5 self care strategies to help improve quality of life

In this post I’ll talk you through the 5 self-care strategies that I use on the daily to help improve mood. They have personally helped me decrease feelings of uncertainty, increase productivity, improve mood and have been especially helpful in these periods of lockdown. Over the next 5 weeks these steps will become even more imperative in my daily routine. 

These strategies aren’t by any means a recommendation of what you should do, nor am I saying they will definitely work for you. I just wanted to share my methods and experience in the hope that using these routines/strategies may help get you through the coming weeks in Stage 4 lockdown. Most are easy to implement and make a part of your daily routine. They are definitely worth a try or at least give you some ideas and motivation on how to thrive in the next 5 weeks!

1. Sleeeeeeeep - catching those z's

There are a few things that come under this strategy listed in dot point form for ease of reading. If you want more info we have a full post on improving sleep here. 

  1.  A regular sleep wake cycle – Going to bed and getting up at (roughly) the same time everyday (can add an hour on weekends). This known as normalising your circadian rhythm (such a fancy word). This is the biggest bang for your buck to improve sleep quality. 
  2. A pre-bedtime routine – Pretty simply this just means doing the same thing everynight (or most) before you go to bed. Mine looks like this;
    – Brushing my teeth
    – Washing my face (sometimes having a warm shower)
    – Journalling and reading for 10+ minutes (usually not in bed)
  3. Good sleep hygiene – They say the bedroom is for sleep and ummmm, another S word I wont name here… No phones or other electronic devices allowed. Also having a dark, quiet and cool room helps improve sleep quality. Get yourself some earplugs and an eyemask if your room is noisy (aka your partner snores) and/or bright.

2. Meditation or Some 'you' time

Think meditation is for buddist monks? I’m here to tell you that a lot more people meditate than you think. Now I hear you say that you’re ‘not good at it because you can’t sit still.’ Have you met me? If you haven’t, my mum never got me tested but I have sneaking suspicions I’ve got some form of attention deficit… I’m the guy who always has to be doing something. Relaxing ain’t my strong point. Therefore if I can do it. So can you. 

Meditation is merely the practice of bringing your focus to something specific, usually your breath. That doesn’t mean sitting cross legged and chanting ‘OMMMMM’. I use a meditation app called headspace (on most occasions) which is super simple to use. It usually takes you through the following process. (Download the app and give it a go, they have a free version or offer 10 days for free unlimited):

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and follow 5-6 deep breaths and close your eyes
  2. Do a body scan – going from the top of your head, flow down your body and check in with all areas of your body. 
  3. Return focus to your breath letting it return to normal and counting them 1 on an in breath, 2 on an out breath up to 10. Then repeat for 1 minute plus. 
  4. After your set time, allow your mind to be free and do whatever it wants for 10-15 seconds. 
  5. Open your eyes and sit comfortably for a minute (in this time I usually think of 1-2 things I am grateful for)

It doesn’t so much matter if you think about ‘things’ for 99% of the time. The concept of bringing your attention back to your your breath is the exercise. Each time you do so, it’s a bicep curl for your brain.

3. Exercise

Most of you know where I stand on this. Moving for 30 minutes a day (minimum) brings about a world of benefits both mental and physical. Therefore please move everyday, if not for you, for me.
In this section I’d also like to mention getting outside, in accordance with the current restrictions of course. 

Lets just say we can go outside for an hour a day and I’ll be taking every second of that hour. Whether it’s two 30 minute walks, an hour run or ride, just get outside everyday and exercise!

4. Do something you enjoy everyday

Pretty straight forward… just do something you really enjoy doing everyday. A lot of people will use the ‘I don’t have time excuse’. I recently heard a quote in relation to this statement. 

“If you don’t have 10 minutes for some you time, you need an hour”. 

I take this to mean if you’re not making the time for yourself, then you need it the most. 

For me I schedule ‘The hour of power’ where I do one or more of the following: (I’ll preface with I try to pick the ones that I think are ‘healthier’ and do them most frequently):

  1. Exercise; I love physical activity (as mentioned above). For me I know that it improves how I mentally and physcially feel for the rest of the day. Therefore it’s a part of every day (usually morning) for me. The type varies; running, riding, walking, HIIT and weight training. The type isn’t as important as doing something to move your body. 
  2. Reading; Again this activity I do every day for at least 10 minutes. Usually before bed. 
  3. Watching my favourite TV show; The best TV show ever created = Friends. 
  4. Connecting with family and friends; At the moment with calls and/or Facetime. I often combine this with meal time or low intensity exercise (e.g. walking). 
  5. Listen to an audiobook, a podcast or my favourite music; I usually do this while walking, running, working, prepping dinner or lunch. Two birds one stone if you ask me.  
  6. Cooking; I find cooking therapeutic. I enjoy going through the process of making some delicious yet healthy creation. I am one of those guys who loosely follows recipes and gets the creative juices flowing… Sorry not sorry. 

5. Daily routine or planning

Planning the day either the night before or upon waking. I find it helps puts you in charge of the day. Therefore you make the day happen as opposed to letting it happen to you. I do this as a part of my journaling practice – You can read more about that by clicking the link. 

A more detailed post on my Iso routine can be read here. However here is a short summary that covers most days. 

6-9; Wake up into exercise of some description and be at work/start work by 9am. 

9-12; Work on my most important task for the day. Taken from reading The One Thing by Gary W Keller

12-3; Eat, Exercise 2.0, do something I enjoy (get outside). Following doing so, get back to work. 

3-6; Continue work until about 6pm(ish) depending on the day and disconnect by getting outside and/or exercising. 

6-9; Time with my girlfriend, family, friends, dinner and some downtime. 

After 9pm I generally don’t have anything to do with technology and start my bedtime routine. 

That's a wrap

I hope these routines/strategies have given you some ideas on on how to implement self-care into your day. If there are other strategies you use, I would love to hear what they are. Get in contact with me and let me know how you’re working towards looking after yourself in these stage 4 restrictions.  

As always, we are here to support you. Therefore if you’re struggling and think there is any way we can help, please hit us up. Even if it’s for a quick chat, a run/exercise program or keeping you accountable. We got you covered. All you have to do is ask. 

We hope this helps with smashing ISO!

Thank you for reading. 
Stay safe and look after each other! 

Dr Jamey Pemmelaar (Osteopath)