Simply put: self care is looking after yourself. But it is sometimes easier said than done. How do you know what constitutes looking after yourself? Do I eat a salad for my physical health, or a cupcake for my mental wellbeing? It is tricky.
But really it’s about listening to how you feel and introspecting about what it is that you need in that moment.
Why is self care important?
Self care keeps you healthy
On some level, self care is simply an act in taking good care of yourself. This means eating well, exercising, drinking enough water, practicing good hygiene and getting enough sleep (to name a few). Self care means that you remember to engage in these healthy activities even if you have an urgent deadline or are experiencing a stressful life event.
Self care prevents burnout
Sometimes life gets tough. Hey, life is tough. And our demanding lifestyles often lead us to push ourselves to our limits, hence, burnout. Not only does burnout feel awful, it is actually pretty bad for your health too. So self care is a good way to avoid getting to this point.
Self care reduces negative effects of stress
Stress does all sorts of terrible things to us. Amongst a whole host of other things it can cause weight gain, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, hormone issues, the whole lot. So it is particularly important to check off some self care when you are under stress.
Self care is part of the process
Self care is not a reward; it is part of the process. But when you’re busy caught in the mechanics of living, it can be difficult to avoid falling into the trap of believing the opposite. Eating a good meal is great. But it’s not a reward, it is part of the process. So is taking a shower. And going for a run. See, self care isn’t a one-time deal. The best way to practice it is to engage is small self care habits every day.
So, self care is important. We’ve mentioned a few self care activities above but how exactly do you do it?
The lull after the holiday season can be a tough time for some. Festivities have been celebrated and the rest of the year looms ahead, perhaps bringing with it the same old routine.
If you don’t feel motivated to embrace the new year with open arms, maybe it’s time to question what’s holding you back. Are you stuck in a job you hate? Are you climbing the corporate ladder to a level you think you should reach because of external or internal expectations? Are there things you have always wanted to do with your life but for some reason never have?
“Love and work are the corner stones to our humanness”
Freud isn’t the only one who believes that the ability to love and work is connected to a more meaningful and satisfying life.
Steve Jobs stood in front of the 2005 Stanford graduating class and said, “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
There are countless self help books, videos, blogs and lectures by many philosophers and social scientists on this topic. So why is it still such popular and sought-after advice? Because living a meaningful life can involve risk and a sense of the unknown, which can be scary as hell. Making a living doing what you love can pose challenges like giving up your existing job and perhaps financial stability, and sacrificing things on the way to getting to where you really want to be.
Don’t settle for being unhappy
“If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment,all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The House of the Dead.
He raises one of the most important points of finding a satisfying job and living a more fulfilling life: surrounding yourself with people who inspire you.
“If the people you’re surrounded by don’t like their work, that’s going to bring you down,” Dinsmore says. “It’ll limit your creativity and infect your ideas. If you surround yourself with people who are truly living differently, it changes your belief about what’s possible.”
Dinsmore’s advice on how to find fulfilling work, in a nutshell
Utilise your talents to the fullest potential
Don’t just do something because society says you should
Don’t listen to others
Don’t be a Jack of all trades, master of none; spend more time getting better at something as this will make what you do more fulfilling.
“The lack of any clear positive relationship between rising income and rising happiness has become one of the most powerful findings in the modern social sciences. Once our income reaches an amount that covers our basic needs, further increases add little, if anything, to our levels of life satisfaction,” says Roman Krznaric.
Martin E. P. Seligman, one of the leading psychological scientists alive today, claims that in a meaningful life, “you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.”
The pursuit of meaning is what makes human beings uniquely human.
In case you’re interested, ABC Health’s Top 10 resolutions of last year were:
Stay fit and healthy
Enjoy life to the fullest
Spend less, save more
Spend more time with family and friends
Will not make any resolutions
Learn something new/new hobby
Old habits die hard – the importance of effective goal-setting
How many of us have strictly stuck to a resolution for a whole year? For those of you who keep seeing the same patterns over and over, the following scenario may sound familiar. Say you want to lose 7kgs by the end of the year. You sign up to a gym membership and start off going steady for the first few weeks or months, then you take a weekend trip away, and the next weekend is too busy to find time to work out. Next minute you find yourself out of the habit. This leads to resentment of oneself for not succeeding in reaching your weight loss goal, and a feeling of guilt that can cause us to create even worse habits. If we think larger than ourselves, we find that external factors can also play a part in distracting us from a goal, like opposing interests and values of a social circle.
