Feeling great, inside and out
We share some of our favourite self-care tips here, along with the latest research on why they work and some practical ways to add them into your daily routine.
Stay true to yourself
Recent research by the University of Copenhagen has confirmed an aspect of mental wellbeing we’ve all suspected to be true: using social media can increase people’s anxiety levels and feelings of inadequacy. But happily, the researchers also recommended a solution – taking a break from Facebook for just a week could boost emotional health and life satisfaction.
‘It’s natural to compare our own lives with others, but if you feel as though social networking is causing you unnecessary stress, you could try a temporary “detox” or reduce your daily screen time,’ suggests occupational psychologist Sarah Dale. ‘And remember, we often only view the end result online. You might see a perfect cake that someone has made, but you’re not seeing all the practice cakes that came before.’
Communication on the internet can also be harsher than in real life. Stay true to yourself when confronted with negative comments – try not to take them too much to heart, and resist taking the same tone.
Be your own best supporter
Do you ever feel as though you have to get everything exactly right? You’re not alone; in one survey, 87 per cent of women reported feeling as though they needed to meet preconceived standards of perfection and, psychologists say, this internal pressure can limit our beliefs about what we can achieve and make us feel too anxious to even have a go.
One way to overcome this is to break a challenge into manageable steps. For example, perhaps you’d like to try a new role in guiding but feel apprehensive – why not arrange a shadowing opportunity first?
It’s also a good idea to surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you, such as your guiding colleagues. And you can be your own champion too, explains psychotherapist Jenny Stacey: ‘Try switching your internal dialogue and making a conscious effort to be kinder in the way you speak to yourself,’ she says.
Putting it into practise
Numerous studies have shown that writing your thoughts down can help to clear and calm your mind. You could also try a simple mindfulness technique, using your senses to sink into the present moment.
For example, next time you have a bath, really notice each sensation – the temperature of the water, the way the steam curls, the gleam of light on the tap.
I only get guiding emails on my laptop, so I have to log on to read them when it’s convenient for me. As much as I love it, I won’t let volunteering take over my life. - Sue Hunt, Leader for the 1st Stockwood Rainbows and Brownies
Stay fit and well
‘Our physical and mental wellbeing are strongly linked, so looking after your body will have a big impact on your mind,’ explains health psychologist Dr Vanessa Bogle.
It’s important to get enough good-quality sleep to rest both your body and brain, but just a quarter of British adults say that they sleep ‘very well’ most nights. Technology can be a culprit, so try switching off all screens an hour before bed and banish them from your bedroom.
And although you’ll have heard it often before, it bears repeating: get active in any way you’re able to. ‘It’ll increase your energy and stamina, and provide an instant rush of feel-good endorphins,’ Vanessa says, adding that it’s best to play to your strengths. ‘Find an activity that suits you – for example, if you’re sociable, try a team sport such as tennis or netball.’
Appreciate your abilities
When it comes to our bodies, some of us can feel pressured to conform to a certain way of looking, especially when we’re bombarded by images online and in the media. And this is something that affects younger members too: in our 2016 Girls’ Attitudes Survey, half of 17- to 21-year-olds said they feel embarrassed or ashamed about how they look.
Vanessa has some advice. ‘Focus on what your body can do and appreciate your unique capabilities,’ she says. If a negative voice does creep in when you’re thinking about your body, challenge those critical thoughts: would you say that to a friend?’
Putting it into practice
A new activity can be a good way to appreciate your body – for example, going on an adventure with your unit might provide an unexpected confidence boost.
Or, for an instant pick-me-up, stand in a powerful ‘Wonder Woman’ pose (hands on hips, feet wide apart, shoulders back) for two minutes. Research by Harvard University found that your posture and stance can help to increase self-confidence and make you feel calmer.
We introduced movement by having a dance society teach our guides to do Irish dancing. - Susie Johnson, 7th Horsforth South Woodside Methodist Brownies and Guides
Keep on connecting
Human beings are naturally social creatures, so connecting with those around us is essential for keeping our spirits up – and volunteering with Girlguiding can be a great way to achieve this.
In fact, researchers found that giving your time to a worthy cause can increase longevity, improve self-esteem and boost physical fitness.
Also try to keep in touch with good friends and family members by planning regular catch-ups and sticking to them, even if it feels like other things are more pressing.
Invest in yourself
A study by the University of Birkbeck revealed that taking some quality time for yourself not only has significant benefits for psychological wellbeing, but can also improve levels of motivation. And while we may feel guilty about saying no to some things, self-care is very different to selfishness, explains psychotherapist Jenny Stacey. ‘If we’re feeling overwhelmed, we can’t be useful to others, so it’s important to invest in ourselves,’ she says.
Putting it into practice
Jenny recommends writing to combat negativity, which can go hand in hand with feeling swamped. ‘Every night, try to write down three things you’ve achieved or felt glad about that day – however little they may be,’ she suggests. ‘This is a place to reflect on the things you’re grateful for and will act as a positive reminder, which you can return to whenever you need some inspiration.’
New Leaders can come in with fresh ideas but are often met with the fact that a unit has always done something a certain way. So they can feel a bit isolated, and we could risk losing new recruits as a result. But it works both ways. As a new Leader it’s easy to rush in, so it might be better to share ideas gradually.
On the other hand, if you’re part of an established team it’s worth remembering that even if a new Leader brings an idea you’ve tried in the past – and that didn’t work well – a fresh set of girls and a new approach can make all the difference. - Carol Pike, Wellfield Brownies