As we enter the third year of living through a pandemic, Arlene Harris speaks to healthcare and wellbeing experts about how they approach self care
Rachel Healy from Saintfield is an Anaesthetic Nurse who works at Kingsbridge Private Hospital, in Belfast. With a busy working life, finding time for self-care can be difficult, but she makes sure to pencil in some regular downtime.
“Self-care for me comes in the form of dance. I don’t like the gym, I run like Phoebe from Friends and my dog trips me if I try to run with her.
“Exercise was never enjoyable for me physically or mentally unless it involves dance, and it has always been my go-to for de-stressing. Going to a Zumba class improves my mood, makes me feel happy and gives me both physical and mental health benefits. The ripple effect of this is that I am in a better place to care for my loved ones and patients.
“If I can’t dance it out, I talk as having someone to talk to about your day, is very important. A sense of humour is also vital in healthcare - seeing how delicate and precious life is, we tend to have a different sense of humour that others may not understand but some days it gets us through. To me, laughter is sometimes the best medicine and is a big part of my own self-care. We work long shifts, have ridiculous sleeping and eating patterns and that can be a difficult cycle to break without looking after yourself.
“Last year was the most difficult for me to practice self-care as classes were closed, we couldn’t mix with our social groups, and everyone felt very much alone. But being part of a worldwide Zumba instructor community was inspiring for me and joining them online really got me through some dark worrying times.”
Vivian McKinnon, originally from Scotland but living and working in Northern Ireland as a trauma growth specialist, addiction counsellor and floatation expert. She says eating well, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep and floating is her method of self-care.
“For 2022 I’ll continue with my proven formula. I am also committed to doing more sea swimming this year because I know it is curative.
“It has been a strange couple of years for most of us with lots of stress and disconnection; so this year I would encourage people to reconnect, with themselves, others and nature.
“My advice would be to do the things which light you up and encourage you to feel alive. Listen to your gut. Your gut instinct is the small quiet voice of reason that can easily be overshadowed by strong or old emotions.
“Take some time, hold space for yourself and remember the words of Dr Seuss “You are youer than you, this is truer than true, there is no one alive more youer than you.”
Siobhan Kearney runs her own business ‘AT ONE WELLBEING’ where she delivers coaching workshops focusing on mental health, wellbeing and menopause awareness. She says self-care is central to her life and she will continue to look after herself in every way throughout 2022.
“Self-care is core and central to me for running my business, spending time with people I love and ensuring that I nurture myself and find time to either do nothing or the things I enjoy. The past two years have been so difficult as we have been in a massive and ongoing change process, which has been very destabilising.
“At times I have felt really stressed and anxious, but when I feel this way, I know that it is time for me to mind myself and the take time to relax, to set boundaries, to spend time alone with no distractions and to breathe. As I move into 2022 self-care is going to continue to be important to me doing things to maintain this will be a priority.
“We should all take time to do something we enjoy, to set healthy boundaries and don’t get dragged into things that are time and energy vampires. I encourage people to be compassionate and kind towards themselves. Sometimes we can be a bit unkind in how we speak to ourselves, and yet shower others with kindness.
“Recognise your achievements, however small, and encourage yourself. Give yourself a break – whether it be from work or family or all the hundred and one things you feel you need to do. Just sit in silence, breathe, listen to music, switch off the devices and just be present in the moment.
“So whatever it is that you enjoy, do more of it. And for the things you don’t enjoy, try to do less of that. We need to focus on self-care – otherwise we will get to a stage where we are burnt out and tired and lack motivation to do anything. It’s important to care for yourself and if you could do one thing every day that makes you feel better, then do it.”
Lee McCusker is a registered nutritionist from Belfast specialising in sports nutrition and public health. He says a healthy diet is crucial to his self-care.
“My self-care hopes for 2022 involve continuing on from where I left off in 2021 in terms of eating regular healthy meals, taking in plenty of fluids and less alcohol, engaging in exercise and having good sleep hygiene. I feel these are the foundations of a positive mind and healthy outlook on life.
“My advice to others would be to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and only have snacks if you feel hungry. Eating little and often can help provide our bodies with a constant source of energy so we can feel good. I aim for a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables per day and a rainbow of colours in these foods.
“It’s also important to add protein to your starches to help keep you feeling fuller for longer. Take a vitamin D3 supplement daily from September to April, drink more water and keep alcohol intake below 14 units per week which should be spread across three or more days. Become more active and have good sleep hygiene with optimal sleep being 7-9 hours per night.”
Frank Liddy is a mindfulness practitioner for INSPIRE and is also the founder of the Belfast Mindfulness centre and the chair of Compassion City Belfast. He plans to take time out for himself in 2022 and would encourage others to do the same.
“I intend to develop my mindfulness practice and continue my long walks with friends along our glorious coast. I will be putting head back into study and on the lighter side, will enjoy dining out and visiting our theatres.
“I would encourage everyone to develop a mindfulness practice for their own self-care and start enjoying our beautiful countryside on foot. Learn to pause during these unpredictable times and breathe in the air. Remember you have two lives, and you get your second life when you realise you have only one. This is it.”
Psychotherapist Deirdre Martin has been a mental health practitioner for over 10 years and is passionate about helping people to heal and grow. His self-care goal for 2022 is to get out in nature and do some more mountain climbing and hiking.
“In 2021 I managed to climb two of the Mourne peaks, bringing my total to three, in addition to my usual cave hill walks. For 2022, year my goal is to complete the other four peaks and explore other ranges and parts of Ireland.
“Nature’s bounty is free, restorative, and is a form of mindfulness in its own right as you are in the moment, free from your thoughts, especially when taking in the beauty of the landscape. An important goal is to be more disciplined and regular with meditation. Regular practice alters the brain, improving the area associated with joy and contentment, we all need more that.
“I would encourage everyone to slow down, prioritise themselves and those dearest to the, reflect on what has worked throughout the year and try to incorporate more of that, practice gratitude, move for at least 20 minutes a day, practice self-compassion, reduce worry, connect with others and breathe deeply.”
Jane Adams is a hypnotherapist from Belfast. She believes that looking after ourselves is crucial to a healthy, happy life and as we head into the new year, she is planning on devoting more time to engaging in hobbies she enjoys.
“Self-care is key to resolving issues such as stress and anxiety, identifying and working towards goals, getting better sleep and empowerment to live the life we want. It is all about caring for your mental, physical and spiritual self.
“And the first step to achieving this is to acknowledge that you deserve to be happy and healthy – also to accept that no matter what has happened, it is our responsibility to care for ourselves and make changes for the better. I would advise people to figure out what they want and go for it, take time to have fun and relax, spend time with and support family and friends and take the time to appreciate achievements as well as striving towards new goals.
“In 2022 I’ll be focusing on keeping the relationships in my life happy and mutually supportive. This balance is important to me as, being self-employed, business can easily become the main focus. I intend to and keep exercising and eating healthily and sleeping well, along with taking some time out.
“I intend to say no to too many demands when I need to put myself first. Get outdoors as often as possible and start to draw and paint again. I will continue reading and one of my favourite things is to listen to comedy podcasts from while in a bubble bath with scented candles.”