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The basics of self-care

Nurturing

SHUT EYE Know how much sleep your body needs, and make sure you get it.  

Mind Matters
Jannah Walshe

We have a tendency to run on overdrive. We like to feel busy and being idle is not seen in a positive light. If we have a headache we take a tablet and keep on going. If we feel tired we have a coffee and keep on going. If we feel overwhelmed we try to ignore it and keep on going. We don’t listen to our body’s messages until we get so sick that we cannot keep going anymore.
However, our body is often shouting at us long before we take the rest it needs. We need to become more accustomed to listening to it and then heeding its warnings.
I really believe in getting back to the basics first. They seem so simple, but yet they are hard to do on a consistent basis. Things like knowing how much sleep your body needs and ensuring you get it. For some, this may be seven hours; for others, it could be nine. Know your own ideal and aim for that.
Having a stable(ish) routine around eating and mealtimes is really important too. Eating high-quality foods that are rich in fibre, protein and vitamins, at regular intervals helps to keep blood sugars stable and hunger at bay. No need for hangry to be messing up your day!
Finally, be sure to get some outdoor time. Fresh air and nature are shown to be extremely effective in stabilising mood and giving a positive boost to mental health. Even a quick ten-minute walk can do wonders for our mental health.
The next time you have a headache, check the basics first. Ask yourself: Am I hungry? Am I tired? Do I need to get outside for some fresh air? If all of the above are taken care of then you can move onto the next things – for example, checking if you are stressed, and if so, looking at getting a break or talking to someone about it.
Your mental health may be very good and you may feel that none of the above applies to you. But remember that these are also protective and preventative measures. Taking care of our basic needs is fundamental in caring for our bodies and minds into the long term.
Start where you can. I encourage you to do an honest check-in with yourself about how you are feeling right now. If you know you are off track, pick three very simple things that you can easily incorporate into your life straight away. Maybe what you really need is to simply start getting to bed before midnight or drinking more water, or stand outside your back door for five minutes each day, or block out one day a month just for you to relax. Whatever you choose, keep it easy to do to make sure it gets done.
Remember, though, that the basics I describe are not solutions to mental-health illness, but they complement treatment very well and provide a nice stable base from which to try other solutions. Remember too, if you have any physical symptoms that are not clearing up after implementing the basic self-care methods described here, or that you are more concerned about, get them checked out by your doctor.

>  Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at
www.jannahwalshe.ie.

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