“You can’t pour from an empty cup” – this is one of my favourite analogies about self care. I still remember the first time I heard it from one of my dearest friends a few years ago, and it is a statement that rings true to this day.
Midwifery is a profession that you give a little bit of yourself every day to the people you are caring for. You’re present all the time and that is one of the best parts of the job. But it is also one of the hardest and as students, we are not immune to burn out. Juggling attending university, assignments, clinical placement hours, being on call for births, a part-time job and family life is tough. It can be easy to forget about taking care of yourself and from personal experience, this only leads to increased stress and anxiety.
It was not until I started prioritising self-care and making it a daily habit that I realised just how important it is – and I urge you to do the same, however that looks for you. Here are some of the ways that I take care of myself – that don’t cost a thing!
1. Check in with yourself
Checking in with yourself is one of the simplest ways you can incorporate self-care into your day. Often, we are so busy going from one place to the other that we forget to stop and truly check on ourselves. I’ve made it a habit to ask myself a few questions whenever I have a moment:
What emotions am I feeling at the moment? Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Am I tired?
These simple questions keep me grounded and stop a minor issue from becoming a big one. Thinking back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we know that we need water, food and shelter as the basis to survive and thrive as individuals, but so often, we dismiss our basic needs and suffer the consequences. Check in with yourself, just as you would for your friend or partner.
2. Get some sunlight
Our bodies are meant to be in the sun. It is the primary way we produce vitamin D which is associated with a range of health benefits. Getting at least 10-15 minutes of sunshine a day can improve your mood by triggering the mood-boosting hormone, serotonin.
Luckily, we live in Australia where sunlight isn’t hard to come by. Taking a quick walk outside, reading a chapter of a book in the sun or eating your lunch outside are all ways that you can catch some extra rays. Of course, it is important to slip slop slap and make sure you are taking necessary precautions to protect yourself against harmful UV levels.
3. Move your body
We all know the benefits of exercise, both for our physical and mental health – but not all of us are gym rats. And that’s okay! Moving your body doesn’t have to be monotonous and routine – switch it up!
Remember when you used to sing ‘You Belong with Me’ into your hairbrush, re-enacting the fabulous moves of Taylor Swift into your full-length mirror? Just me? Bring those moves back, dance while cleaning to get your heart rate up and those endorphins pumping. Ride a bike. Do Yoga for free from YouTube (Yoga with Adrienne is my fave). Go for a walk around your neighbourhood. Play tennis on the Wii. The options are only limited by your imagination.
4. Create a bedtime routine (and stick to it)
Who has time for a bed-time routine? Everyone!
Shift work often means an unstable bedtime and a confused body clock. Creating a bedtime routine has been something that has really helped me get into the zone for sleeping and improve the quality of my sleep. You don’t need to set aside a full two hours to create one (unless you want to), all you need is ten minutes and at least a month of repetition to make it work.
Before bed, I always do the following things: have a shower, wash my face, brush my teeth and read a page of a book. And that’s it! But it is something that I’ve found helps my brain think that it is time for bed and begin the process of relaxation. Consistency is key – do whatever you need to do before bed as long as its sustainable in the long term. Your body will thank you for it.
5. Try something new
Trying something new is like exercise for the brain. But most importantly, it’s something that is not related at all to midwifery, or nursing, or whatever your profession is. Through building new skills, you are able to be mindful and concentrate only on one thing at a time. It’s a form of meditation.
Often, it can be hard to ‘switch off’ from university or placement – I catch myself going through my mental ‘to-do’ list constantly! Trying a new skill is something that requires all of your attention and concentration. It can be really refreshing to work another part of your brain and it is always nice to gain a new skill.
I really encourage you to find a hobby that you enjoy and don’t be afraid to try heaps! I’ve tried embroidery, sewing, knitting, singing, writing and playing guitar to name a few! Don’t stress about it, have fun and enjoy the process!
If you are feeling anxious or concerned, know that you’re not alone and there is help available to you. If you need support, please get in touch with UTS Counselling Services.