up with a friend or go for a walk.

3. Get some sleep

When you’ve had a poor night’s sleep, how does it make you feel? Chances are you feel grumpy, hungry, sluggish, less motivated to exercise and maybe even a bit frazzled. In this state, you’re less likely to make positive decisions. Consistently getting adequate sleep can help regulate your mood and appetite, manage stress levels and boost your immune system. It can also improve your motivation to move more and your chances of achieving your health and wellness goals. How much do you need? It varies from person to person, but most experts say around 7-8 hours a night. If sleeping soundly doesn’t come easily to you, try incorporating these tips into your routine.

  • Keep the bedroom for two things only - sleep and sex.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol for at least two hours before bed.
  • Create a welcoming and comfortable environment in the bedroom - think sumptuous mattress, pillows and blankets.
  • Your bedroom should also be dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature (studies suggest 15-20°C is most ideal).

4. Manage your stress levels

Stress can impact your health efforts. Studies have shown that people with higher stress levels are more likely to crave sugary foods and find it harder to stick to a healthy eating program. Unfortunately, stress is also part of everyday life, so it’s important that you find ways to stay in control of your stress levels to help you cope with life’s ups and downs.

Try meditation, focusing on your breathing or finding your flow. Finding your flow is a practice that requires the repetition of an action and setting aside intrusive thoughts, to help you stay in the moment.

5. Be kind to yourself

When you stop finding (and focusing on) faults, positive change is so much easier. The next time a negative thought comes into your head, replace it with a positive one. Turn “I failed at that” into “I will get better and next time I will smash it”. Instead of putting yourself down when someone compliments you, say “Thank you”. Be confident and practice self-compassion. A positive frame of mind is what we’re aiming for. Give yourself a pep talk, reward yourself and clear your mind of can’t.

6. Choose nutritious foods

What you might not realise is that there is a connection between what we eat and the way we feel. For example, eating good-quality carbohydrates like wholegrains can help keep your blood sugar levels steady. This helps to create a constant supply of energy and a stable mood. Wholegrains will also keep you feeling fuller for longer, which helps to keep you on top of your Points Budget. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also have an impact on how you feel. Low levels of vitamin B12 and iron, for example, can contribute to mood slumps. Aim to make the majority of the food you eat wholesome, fresh and enjoyable. Find the foods and meals you like and get creative.

7. Ask for help when you need it

You're much more likely to achieve your goals if you have support. It can be hard to ask for help, but a big part of putting yourself first is knowing when to call in the reinforcements. Support is central to weight-loss success, both in terms of kick-starting them and keeping them going. Enlisting the support of others, such as your family, friends, colleagues, fellow WW members, WW Coaches or our Connect community can help you stay on track. Use this support for advice and motivation – the more people you include in your support network, the more beneficial to your goals that network will become.