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As much as the term “self-care” gets tossed around across social media and in the wellness world, it often gets pushed to the bottom of our priority list when life gets hectic. Too often, stress and anxiety end up taking over our lives, giving way to that critical inner voice in your head that screams razor-sharp words at you whenever you fall short of impossibly high expectations.
However, it’s important to realise that cutting yourself some slack and being kinder to yourself is crucial to not only your mental health but your physical health as well, which is particularly important given the pandemic we are currently facing. We spoke to the experts at Bupa Global on five ways to be kinder to yourself, so you can be well on your way to leading a healthier and happier life!
While it sounds simple, being kind to ourselves can be difficult to put into practice, especially with our inner negative critic getting in the way. A 2019 study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science found that participants who listened to recordings designed to induce a critical inner voice displayed an increased heart rate and a higher sweat response—indicating that their bodies were stressed. It goes to show that the first step to being kinder is to switch off that judgemental inner voice you may have.
One way to do this, according to Helen Storey, a qualified psychotherapist and oncology counsellor at the Bupa Cromwell Hospital Storey, is to develop a compassionate voice and acknowledge that life is tough right now. “We’ve been in an incredibly stressful situation and there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what the future will bring,” she explains. “People worry that they’re not coping as well as they should. If we give ourselves permission to acknowledge this and recognise that it will continue to be difficult and that we might struggle some days, it can lessen an additional layer of stress that we put on ourselves.”
We often associated self-care rituals with lavish spa treatments and expensive luxuries that only the upper echelon of society can afford, but in reality, self-care does not have to be elaborate at all. Just spending some time connecting with nature or doing some simple stretches are great ways to look after yourself without having to spend a fortune.
Amanda Yik, owner of Shinrin Yoku Hong Kong, a certified nature and forest therapy practice, shares with us how she prioritises time for herself as part of her personal wellness routine. “For me, that means spending time alone in nature, immersing my senses to reset and unwind, and giving myself permission to do nothing when that is what my body needs. Doing yoga, stretching and massaging myself, and having long, soothing hot baths are also some of my favourite self-care routines.”
Alternatively, meditation is also a popular form of self-care. Poppy Jamie, founder of the wellness company Happy Not Perfect, explains, "We live a life where our brains are often disconnected from our bodies. One really easy thing to try is deep breathing for just a minute: It stimulates the vagus nerve, which in turn calms down the body by reducing the heart rate and blood pressure.”
Whether it’s making scrubs for healthcare workers or setting up food banks for those in need, people all over the world are giving their time and services during the pandemic. Not only does it help others during a difficult time, but studies show that volunteering our time and expertise also makes us happier and healthier. “Knowing you have helped another person can give you a sense of purpose,” says Dr Puri, a lead physician with Bupa UK.
Furthermore, kindness spreads. In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found evidence that kindness is contagious, as people who received a kind deed, in turn, do something good. “Ultimately, by being kind to others and being kind to yourself, you’ll both feel good yourself and make others feel the same,” Dr Puri says.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our schedules and future obligations that we forget to take a pause. But just as important as looking to the future is taking the time to reflect. Jamie says that before lockdown, she frequently worked herself to the edge of burnout. Now, she has a chance to reflect and look at how she can re-tool the way she works and lives for the future.
She acknowledges that the pandemic has brought tremendous challenges for many people, but there is a bright side. “Lots of us are trying to notice some of the silver linings, too—from bringing families closer together, to having more time to spend cooking, or just stopping and hearing the birds sing. Another thing is that I think we are valuing kindness more. This can be a time to really assess what brings joy into your life and how you can formulate a new plan with kindness at its centre.”
Bupa Global customers have access to their healthline service, which gives access to general medical information on COVID-19 and other medical conditions (mental and physical) as well as providing advice from health professionals and referrals for a second medical opinion. If you’re a Bupa Global customer and have a health concern, the global virtual care (GVC) service provides confidential access to a global network of doctors by telephone or video call, with virtual appointments available 24/7 in multiple languages—enabling you to speak to a doctor at a time that suits you. Visit their COVID-19 information hub for more details on how you can access their GVC service.
Alternatively, in times like this, support services such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) really come into their own. If you have access to Bupa Global through your employer, you may be entitled to use everyday resources, their employee assistance programme*. With everyday resources, policyholders can access trained healthcare professionals 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in multiple languages, via phone, email or online. They are there for confidential mental health advice, guidance and support for any work, life, or personal concern.
*Global Virtual Care is provided by Advance Medical, a Teladoc Health Company, and Everyday Resources is provided by Workplace Options LLC who are both service providers for Bupa Global. Bupa Global is not responsible for any actions or omissions carried out by these third parties in the provision of these services.
1. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Global Burden of Disease Study, 2017.
2. Available to all policyholders with member numbers that start with ‘BI’.