Real self-care is more than a temporary activity that makes us feel good in the moment. Of course, things like bubble baths and manicures are great to do if you enjoy them. The problem is that their effects last only as long as the activity (or the shellac).  But change that lasts? It comes from small changes done consistently, and done in the spirit of caring for your whole self. Below are suggestions for self-care that will give you true and long-lasting results.

1.     Begin a meditation practice

Meditation is the practice of using your focusing your attention on something either internal (body sensations, breath) or external (an object). Meditation isn’t easy- but it’s simple. It is a very personal practice and what resonates for someone else might not for you. Meditation helps you regulate emotion, withstand difficulty in life and practice non-judgement of yourself and others. As little as 3 minutes a day can have dramatic effects. Remember, it’s the consistency and not the length that matters.

2.     Get enough sleep

The importance of proper sleep is completely underestimated. Most people are getting 6-7 hours of poor quality sleep, but the average adult needs 8 hours of sound sleep. Your brain relies on sleep to help regenerate and heal your body from hard work during wake time. Adequate sleep regulates your emotional reactivity and protects your physical health in the long-run. UNPLUG yourself at least 30 minutes before bed, and try to spruce up your room to make it clean and relaxing for yourself. Trust me- you deserve it.

3.     You’ve got to move it (move it)

Regular exercise is paramount to mental and physical wellbeing. Studies suggest that activities that raise your heart rate for 30 minutes, done four times per week, are as effective in treating moderate depression as medication. Exercise helps you release adrenaline and increases the production of those “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins. If you hate the gym- DON’T GO THERE. Choose what you love (swimming, walking, yoga, dance) and throw yourself into it.

4.     Lay off the booze/coffee/cigarettes

Your body does an amazing job of carrying you around day-to-day, trying desperately to stay in balance despite what we throw at it in this modern world. When you manage your exhaustion with a venti triple esperesso, it shocks your nervous system. When the only way you can truly relax is after a glass (or bottle) of wine, there’s something else there that needs attending to. If you feel like you’re overdoing it on the bad stuff, ask yourself why- and get help.

5.     Seek professional help when needed

This life isn’t easy, and there are times in everyone’s life when what is put on us is more than we can handle alone. A compassionate and skilled therapist can help guide you through processing and understanding your emotions and patterns of behaviour. Only when you understand what is going on beneath the surface can you begin to truly heal. Reaching out for help can be the start to change that will last a lifetime. If you think it might be time to call in the professionals, I might know a guy (or gal…)