Even if you're short on time, there are still ways to take care of yourself.
In its most basic sense, self care is the practice of looking out for yourself both physically and mentally. What this really means will differ from person to person. With around 45% of Australians experiencing a mental health disorder in their lifetime though, it's time that we acknowledged we have a serious problem when it comes to our wellbeing.
How many hours of sleep you got last night, or lack thereof, has become something of a bragging right. So too has working increasingly long hours. With such unhealthy routines now seen as the norm, prioritising self care has long gone out the proverbial window.
So how can we start taking better care of ourselves? Whether you work six-day weeks or go home to toddler tantrums on the daily, here's how to squeeze some self care into your routine to combat the stresses of a busy schedule.
1. Make a doctors appointment
It's easy to feel stressed out and a little down in the dumps when you're tired and overworked, but if these feelings are occurring more often than not, it's time to acknowledge them. Start by familiarising yourself with the signs of depression and anxiety so you know when how you're feeling is no longer healthy.
Find a doctor close to work that you can visit on your lunch break or take a sick day (it's what they're there for) to slot an appointment into your schedule. To help get you started on the road to recovery, Medicare rebates are available for ten psychological treatment sessions per year if you've been referred by a GP.
If you need additional sessions, make sure to compare health insurance providers to ensure yours covers mental health services when you need them most.
2. Take a mini break
One of the best things you can do to boost your mood and get you through a tough week is to give yourself something to look forward to. Whether it's a quiet weekend away with your partner or a two week tropical vacation sipping cocktails by the pool, mini breaks are incredibly beneficial for your health. As well as getting you away from work and your daily routine, giving yourself a break will boost your motivation and overall happiness and lower your levels of stress and emotional exhaustion.
Whilst you might feel pressure to knock back leave when you have a busy work schedule, every full time worker is entitled to 20 paid days per year, and it's your right to take it when you need it.
If you really struggle to find the time to take breaks in the year, read our annual leave hacks to find out how you can stretch those 20 days of leave into up to 58 days off. By doing this, you can make sure that you still have time for yourself throughout the year when your Christmas leave is taken up with other obligations.
3. Make time for your hobbies
When you're busy juggling a full time work schedule with housework and social obligations, the first things to be sacrificed are often your hobbies. Even simple ones like settling down with a good book can bring with them a sense of guilt when you have other tasks still to complete. But here's the thing – you can't perform tasks efficiently, look after others or do anything you need to do well without first looking after yourself.
Take a look at your to-do list and try and be realistic about what can wait so you can schedule some you time. Even if it's for just half an hour per day, go for a walk, listen to your favourite tunes or do some yoga.
If you really can't budge your schedule, take advantage of the time you already have. Use the hour train ride to work to read a book or your half hour lunch break to go for a walk and get some fresh air. Squeeze these things in wherever you can because, whatever it is that makes you happy, it's important.
4. Keep a journal
It might seem cliché, but writing down your thoughts can be a great tool for self-care and doesn't require a lot of time to do. You don't need to resort to the "dear diary" formula of your prepubescent years, but having a place to dump your thoughts and feelings can help you problem solve and think clearer.
If you're feeling angry or upset, write a five page rant. Once everything is off your chest, you can either find a solution or move on from the problem. If you're feeling stressed about how many obligations you have in the coming weeks, create a to-do list to help you feel more organised.
5. Get some sleep
If all else fails, ensure that you are at least taking the time to get plenty of rest. Sleep deprivation causes fatigue, irritability, lack of concentration and emotional instability. If it's ongoing, it could lead to more serious conditions such as depression. No matter how many long blacks you knock back the next morning, there's no denying that not getting enough rest is just generally damaging to your mental health and wellbeing.
Where possible, try and get yourself into a routine. Set your alarm for the same time every morning and try to make sure you're getting to bed around the same time each night.
Seeing as the artificial blue and white light emitted from digital screens drastically impairs your ability to sleep, try banning electronic devices an hour or two before you hit the hay. Meditating or engaging in a relaxing task such as reading a book can also be beneficial, so engage in something soothing for a good night's snooze.
Main and first image: Shutterstock