Our top 10 self-care tips

Self-care continues to be a buzzword but what does it mean to you? By definition, self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. It is anything you do to take care of yourself so you can stay physically, mentally, and emotionally well. Since stress is a part of daily life on some level for everyone, this should include strategies for better managing any stress that comes your way.

Sometimes taking this action on our health isn’t the most comfortable, relaxing and blissful experience of a spa day or long bubble bath, sometimes self-care is doing something that is going to aid your health, despite not being what you want to do in the moment. It is taking care of your physical and emotional wellbeing so that you are able to do all the things you need at work and at home.

1. Get regular movement

Whether you consider yourself sporty and naturally active or prefer a gentle walk, it’s important for all of us to include regular movement in our daily lives. Exercise boosts your mood, improves energy, can aid sleep, support blood pressure and heart health but doesn’t have to be a chore. Find a form of movement that you enjoy, maybe a walk with friends, a swim, a local sports club or a round of golf. You don’t have to sweat it out at a gym for it to count!

Even as we age it’s important to stay active to keep our muscles strong, joints mobile and support our mental and physical health. If you’re looking to add some gentle movement into your day to keep you feeling young, you could try walking, gentle yoga or pilates or an exercise class especially for the over 50’s, focussed on healthy ageing.

2. Nurture your relationships

An 80 year study by Harvard researchers has revealed a strong link between our relationships, being part of a community, has a huge impact on our health and happiness. “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships have a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too.”

It can be easy these days to get so busy working between commitments that we don’t make time to nurture our relationships, but these are key to our sense of happiness and health.

Meeting new people as an adult can be daunting but making new friendships is possible at any age. You could try joining a new class or a club to meet like-minded people. Don’t forget to nurture the connections you already have, making time to check in on friends or meet for a coffee or playdate if you have young children.

3. Eat well and regularly

Your eating habits can be a major factor in how well you feel and how much you can enjoy your life. There’s no need to follow a specific diet plan unless you have specific allergies, just a healthy balanced diet that will give you the energy you need to live your life to the fullest. 

Some simple reminders to make healthy eating a breeze:

  • Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Buy organic where you can
  • Include nuts, seeds and healthy fats
  • Eat regularly to keep your metabolism strong and your blood sugar levels stable.

4. Take care of your gut

Your gut is home to a whopping 90% of your serotonin, a hormone associated with stabilising our mood and commonly known as the “happy hormone”. Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion – all vital parts to overall wellbeing.

Including foods with natural or added probiotics, prebiotics, and plenty of fruits and vegetables will support your body with nutrients for a healthy microbiome. For more information on looking after your digestion, these are our 5 Best foods to improve digestion.

5. Create healthy sleep habits

Getting enough sleep is essential to our wellbeing. As described by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, 

“Sleep is one of the most undervalued components of our health – if we can improve the quality of our sleep, we can improve the quality of our lives. Getting more sleep improves every aspect of our lives – it makes us less prone to injury when we exercise, boosts our productivity and enhances our ability to lose weight.”

Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night, but according to a recent 

survey, the average Briton gets just six hours and 19 minutes sleep a night. 

Keeping to a schedule (if your working pattern allows) will help your body settle into a routine, supporting your sleep-wake circadian rhythm for more restful and restorative sleep.

Eating foods that induce sleep is a great way of promoting a good nights sleep. Consuming foods that contain tryptophan (an amino acid that is involved in the synthesis of melatonin, the sleep hormone), such as bananas, potatoes, almonds, seeds, and whole-grain oats will help you drift off with ease.

6. Make time to do something you love

Bringing more joy into your life will not only improve the quality of your life but may increase your lifespan too. 

A study by Professor Andrew Steptoe (professor at University College London) showed that older people were up to 35% less likely to die if they reported feeling happy, excited and content on a typical day. This was true even when they took into account any other health problems.

Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect to be happy all of the time, but being sure to include things that make you feel joyful, however small, will increase your overall happiness levels. It could be as simple as calling a friend for a chat or finding a new hobby. 

7. Practice Mindfulness

If you don’t already have a mindfulness practice, it’s a great way to support your mental and physical health with benefits ranging from increased concentration, reduced stress and improved mood. 

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction), defines mindfulness as “paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, with a non-judgmental awareness.”. It may take some practice, but taking time to be fully present, taking in every detail of the moment and allowing ourselves to witness our thoughts and emotions without judging and labelling them can create a sense of calm and peace. It is a practice that can be done any time, anywhere, without the need for anything other than yourself. An easy way to start is to notice what you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel in this moment. If your mind starts to wander, don’t worry. Just keep gently guiding your awareness back (again and again if needed) to the present moment.

8. Make a to-do list

Modern life can feel fast and overwhelming at times. If you find that you are constantly juggling responsibilities and trying to remember all the things you need to do, you’re likely feeling the pressure of the mental load involved. 

Elizabeth Emens (a professor of law at Columbia University in New York) wrote a whole book about the burden of life admin alone. This unseen extra job, she claims, sucks the joy out of daily existence. These ongoing tasks such as scheduling appointments, paying bills, filing paperwork and replying to messages create a backlog that could constitute a full-time job. 

Simply writing a list of all the tasks swirling around your mind can help you to get organised, get them down, so you don’t have the mental load of keeping them in your mind and also helps you to break your tasks down into manageable tasks without fear of forgetting about them. The list may seem long but prioritise just three at a time, and you’ll find a sense of achievement as well as a sense of achievement with a little dopamine (happy hormone) hit from ticking off the completed tasks and celebrating what you have accomplished. 

9. De-clutter your space

Did you know that clutter can impact your health, particularly your mental health? A disorganised and messy space can cause emotional stress and a rise in the stress hormone cortisol according to a study by the University of California.

Marked differences in the language used by participants showed homes were either felt to be a restorative space or stressful one. Clutter was linked to more chronic stress and related adverse health conditions so if your space is getting you down, why not see how you feel after giving it a Marie Kondo style tidy-up and see if your space can spark joy rather than dread?

10 Get your finances in order

A far cry from a relaxing bubble bath but sometimes self-care is about doing the hard things that will make your life easier in the long run. Finances are one of the major causes of stress, particularly in relationships.

Financial self-care is all about cultivating the kind of good habits that will help you feel calm and in control of your finances. You never know, with a little planning maybe you could invest in a membership to a health club, or new workout gear and give your fitness a boost at the same time. 

Where do I start with self-care?

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to self-care practices. Whatever you choose to do, it should have a positive effect on your health and happiness. If one of the suggestions above stands out to you, why not start there and see what works for you.

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