Tuesday Tales: Self-care in the Cracks – Donna Thistlethwaite

Do you feel like life is hectic? … That there’s absolutely no time to work on your wellbeing.

If so, you’re definitely not on your own.

I often bump against this issue when training Mental Health First Aiders. Between the first and second sessions, participants are required to do a deliberate act of self-care to prepare for the role. It can be challenging and we all need to make sure we’re in a good place to be able to support others.

Occasionally people don’t find time for their self-care overnight.  Sometimes they share it was a glass of wine. And often during the conversations, we hear about people turning on the work laptop after dinner and the many barriers that get in the way of their self-care.

When I contemplate where we could pull time for self-care my mind goes to a visual I once saw about time management. Picture a jar filled to the top with pebbles. We initially assume such a jar is full and it’s only when someone first pours in some sand and later water that we appreciate that there are many cracks or windows of time at our disposal.

Some self-care activities can be time-consuming such as a bush walk, bath, or yoga class. These are our pebbles and we might schedule them for the weekend but there are many activities, we can fit into the little cracks we experience in our days to boost our mood, change our energy and even change our life if we turn them into a habit.

Some of my favourite brief self-care activities are:

Putting on an upbeat music track. Music can be food for the soul. You could set up a Good Vibe playlist. Mine has songs like “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”, “Walking On Sunshine”, “Staying Alive”,” Roar” but you’ll know what songs make you feel great.

Move your body. While you’ve got that music track on, have a dance for a few minutes. It’s great for getting us into our body and shifting our energy. If dancing isn’t your thing, do a lap of the block to lift your energy. You can take it to another level by tuning into your senses – it makes me feel like everything has just be turned up – the sounds, the colours, and I, feel so alive.

Consciously breathe. In just a few minutes of paying attention to your breath – slowing it down, perhaps counting the breaths for a few seconds (in for 5, hold for 5, out for 5, hold for 5, repeat), you can relax your nervous system and create a sense of calm. It also helps you to get back into your body, and therefore out of your head which can be good for those of us with a tendency to overthink, at times.

Visit the bathroom. To connect with yourself in the mirror that is. Speaking to ourselves in the mirror has been recommended for improving wellbeing by people like Louise Hay’s for decades. Actually check in with yourself. Ask “How are you doing?” “What do you need?”. I recently came across Mel Robbin’s Hi5 technique (literally Hi5ing yourself in the mirror) in this podcast interview with Jay Shetty. Check it out to learn about the research behind Hi5ing. It takes 5 seconds and has the potential to change your life.

Listen to a Podcast episode. I’ve recently returned to a podcast series that helped me to transform my life years ago. Quote of the Day consistently inspired and brought me joy for a couple of years. Quote of the Day consists of 5-15 minute snippets of inspiring speakers on a huge range of topics.

Engage in a mindful activity. My son has a Bop It (a toy with a series of audio commands to follow) in the shape of R2D2 and I discovered years ago that playing it facilitates high levels of mindfulness for me. You literally cannot think of other things and do it well. Today I beat the current highest score and I have no doubt that it’ll spark a mindfulness frenzy in the household as someone tries to wrestle the crown off me. You can also get mindful by just paying attention to whatever it is that you’re doing – no extra time required.

So no more excuses that you don’t have time for your wellbeing. There’s bound to be many more to add to this list. Now there’s an idea, let me know of your favourites and we can create a list of 5 minutes and under for your wellbeing.

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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