By Dr Claire Ashley

Time for you - The ultimate guide to caring for yourself

The idea of becoming more in tune with what our body - and mind - needs, and how we should be catering to these needs ourselves, has in recent years become a huge trend - and for all the right reasons.

Whether you get your advice from a doctor, a wellbeing app, fitness influencers or with the help of new technology, looking after your own health has never been easier.

Our Memberships subscription ensures you feel empowered - not rushed - to talk about your health, and take the steps you need start feeling like your best self again. It offers you unlimited time to speak to a doctor, making sure you have all of the advice you need to start feeling better as soon as possible.

But paying more attention to you, and how you really feel, is one of the most important things you can do. Whether that means talking to a doctor, or preventing yourself from feeling unwell to begin with, knowing how to start practising self-care can be daunting.

To help you take that first step, we've explored the six core pillars of self care - designed to focus on all aspects of your physical and mental health.

Emotional self care

Fully understanding your own emotions can be tricky at times - and it's even harder to accept them for what they are, and just ride them out.

With the help of some emotional intelligence - and a lot of practice - it can become easier to stop avoiding your emotions. This version of self care involves accepting the emotions you're experiencing.

Dr Christine Lewis says:"Accepting your emotions and running with them is so important. We're only human at the end of the day, and we all have our good and bad days. Learning to accept the emotions good or bad and not judging yourself on them can really help."

If you feel like crying, let yourself cry, if you feel like getting angry, let yourself get angry.

Try positive affirmations

Dr Helen Garr recommends saying positive affirmations to yourself every day, which are uplifting statements of facts. These can have an effect on your mood and wellbeing. Research shows these work best if the statements are:

  • in the present tense, so instead of "I will be great in the meeting next week" try "I am a great and confident communicator".
  • without negative words, so avoid don't, instead of don't get stressed, try I am calm.

Psychological self care

There's a fine line between challenging yourself and staying physically and mentally engaged, and causing yourself stress. Focus on experiences that you will feel inspired by and grateful for - and learn to say no to any that don't make you feel this way. While we are often taught to strive for status and financial gain, concentrating on what YOU want to do, not what you think you should can have very positive effects. Look at your passions, your beliefs, what's in line with our values, not just your preconceived perception of what society says you should do.

A popular way of practising this form of self care is self-reflection. Writing down what's made you happy that day will help you stay positive and identify the things that bring you joy - not stress.

Remember which activities bring you pleasure

We spoke to Dr Claudia Pastides about any tips she has to help with psychological self care, and she suggests:

Sometimes thinking back to your childhood and remembering what made you happy can be a good way of rediscovering activities that bring you pure and simple pleasure.

Perhaps you used to love writing little poems and you should explore that again, or maybe you enjoyed performing for your relatives and so the local amateur dramatics society would be worth exploring.""

Practice gratitude

Dr Christie Lewis finds daily gratitude practice (thinking up things that you have been grateful for that day) has helped her to see things in a more positive light which has really helped her mental health. She says:

"Turning something that would ordinarily be negative into something positive is a life hack I find has changed my life! Through daily gratitude practice, it has also made me more reflective - I think about what things makes me happy and actively try to include those things in my life!"

Dr Claire Ashley also believes that expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better. She says:

Studies have shown that writing down things you are grateful for makes you more optimistic, makes you more likely to exercise, and less likely to visit your doctor!

Physical self care

This can be anything that makes you feeling physically healthier, more comfortable and at ease. For some, that means healthy eating (which we definitely recommend) and getting some exercise, for others it's getting a massage and having a relaxing bath. These activities are aimed at improving your physical health, leading to a more positive mindset and - consequently - improved mental health.

Taking care of your physical self

We spoke to some of our amazing doctors and asked them their tips on how to take care of yourself physically. They suggested:

  • Treating yourself to something like a haircut, facial, manicure or massage, and focus on you for a while.
  • Getting the right balance - taking rest days from exercise is important for recovery, otherwise you can easily burn out.
  • Find a type of exercise that you enjoy - if you find something that you enjoy then you will be motivated to do it, and far more likely to stick to doing it regularly.
  • Getting enough sleep - treat yourself to an early night, leave your phone out of the bedroom and relax.
  • Take 15 minutes every day to do something just for you.

Spiritual self care

This practice is often misunderstood - you don't have to be religious to practice spiritual self care (although if you are, this may form a key part of your routine).
Getting in touch with your own soul - your own beliefs, passions and inspirations - and feeding into these areas of your life can help bring you peace and fulfilment. Whether it's supporting a cause you believe in, practising mindfulness to better understand yourself or spending time with what - or who - inspires you, spiritual self care can take many forms.
Essentially, it's the practice of understanding yourself better and helping others, which in turn helps you feel better too.

We asked our GPs on some ways you can practice spiritual self care:

Connect with others

Dr Helen Garr says:

"Investing time into nurturing relationships with family and friends and our wider relationships in our community is a key component of wellbeing."

Carry out acts of kindness

Research has shown that people who help others or carry out regular acts of kindness are more likely to rate themselves as happy and have a greater sense of wellbeing.

Engaging in acts of kindness and giving helps us strengthen our connections with others and help refocus away from material belongings as a marker of what makes us happy. Notice how you feel when you have helped others or performed an act of kindness. Even the smallest acts make a difference to our wellbeing.

You could try helping someone with a task, giving a friend a present, just because, join a community group or spend some time volunteering.

Most of your waking day is spent at work - so, understandably, it can have a huge role to play in your mental and physical health. A healthy work environment - whether that's in an office, outdoors or at home - plays a big role in how your working day affects you.

Make sure you're taking regular breaks, ensuring your workload is manageable and enjoying non-work related conversations throughout your day might help you maintain a health work-life mindset and balance.

To add to that, Dr Claudia Pastides suggests that:

Medical self care

Dr Claudia Pastides comments "Dr Google may well appear to know the answer to everything, but when it comes to health, it will often give you the worst case scenario!"

Whilst it's great that so many of us can be alerted to a potential health problem by researching symptoms online, it's important to remember this should never replace an actual GP.
Dr Jessicarr Moorhouse adds ""It is often easy to ignore seemingly minor symptoms, especially when you are busy. However, if left unrecognised, this can lead to more serious issues."" Being proactive about your health - and taking preventative measures, like eating healthily and exercising - should be your first step. And should you ever need help, remember that a doctor is always available to talk you through your options for treatment.
As a Push Doctor member, you're able to talk to a doctor for as long as you need to, about anything that's worrying you - no rushing, no extra costs. Their advice will support you in taking a holistic approach to your health, as you continue your journey to living a happier, healthier life.