Category Archives: Self-care

Looking after your mind starts with looking after your body.

I’m reliably informed that back in 2006 Mariah Carey’s legs were insured for a knee-trembling billion dollars.

Over the years, a procession of celebs have had eye-popping policies covering various body parts (often, I suspect, largely for PR purposes).

However, it may make you wonder why such a chasm should exist between those who take care of their bodies (I’m assuming that if you have billion-dollar legs, someone somewhere is going to be keeping a very close eye on your pins’ wellbeing) – and those who don’t.

2016-10-24

I reckon there’s a tendency for many of us to assume that our bodies will simply look after themselves, even when we treat them carelessly.

But that’s not always so, and it’s easy to slip into bad ways.

Not surprisingly your mental wellbeing is pretty closely dependent on your physical health, and this in turn is clearly affected by the degree to which you look after yourself.

Unless you know something I don’t, you’ve only got the one body.

Does it therefore not make sense to look after it?

To give yourself proper breaks, schedule them as if they were firm appointments.

I’m among the world’s worst when it comes to taking time out.

I wish I wasn’t, but something inside me seems to stop me stopping.

I know I’m not alone: I’m sure you’ll have gone through this yourself from time to time, or (and I do hope not) as unreasonably and unceasingly as I’m inclined to.

But the thing is, when I do slow right down and take time off, the clarity of my thinking improves to an enormous extent.

Problems that seemed insurmountable appear much more manageable with the perspective afforded by a rested mind and a brain that’s no longer frazzled.

2016-10-17

Often it’s not good enough just to hope that a chance to rest will pop up by accident.

It needs to be planned, and put in your diary in indelible pen – just as if it was a vital appointment or crucial meeting.

Don’t wait too long to do this for yourself.

I chatted to a woman the other day who said that when she got home from the shops, her husband told her he’d booked them a fortnight’s holiday.

Now that’s the way to do it.

Putting down the weights is sometimes the really strong thing to do.

In 1968, Jerry Butler sang that only the strong survive.

But what did he know?

While I’m sure it’s true that you, me, we all, often possess more strength than we acknowledge, it’s equally the case that now and then it really is okay to say “enough’s enough”.

Times when struggling on with blind, grim determination really makes no sense at all.

2016-09-21

Now I’m not suggesting that we all just give up and go home.

Far from it.

Not for one second.

Life is for living, and to live it to its full extent generally takes persistence and tenacity.

It’s just that it’s equally sensible at times to recognise that we’ve more on our plate than we can deal with.

When that happens, to extend the metaphor, for goodness’ sake don’t pile more on – and preferably offload some of what’s already there.

If the next day or two are looming over you with impossible demands, recognise that impossible means just that.

Impossible.

And actually, you know, saying No to things, and re-scheduling where you can, does take strength.

So perhaps old Jerry had it right all along.

Amuse the blues away. Look for laughter opportunities, particularly on gloomy days.

Some people in life are natural joke-tellers. Others (like me) love a good joke but are pretty hopeless when it comes to delivering them.

But whether you’re a dab hand with witty repertoire or not, I’m sure you enjoy a good laugh.

2016-08-29

They say that laughter is the best medicine, and whilst I wouldn’t recommend relying solely on watching episodes of The Simpsons if you contract malaria, there’s no doubting that laughing does you good. It usually makes you feel good too.

Helpfully nature has given us the ability to laugh when we see or hear something funny, even if our mood is otherwise low.

This can come in very handy when you’re in a rocky state and don’t feel like doing all the other things you know might do you good (get exercise, socialise etc).

Books of cartoons have worked for me in the past. As have videos of favourite funny films and TV shows.

You won’t feel like getting them when your need is greatest so keep some supplies handy.

I’m not joking. (Sorry, you knew that was coming.)

A helpful way to avoid burn-out is to put downtime on your Must-Do To-Do list.

Have you noticed how some people take pleasure in telling you how busy they are all the time?

Perhaps it’s a sign of our insecure economic times that they feel the need to be seen as Very Busy, but although bursts of intense activity can be OK there’s a lot to be said for not over-pushing yourself.

2016-08-21

In fact it’s often the case that the more you try to squeeze in, the less you actually get done.

So are you giving yourself enough ‘spare’ time each day? Are you actually giving yourself any?

If you like to drive your life with a schedule there’s a lot to be said for planning down-time, periods when you’re not going to be frantically trying to clear your To-Do list.

This is not to say you’ll be doing nothing though, because perhaps you can occupy this time with the things that make life good.

Stop and chat to someone. Have a coffee. Walk round the block.

Above all, let go of the need to fill every second of every day.

Life’s for living.

Live it today.

Stop to check in with yourself, like a pilot running through the pre-flight routine.

Throttle? Check. Flaps? Check. Strobes? Check.

As a pilot prepares for takeoff, there’s a mandatory checklist to run through so nothing’s forgotten and everything’s tested.

Checklists make huge sense.

