By Ashley Lister
Well done. If you’re reading this, it means you’ve got to the final month of 2021 and the end is in sight. This accomplishment is no mean achievement. We have had two years of WTF moments including pandemics, lockdowns, political upheaval and more deaths than any of us wanted.
So, congratulations on your good fortune and tenacity. Let’s see how we can build on that to make 2022 a massive improvement for all of us. And, the best way any of us can improve things is by taking care of ourselves. Here I’m going to myth-bust some self-care tips that are supposed to help those of us who’ve used up the last of their determination to get this far and give you the advice that I know will really help. (NB: I Have no qualifications for giving this advice and cannot guarantee that it will help in any way).
1. Exercise Regularly. I don’t understand why this is on so many lists. I go to the gym regularly but only so I can tell people I go to the gym regularly. This is the only health benefit. I wear a FitBit to monitor my heartrate and sleeping patterns, but I don’t bother looking at it if I’ve skipped the gym for a day or two, or overdone the beer. The advice should be: exercise as regularly as suits your needs. Walk a dog. Wank. Dance a little. (But try not to do all three of these at the same time).
2. Eat and drink with health in mind. I don’t like to throw the word ‘bullshit’ into a conversation so early, but: BULLSHIT. I’ve made it through the lockdowns on a diet of bourbon, croissants and chocolate bars. I’m not trying to say this is always a healthy option but, if I’d been expected to graze on kale and lentils, I’d have given up during the first week of the 2020 pandemic. Eat and drink what makes you happy. If that happiness comes with a cost of adverse health implications, make sure you’re aware of them and balance the choice judiciously.
3. Practice relaxation techniques. One of the things that has often heightened my stress has been the pressure I put on myself to be able to master relaxation techniques. Trying to think of nothing is impossible. Trying to concentrate on my breathing just makes me think of respiratory illnesses. I find the most useful relaxation technique I know is going to sleep. I appreciate this is difficult for some people with insomnia and sleep difficulties but those guys need to seek the advice of a trusted medical expert to help them overcome those issues. The rest of us should simply chillax and take a much deserved nap.
4. Avoid Internalised Negativity. This is one of the few ones in which I do believe. When I drop something in the kitchen, I will call myself every name under the sun and berate myself with an internal monologue such as, “You clumsy fucking halfwit! Are you too dumb to operate a teabag nowadays?” The thing is, this sort of self-talk is not particularly helpful. I wouldn’t let my worst enemy talk to me in such a way, yet I’m internalising negativity because I think it’s acceptable. It’s not and I’d advocate for everyone to stop bad-mouthing themselves in such a way.
5. Leave a positive review for your favourite author. This isn’t going to reduce your stress in any way, but you’ll make an author happy. And, if you don’t think that’s a good thing to do with your day, you’re clearly an evil person in need of genuine self-care advice.