By Mia Howell, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, Let’s Talk
Sometimes we neglect our own needs in order to help meet other people’s needs, the needs of our workplace or our communities. This can even be seen as a strength. ‘Selfless’ is a word with positive associations, and a trait that is valued in our society. Whereas putting ourselves first, or being ‘selfish’, is frowned upon. However, self-care is essential.
It can be helpful to remember the safety message given on aeroplanes: put your own oxygen mask on first, before attempting to help those around you.
In order to look after ourselves, first we need to recognise what we need. Start with the basics:
- Are we eating enough and a balanced diet?
- Are we drinking enough water?
- Are we getting enough sleep?
Mental health is also fundamental to our wellbeing.
Often, we notice the negative impact on our mental health when we aren’t managing to meet our own needs. Likewise, when we struggle with our mental health, this can prevent us from recognising and meeting our own needs. We might notice ‘warning signs’ that our mental health is declining. For example, when we feel stressed, we might experience sleep problems, like struggling to fall or stay asleep. When we feel low or anxious, we might notice a lack or increase in appetite, or decreased motivation to meet our own personal care needs. We might find ourselves neglecting our social needs, such as avoiding going out and seeing friends as often, or even the opposite: not wanting to be alone and spending too much time with others, which can leave us feeling exhausted. These are all common symptoms that can be experienced during challenging times.
Self-help is also a good option for many of us, but often needs a bit of support for it to be most effective. We can learn to identify the vicious cycles of unhelpful thinking and behaviour that keep us stuck feeling low or stressed. Often, by making some small but significant changes to the way we think and behave, we can break out of these vicious cycles and feel better.
If you think this describes how you are feeling, please contact us at your local NHS talking therapy service ‘Let’s Talk’ to see how we might be able to help you. We offer free evidenced based therapies that can support you in developing helpful skills to improve your emotional wellbeing. You can get in touch by phoning our freephone number 0800 073 2200 to arrange an assessment,or refer yourself online through our website – www.letstalksglos.nhs.uk – where you will also find helpful self-help information.