Working in professions that focus on the wellbeing of others can be a challenge to say the least. We are often faced with people who are in need of support,are unwell or challenging in terms of their behaviour for reasons outside of their own control. To surmise, a lot of the success we experience at work is because we care about the people we work with.
One thing we’re not always great at though, is taking care of ourselves. Self-care is something we’ve all heard about and we know it’s important, but do we know how to care for ourselves? On top of the challenges of our regular working day, we often have other factors that impact us, such as working long hours or overtime, time shortages or workload pressures, as well as issues outside of work that can impact out mental health and wellbeing.
We’re put together some easy tips that anyone can follow on improving our mental health and wellbeing:
1. Prioritise time for yourself. This might mean going for a walk after dinner, reading a book or spending time doing mindfulness exercises. It’s incredibly important to emphasise ‘you’ time in your day and make time for activities you enjoy. Even if you can only squeeze in a quick walk today because you’re busy with activities for the kids, it’s better than nothing! Spending time on yourself is so important because it gives you time to stop, reflect on your day and reset.
2. Exercise, eat healthily and drink water. We all know that exercise and healthy eating can make your body feel great, but did you know that exercise has benefits for your mental health? Not only is it good for your overall health and wellbeing, your dog will also thank you for that brisk jog around the block!
3. Spend time with family and friends. Seeing the people you love and who love you can be a great way to make us feel better and to enjoy time outside of work. Whilst at times family and friends can cause us stress, we know that humans are social creatures who crave connection with others. Get out into the community and connect with others as a way to feel great and don’t forget to seek out time with people who make you feel good.
4. Get plenty of sleep. Because of the organisational requirements of the sectors we work in, this one can be difficult at times due to changing rostered working hours and overnight shifts. However, we know that getting enough sleep is linked to improved memory, learning and cognitive performance. Just two nights of poor sleep can result in irritability, fatigue as well as decreased motivation, optimism and sociability. Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night so hit the hay like it’s nobody’s business!
5. Practice Mindfulness. While we could write a whole topic about this one (and we will – watch this space!) if you haven’t heard about mindfulness yet, it’s about being present, centred, grounded and aware of the space you're in. In a world where we’re constantly connected via social media and our mobile phones, it’s important to switch off and reset. Mindfulness is important when we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, but like every skill we have, practice makes perfect. We’ll bring you more on this topic in a future issue, but for now we recommend using ‘Smiling Mind’, a free app on both iPhone and Android. Give it a try today at smilingmind.com.au
6. Check in and know when you seek professional help. Self-care is important, but just like your body, your mind sometimes needs a little extra help. If you break your arm, you need to get it seen to by a doctor; if you’re struggling with your mental health, it might be time to see a counsellor. There are so many ways you can seek help and two we recommend are:
7. Be kind to yourself. We’re not always going to get it right all the time; we’re busy people with families and jobs that rely on us. Don’t punish yourself for missing out on ‘you’ time or a day’s exercise but do take the time to recognise what the barriers might be and remind yourself that you have to care for yourself in order to care for others.
If you or someone you know is experiencing personal difficulties, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.