Self-Care Take Two
During Mental Health Awareness Week 2023, we shared how members of the SPRINT Project like to get out in nature to increase feelings of happiness and overall wellbeing.
This week, we are sharing some more insights into our approaches to self-care. Some of these can be done indoors and are a great way to brighten your day. Come rain or shine, we can all treat ourselves to an activity that brings us joy!
Check out members of the SPRINT Project’s favourite self-care activities below.
Name: Kirsty Brown
Self-care activity: Cooking whilst listening to music
Why I do this activity: When I am busy or stressed, I tend to neglect cooking good and nutritious meals. But when I put aside the time to cook I do really enjoy the process of cooking as it helps me to switch my brain off from other things going on. This is because I am really focused on the process of cooking (it’s not a skill that comes naturally to me!). Listening to music at the same time as cooking gives me an additional dopamine hit whilst doing the activity. I tend to chop and stir to the rhythm of the music and have a good dance around the kitchen! Personally, music really helps me to focus on what I am doing as well.
Once I’ve cooked the meal I always feel accomplished and proud of myself (always good feelings to feel!). It also makes life easier for the next few days as I tend to cook in batches. So it helps future me as well which I always appreciate! Cooking a good meal also helps me to function better when I am busy as it ensures my body and brain is fuelled for all the research and activities I do.
Tips for this activity: At the start of the week I make a list of a few meals that I could cook and get the ingredients in the house so it’s easy when it comes to cooking. I shop online as I find this much less overwhelming and means I can walk around the kitchen doing the online shop on my phone whilst checking what we have/haven’t got.
I cook in batches so I have meals for a few days. Or even freeze some for the future.
If I’m feeling tired or overwhelmed, I pick something that I know is easy for me (i.e., I’ve made it lots of times before!). For me this is veggie chilli, stir fry or vegetarian curry. To make it even simpler I use pre-made sauces so it still tastes good but reduces the need to think about additional steps in the process of cooking.
To make it more of an occasion I invite a friend round to cook with me. I like learning from others cooking skills too! I then get the additional well-being benefit of social connection. Make sure you have a good playlist to listen to. Ideally some feel good music!
Name: Emma Morgan
Self-care activity: Walking
Why do I like this activity: Going on a morning walk in the countryside helps me to feel more centred and focused for the day ahead. I really enjoy the space and time to connect with my senses in nature as I walk and also noticing the changes of season that are happening around me too (particularly during spring and autumn!). It is a great reminder for me to be more intentional with my time, as well as to appreciate the beauty of life around me.
Tips for this activity: I like to take photos of what I see during my walks so that I can look back and reflect on the lovely places that I have been to.
Name: Maria Kolitsida
Self-care activity: Adult ballet classes
Why I do this activity: I like to think that I have a never-say-never mentality about most things in life, but if you had told me 8 years ago that ballet classes are the one activity that significantly increases my wellbeing I would have laughed. I have been dancing since the age of 4, but ballet is far from my strongest style, so I rarely felt comfortable enough to enjoy dancing it when growing up. When I decided to attend University to study Psychology, ballet was the first dance style I dropped. There was no need to ‘perfect’ the same exercises from a vocational exam syllabus week in and week out with what felt like very little room for artistic expression.For me ballet was always the basis of becoming a good enough dancer and rarely a source of fun, so as an adult I only attended the occasional ballet class to get critique and strengthen my technique before auditions etc.
The pandemic, coupled with a nasty injury, meant I spent a lot of time off stage. Performing and dancing, something that had once felt like breathing, no longer felt natural. Frankly, I was (and still am) terrified. After trying a variety of things, including making use of my psychological knowledge, nothing helped with this new anxiety, and I no longer felt like myself. So as a last resort, I decided to go to an adult recreational dance class to dance alongside people for whom dance is just a source of enjoyment. After just one class, I had fallen in love.
For someone with a dance background, ballet felt safe. There are set steps, a set class structure, and the (main) vocabulary used is the same across the world. You know what to expect, so it feels familiar and safe. The one thing that is new though, and the one thing that has been unique to my adult recreational classes, is the ability to dance simply because it is enjoyable, while connecting with others that have a love for dance. I now attend ballet classes to express myself, perform for myself, and chat with individuals from all walks of life. In my experience (and I appreciate it is not the same for everyone), adult recreational ballet is not endless critique in the quest of achieving an unachievable perfection, but rather a source of relaxation, community, and appreciation of the arts.
Tips for this activity: Try and temporarily shelf your preconceptions or previous experiences of how ballet should be taught and done, especially if you have a dance background. Wear what makes you comfortable, find a teacher that makes you smile and enjoy class. Allow yourself to move in an expressive way, admire the beauty of the simplest of movements in ballet, and feel the pure joy that comes with watching people (maybe you too) nailing steps for the first time.
Have we inspired you to try a different self-care activity? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on Twitter using #SPRINTProject #SPselfcare
Stay tuned next week for the final installment of our self-care mini blog post series!
To find out more about Kirsty, Emma and Maria’s work in the SPRINT Project click here.
Photo credit: Kirsty Brown, Maria Kolitsida and Emma Morgan.
Written by Dr Sally Reynard, Research Associate in the SPRINT project.