2016-08-15

In fact in his book, ‘The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right’, author Atul Gawande (a surgeon) shows how briefly pausing to run through a task’s requirements before starting it has huge value. Saves lives even.

We carry mental checklists with us all the time, of course. Whether consciously or subconsciously it’s how you’re able to walk out of the house without leaving the iron on.

But you can think in mental checklist terms on other occasions too. Next time you’re sitting in traffic or lying in bed about to get up, why not make a point of asking yourself how you’re feeling?

Being aware of your state of mind is a first step towards managing it. Quite a big step actually.

Eating unhealthily can be the equivalent of putting diesel in your tank rather than unleaded.

As you’ll find if you mix up the diesel and unleaded pumps, cars don’t work with the wrong fuel.

We kind of know this, just as we’re aware that babies aren’t likely to take to spare ribs, and should remember that you must never, ever give dogs macadamia nuts.

2016-08-08

So why, if we’re this astute when it comes to the nutritional needs of cars, babies and dogs, do we seem to ignore that having a healthy diet is crucial to our own physical and mental wellbeing?

Why do we sometimes think it’s fine to shovel down junk without expecting to see an associated decline in our health and all-round happiness?

Of course there’s a lot of psychology surrounding what we eat and why. It can get complicated.

But one thing that generally holds true is the principle adhered to by computer experts, among others: garbage in, garbage out.

You’ll have choices today about what you eat. Try to make as many sensible ones as possible.

Your mind and body will thank you, even if your willpower gets a bit challenged.

If you’re exhausted, schedule time to rest properly, treating it like an unbreakable appointment.

I’m the world’s worst when it comes to taking time out. I wish I wasn’t, but something inside me seems to stop me stopping.

I know I’m not alone. I’m certain you’ll have gone through this yourself from time to time or (although I do hope not) as unreasonably and unceasingly as I’m inclined to do.

But the thing is, when I do slow right down and take time off, the clarity of my thinking improves to an enormous extent. Problems that seemed insurmountable appear much more manageable with the perspective afforded by a rested mind and a brain that’s no longer frazzled.

2016-08-07

Often it’s not good enough to expect that an opportunity to rest will pop up by accident. It needs to be planned, and put in your diary in indelible pen – just as if it was a vital appointment or a crucial meeting.

Don’t wait too long to do this for yourself. I spoke to the wife of a retired clergyman the other day who said that when she got home from the shops, her husband told her that he’d booked them a fortnight’s vacation.

Now that’s the way to do it.

Taking care of yourself is sensible, not selfish.

As kids, it’s drummed into us that being selfish is wrong.

Share your toys. Share your food. Share the airtime in conversations.

Of course this is pretty sensible guidance, because living with others in relative harmony means not keeping it all to yourself. The theory is that if you share with others, then they’ll share with you too.

2016-07-31

But not being selfish isn’t the same as believing that it’s somehow wrong to care for yourself, and to look after No 1 at times.

When you travel by air the safety demonstration makes clear that you should put on your own oxygen mask before tending to the needs of others, and this makes great sense.

If you’re going to be of help to the people around you, you need to be strong yourself.

So making sure you’re well-rested, well-fed and well-adjusted isn’t selfish.

It’s just right and proper.

Are you looking after yourself? Your physical health is intimately connected to your emotional wellbeing.

The phrase ‘wrapped in cotton wool’ is sometimes spoken in a belittling sense, as the user sets out to accuse somebody (often a parent) of mollycoddling something or someone (often a child).

When it refers to a little one, it suggests over-protection and the denial of the chance for a child to learn how to stand on his or her own feet.

2016-07-22

It’s funny. We take for granted the fact that small children need to be cared for, recognising that this can go too far in a few cases, yet how many of us get anywhere even remotely close to wrapping ourselves in cotton wool?

Be honest, how many of us properly care for our bodies? Too often, perhaps, it can be a matter of ignoring problems in the hope that they’ll go away. Occasionally they do. But not always.

I’m sure men are worse than women when it comes to self-maintenance, but maybe not that much. The thing is, however, mind and body are pretty closely connected (hopefully anyway – the brain-in-a-jar thing only seems to work in old horror movies) and the maintenance of one impacts upon the other. From my own experience, I know my mood often takes a tumble if I’m under the weather physically.

This much seems obvious, so it doesn’t take an enormous leap of logic to accept that being pro-active about your physical health would probably have a positive impact on your emotional wellbeing.

Getting exercise (if you’re able to), eating healthily, making sure you have sufficient sleep: they’re all sensible actions if you wish (and who doesn’t?) to give your mood a boost.

However it also makes sense to follow up on health issues that you might be ignoring. So if there’s something that needs attending to, maybe today’s a good day to address it?

Unless you’re planning to attend a fancy dress party dressed as a snowman, there’s no need to wrap yourself in cotton wool, but neither is it a sensible idea to go to the other extreme. Please take care of yourself.