The idea of a new year’s resolution was claimed to have been created by the ancient Babylonians some 4,000 years ago, but unlike the contemporary West, their year began in mid-March when the crops were planted. The babylonians made promises to the pagan gods and, if kept, it was understood that the gods would bestow favour on them for the coming year. If the promises were to be broken, they would no longer be in the god’s favour.
However, we have to be careful when making resolutions or setting goals as they can often turn out to be a double-edged sword when people tend to align performance with self worth. We have to make sure we don’t strive to reach an idealised version of ourselves or keep changing our definitions of success so that true satisfaction is unobtainable. In Adam Philip’s book, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, he says “We are always haunted by the myth of our potential, of what we might have it in ourselves to be or do.”
In a Womankind article by Madeleine Dore called ‘How Do you Measure Your Life?’, the author identifies that the obsession with our potential is prevalent in highly developed societies where our physiological and safety needs are met. The theory goes that the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are met, therefore leaving us to focus on higher goals such as self-actualisation.
Dore says most of our daily activities or goals are exotelic, meaning we reap the benefits somewhere in the future, rather than enjoying them for their own sake in the present. “We need to learn to look away from external expectations or pressures, what we think we should be doing and find the experiences that possess inherent enjoyment for ourselves.” She shares the insight that goals that are borrowed from others or internalised from societal expectations about what we should be doing are not soul-fulfilling goals. In our culture, an individual or organisation cannot be considered successful unless goals are achieved. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, “the problem arises when people are so fixated on what they want to achieve that they cease to derive pleasure from the present.”
Many people compare themselves with other people’s lives and achievements, but often it’s not even other people’s accomplishments that can make one feel like they’re lacking in some area of their lives. It is, in fact, their own expectations.
So, how do we actually create an effective goal or resolution?
There’s an overwhelming amount of goal setting advice out there, with the popular tips focusing on:
Not being too specific. For example, “I want to lose 8kg by the second month of the year.” Instead, try to set yourself something more achievable like, “I want to run three times a week and only eat fast food once a week.” Then the specifics may be a byproduct of the resolution or goal.
Quality vs. quantity. Setting too many goals can throw you off the challenge and cloud your motivation. However, setting a few relevant goals for the year can help you stay clear and focused on the intention.
Start big and narrow the focus. Think long term, think about the deeper meaning of why you want to achieve the goal, and start to filter out the crap. Come back to a single or a few intentions that resonate with you at this present time to enrich your life.
Making public goals can sometimes be more powerful than private goals, as they come with a sense of accountability and others can get behind you for extra support.
When we get down to the core, our goals should all be about learning and growth.
For the more nerdy of us, research in a wide variety of field and laboratory settings has shown that H.A.R.D goals have the greatest impact on performance (Ragnar, 2014). H.A.R.D (heartfelt, animated, required and difficult) goals act to focus attention, mobilise effort, and increase persistence at a task (Ragnar, 2014). Incorporating H.A.R.D goals will help create a growth mindset, rather than the previously fixed mindset of, “I have finished the task and I am done, that was too easy.”
The most important thing to get out of the resolution/goal setting process is to learn from and enjoy the experience. Madeleine Dore says,“We cannot control how respected, accomplished and desired we become. All we can do is enjoy the experience- the process- and resist letting our expectations define us, or our potential overshadow of how we live now.”
Most of us celebrate the many big events in our lives: religious holidays such as Christmas and Ramadan; personal commemorations like birthdays and anniversaries; and generally abstract state-sanctioned celebrations such as New Year’s Day. However, we tend to plow through life at such a pace that we seldom take the time to celebrate the most important thing: life.
Research on positive psychology by Hasassah Littman-Ovadia, has shown that when we are able to look forward to something worth celebrating, no matter how big or small, we really do feel more optimistic. The things to look forward to and celebrate could be anything: a promotion at work; cooking a successful meal for a loved one; a beautiful, sunny day after a week of rain; or good news from a family member.
A study on how gratitude impacts our wellbeing was conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons, the founding editor of the Journal of Positive Psychology. The study split several hundred people into three different groups, all of whom were instructed to keep daily journals. One of the groups was required to write about the day without labelling the events ‘good’ or ‘bad’, another wrote about negative things that had happened, and the final group was told to make a daily list of things they felt grateful for.
