We’re going to take a leaf out of the world of selfies and turn our lens on ourselves. This idea is not being offered as an act of selfishness, but in recognition that if we are to be there for others, and we are all in this together, then we need to be in good shape ourselves. Now is a time to prioritise some self-care and take a few practical steps to refresh and reset. So, pause and think about how are you looking after yourself at this time.
There is one area of life where we already have total equality – we all have 168 hours in a week. What we do with that time, how we manage it, what thoughts we think, what emotions we feel and what experiences we have, will all be different for each one of us.
There are so many offerings of well-meaning advice in our virtual world about how we should be spending our precious time; just reading or watching all these tips is, in itself, exhausting!
Deciding which of these we should prioritise over others uses up the scarce resources of our thinking brain (our prefrontal cortex or PFC) and, by the time we get around to applying the tips of our choice, our source of willpower (also located in our PFC) has been used up and we either give up or do the opposite of what we were aiming for, for example choosing wine over water, Netflix over a walk.
So how can we prioritise just a few things a day and actually do them to keep us positive and productive?
Insight 1 – Protect Your Precious Prefrontal Cortex
Barack Obama used to have a wardrobe of only navy suits. When he was asked why that was the case, he said that he had so many decisions to make in a day that he didn’t want to waste his thinking and decision making on what suit to wear.
How can we protect our best thinking?
- Are there decisions you could minimise? For example, planning meals for the week at the beginning of the week.
- Are you performing activities that are reinventing the wheel that could be standardised through checklists, processes or procedures?
- Are you making complex decisions at the ‘wrong’ time of the day e.g. when you are tired or frustrated and end up procrastinating?
- What could be the equivalent of navy suits for you that save your precious decision-making resources?
Insight 2 – Prioritise Self-care with Nutritious Nutrition
We are often so busy looking after everyone else that we often leave little or no time for ourselves. We truly are what we eat, so here’s a handy reminder to check in with yourself that you are genuinely nourishing your brain and body.
- Are there foods you are eating now you could replace with something more nutritious?
- Which one of the above foods could you introduce into your diet starting tomorrow?
Aerobic exercise literally makes us happy as we produce serotonin when we exercise, a happy hormone shown to be active against depression. And with as much as 95% of serotonin being produced in the gut, it’s a double bubble benefit to eat well!
Invest in Quality Sleep
There’s a lot of talk about not getting enough sleep, but what about too much? Are we using that lack of commute time to have an extra couple of hours in bed? Research from John Hopkins University has shown that too much sleep (in excess of 9 hours a night) can result in:-
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Greater risk of dying from a medical condition
So – keep setting the alarm, get up out and about early and come back to a healthy breakfast – bingo – you just hit the 3 in 1!
Insight 3 – Manage your Media Diet
Where our attention goes, energy flows. If you find yourself watching a lot of news, take a moment to step back and notice how draining and exhausting this can be. The focus is almost 100% on the negative – what we are losing, what we are missing, the hokey pokey of lockdown etc.
If we want to feel positive, energised and empowered, then let’s start to focus on what is good in our world, the benefits and advantages this pandemic is bringing, what is inspiring and what we are grateful for.
Here are some great sources of positive news:-
- https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ – they produce a fabulous monthly calendar with daily happiness tips
6 Tips for a Better Self
Here are 6 simple things we can build into the precious 168 hours we have in our week. If we practise these on a daily basis, we will be training ourselves to focus on the good and positive, shifting our attention to what nourishes us and being kind to our amazing brains.
Oh and these tips are not just for quarantine!
Whoever you are, wherever you live and whatever you do, look after yourself, stay well and stay safe.