We might recognise when we are tired and need rest, but in the midst of busy lives, caring for our own wellbeing is often difficult to prioritise. Reflecting on good memories, practising gratitude, and being present in the moment can help give us a boost.
Self-care can sometimes feel like yet another thing on our to-do list that’s already unmanageable. After a challenging day of mahi, we may then have to face other responsibilities and tasks to get through once we’re home. Perhaps we have other stressors to face too, and rest doesn’t come easy.
Here is a list of simple ideas to support our wellbeing during those times, backed by the research and shown to lift our mood and energy without much effort!
Use ordinary moments to be present
Psychotherapist Sarah Greenburg (2023) writes about savouring the small moments in our day to support us to actually rest without lying down or having a duvet day! This means thinking about the times we have in our day which we can use to enjoy the moment, be mindful or practise some puku breathing. This might include:
- Hanging or collecting the washing – enjoy being outside, notice the sounds around, take some deep breaths, breathing out for slightly longer than in.
- Having a shower or bath – another time to practise puku breaths, pay attention to the water and how it feels and sounds, think about someone we’re grateful for.
- Eating kai mindfully – chewing slowly, listening with curiosity to our tamariki, start a kōrero about the best parts of the day.
The American Psychological Association (2012) lists many positive impacts of mindfulness that include:
- Reducing the time spent dwelling on things in our mind
- Reducing stress
- Strengthening our working memory and focus
- Lessened emotional reactivity
- More cognitive flexibility
- Relationship satisfaction
Conjure up some great vibes
While doing dishes, folding the washing or cleaning up, remembering some fun, relaxing and times of connection has the effect of bringing back those feelings to us in the present moment. It’s when we find ourselves smiling while we’re closing the curtains – we’re reflecting on a good time that’s come to us in the moment.
Reflecting on the positive memories of past holidays might support us in starting to plan our next break. When we plan in this way we start to get excited and imagine the great time we’ll have. Remembering that our best memories aren’t always expensive trips, they might be getting together with wider whānau over summer, or heading to the beach with the tamariki and kai. Beginning to plan a few of these breaks will support our wellbeing – before, during and after!
Research shows that intentionally remembering our happy experiences helps disrupt our negative thoughts. It also reduces anxiety and even lowers our stress levels (Vild, 2023)!
The science and simplicity of gratitude
Gratitude works because first we recognise that we’ve obtained something positive (in our day or in our lifetime), and secondly that this has been obtained as a result of someone or something external to us. It’s recognition that goodness happens ‘to’ us ‘from’ others.
The wellbeing benefits from feeling and expressing gratitude are pretty awesome, and include:
- better physical and mental health
- increased happiness and life satisfaction
- decreased desire for possessions.
Gratitude practices like keeping a 'gratitude journal' or writing a letter of gratitude can increase people’s happiness and overall positive mood. If writing feels like a big commitment then perhaps start with tiny grateful moments that could include:
- While planning the day ahead, pop down the name of someone who could do with a quick call on the way home.
- Have a whānau round-the-table at breakfast or dinner time reflecting on someone or something we’re grateful for today.
- Use bedtime routines to reflect on the people we’re grateful for.
And then there's sleep – a guilt-free guide!
Interestingly, all of the ideas above support better sleep because they relax our minds, and you could try them as part of a bedtime routine. Here are a few more ideas for your ‘support-for-more-moe’ kete:
- Practising mindfulness during ordinary moments, but perhaps more intentionally before bed at night. You might like to try a guided meditation when your thoughts are racing and you can't relax.
- Puku breathing with longer breaths out, than in, is one way to trick our brains into thinking we’re calm and relaxed.
- Putting your phone down away from bed and reading instead. If you don't use your phone as an alarm you might like to try leaving it out of the bedroom altogether!
- Find a consistent calming way to head to bed each night – rituals and habits act as cues for our tinana and hinengaro.
- Rongoā and mirimiri practitioners will be able to offer great advice and support with sleep too.
Other wellbeing supports we don't want to skip
A few other ways to support our wellbeing when we’re tired and stretched include:
- Practising self-compassion. Sometimes we give ourselves a hard time when we’re tired or find ourselves in patterns that aren’t very self-nurturing. It’s important that we’re as kind to ourselves as we are with the people we work with.
- Lose the social media pages and people that make us feel bad. There's a lot of people staging the 'perfect' life online and telling us what we 'should' be doing with our time. It’s time to unfollow them as they come up on the feed and enjoy saying haere rā!
- If we’re tired or short on time, having a regular appointment in our diary for mirimiri or a yoga class can be really helpful.
- Going outside is a great way to boost our wellbeing, even just for short bursts and with nothing to do other than look at the sky, through the rākau, or pick a budding putiputi or interesting branch for the table.
- The maramataka is underpinned by generations of our indigenous knowledge, observations of tohu, rhythms, and cycles of our environment (National Library of Medicine, 2023). There are loads of great maramataka apps and websites available now that identify our energy levels each day. This can really support us with our big days and how we can manage our self-care in them.