We perceive alcohol as a product that causes happiness or satisfaction, even for just a small amount of time, and as consumers we’re bombarded with an overwhelming amount of marketing that tells us you need to drink to have fun, relax and feel good.
Celebrating the everyday, sans hangover
We often move from one thing to the next without really giving the time to transition onto the next thing, let alone celebrate our achievements.
Here are some tips to help you celebrate the everyday:
Notice the moment. What is it you feel proud of? What’s working for you?
Treat yo self. Buy fresh flowers for your home for no good reason or play loud music and dance around the house just because you can. Take yourself out to that movie you have wanted to see for a while or invite friends over for tea and homemade goodies.
Make little speeches and toasts to yourself, to friends, family and loved ones when something good happens, or when you would like to acknowledge a person or an event.
Sleep is an essential component of wellbeing. One of our most basic needs, it is as important for survival as eating, drinking water and even breathing. But honestly, whenever I begin to talk about ‘sleep hygiene’, everyone seems to switch off. I’ll admit, it’s probably not the most glamorous of all health topics, but when considering what it means to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle, it’s actually incredibly important. And not only for the reasons you might think. Let’s get excited about sleep!
Why do we need sleep?
Probably the most interesting thing about sleep is that, despite the fact that we spend almost a third of our lives doing it, scientists still don’t really know exactly why we need to sleep. So sleep (something we do every day) joins ranks with the deepest parts of the ocean, outer space and the number pi; those big mysteries of our reality. That’s actually amazing.
A number of theories are in the works, including the idea that we need sleep for memory and cognitive consolidation, and the idea that sleep promotes physiological longevity. And while there remains a lack of consensus around its purpose, researchers all agree that sleep must serve a very important function.
While we may not understand too much of the ‘why’, we do know quite a lot about the ‘how’ of sleep. And it is quite interesting (I promise!).
Essentially, Sleep is regulated by two separate body systems, the C-process and the S-process.
Process-C: your personal body clock
This is the circadian body system. You may have heard of the idea that sleep runs in cycles or stages. This is the C-process at work. There are 5 stages within each (approximately) 90 minute sleep cycle, with stages one to four getting progressively ‘deeper’ i.e. harder to wake from. The cycle ends with the 5th stage of sleep, known as the REM (rapid eye movement) stage during which dreaming occurs. The theory of process-C actually posits that the body has its own internal clock (um, super cool, right?). This clock sets its time through exposure to daylight. Jet lag is experienced mostly because of this process, it means that your internal daylight clock is thrown off. (So a tip for combating jet lag is to remind your brain it is daytime by simply stepping out into sun!)
In combination, these two processes explain the mechanism for sleep in our bodies. Understanding these processes, and understanding what is happening when we sleep, is a useful step towards learning how to sleep better.
By which I mean actually cool down (but it doesn’t hurt to relax, either). Sleep cycles are strongly linked to body temperature. During sleep, your core body temperature drops to its lowest point, and your body actually begins cooling down a few hours before falling asleep. Therefore it can also be a good idea to keep your room temperature down (just a few notches) so your body picks up the signal to sleep. Funnily enough, it can also help to have a warm bath or shower. This is because it is a drop in your core body temperature that signals your brain to sleep; hot water therefore raises your body temperature and later as you dry off, you cool down, telling your brain it’s time for some shut eye.
I know that when I am not getting a particularly good night’s sleep, I generally begin to stress about not sleeping well, which in turn makes me less likely to get to sleep. (As you can tell I think about sleep a lot. Too much, though? Never.) So over the years I’ve picked up some techniques to help me get to sleep better.
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is purported to help you fall asleep fast (/fast asleep). It’s pretty simple, so even if you’re skeptical, it really doesn’t hurt to give this one a try.
How to do it:
Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your front upper teeth. This is not necessary but recommended.
Exhale completely through you mouth. Let it out like a loud sigh.
Close your mouth and inhale through your nose (quietly) for 4 counts.
Hold your breath for seven counts (yes I agree this seems like ages)
Exhale through your mouth for eight counts. This means you need to let the air out of your lungs veryyyy slowly. You’ve completed one breathing cycle.
Now inhale again. Try for at least three cycles in total!
Does it work for you? I have had a few hits and misses. But I would say that at three in the morning when you’re staring at your ceiling wide awake, sure. Anything to get me away from that dead tick of the clock.
Lie down in a quiet place. Breathe normally and get comfortable.
Starting from the top of your head, you will start to focus on certain muscle groups, first tensing these muscles for a few seconds and then taking the time to slowly relax them.
Beginning at the top of your body, you can start by tensing the muscles in your face. Do this by lifting your eyebrows, wrinkling your forehead, tightly closing your eyes and grimacing to clench your jaw and cheek muscles. Then at once begin to slowly relax all of these muscles.
Then do the same process for your shoulders, arms, chest, torso, back, hips, legs and feet. Whatever areas of muscle come to mind.
This technique can be kind of difficult to do well, but feels pretty good when you give it a go.
Saying a word over and over again (in your head)
Personally, I’ve never found the old counting sheep method helpful for getting to sleep. I feel like this is because there is too much imagery involved (I think I get caught up in trying to work out the visual details of what the sheep look like). So, applying the same principles, you can engage in a menial cognitive task to get yourself to sleep. Some people like to repeat the word ‘the’ in their minds. Others count. Whatever tickles your fancy, but supposedly it’s the commitment to repetition that’ll get you there.
Hide your clock
Ah, hiding your clock, simple but sweet. Maybe we’re not all like this but I sometimes find it difficult to refrain from checking out the time of night. How long you’ve been awake. How many nocturnal hours you’ve got left to sleep. How many sleep cycles you’ll get in the remaining hours. All very stressful. Leave your phone to charge in another room and turn that bedside clock to face the other direction––we don’t want to scare sleep away, she can be very timid.
Do you ever find yourself trying to come up with things to do on a Saturday night that don’t involve drinking? If you’re willing to try a new experience, do something you wouldn’t normally be into, or are just open to exploring the more interesting side of a city at twilight, then read on!
There’s more to a city’s night life than just pubs and clubs, and we have come up with plenty of alcohol-free (or alcohol-light) activities for a night out in the unique city of Sydney. If you’re unlikely to get there anytime soon, we’ve kept you in mind – it should be easy to adapt our categories for any other city that you find yourself in.
Social salsa dancing
If you’re wanting to move, shake and groove, but not in a boozy club setting, head along to a salsa meet-up at venues all around the city. Many are free and unstructured, however if you’re looking to improve your dancing, others offer classes for as little as $10.
Getting out on the harbour is an unforgettable way to experience Sydney, from city lights to moonlight ripple reflections, a boat cruise is anyone’s holiday highlight. Book a sail through Sydney By Sail or browse through the deals at Viator for night dinner cruises.
Go to the theatre, darling
Where do we even start? Timeout Sydney has all the info on up-and-coming shows and tickets.
To find the easiest and fastest way to get around the city, check out the City of Sydney’s website for all info on transport, parking and accessibility. And if you’re unlikely to find yourself at this end of the world anytime soon, have an explore and adapt for your city!
The silly season is rapidly approaching, and for many, this means work Christmas parties, celebrations with friends, family gatherings and indulgence in food, gifts and all things jolly. As your social calendar fills up, here are some tips on how to avoid filling your glass too deep along with it.
We understand Christmas can be a stressful time, especially if you’re trying to drink less. Many of our celebrations involve drinking (often to excessive amounts) as part of the holiday spirit, and it is hard not to feel a pressure to conform to these expectations.
It’s important to have a few backup solutions to surviving a sober Christmas, and listing some advantages of taking it easy with the booze will help with your motivation. Think of how much you’ll save by not splashing out on those expensive bottles of champagne! And how nice it would be to minimise the chances of drunken confrontation with the in-laws, or saying something inappropriate to grandma over copious gingerbread cookies.
We have gathered some of the best advice around to help you continue your positive relationship with alcohol this Christmas.
To enjoy an alcohol-light Christmas, you need to have a plan
Be selective about the events you attend
Remember that you don’t have to go to every event; if there are certain celebrations that you know will make it really hard for you to feel good about your drinking goal, maybe consider skipping them. Attend the ones that will not focus so much on drinking to have a good time.
Be assertive with your decision to not drink and come prepared to talk about why you have chosen not to. Some people are genuinely interested, and who knows, it may even inspire them to think about their own relationship with alcohol.
Come up with an exit strategy
If it all just gets too much and people are giving you a hard time about not drinking, or everyone’s too smashed to have a slur free conversation, just get out of there. Most of the time they will hardly remember you leaving anyway. Just give the hosts a call at a reasonable hour in the morning to thank them and explain why you felt like you needed to leave.
Focus on the love
Find the joy in spending quality time with those you love, doing the things you love!