Burnout begone! The five foundations of self-care

- September 8, 2022 3 MIN READ
Self care personal health habits graphic cartoon

With one in three Australians suffering from burnout and mental health issues on the rise in the small business sector, it is reasonable to assume that Aussie entrepreneurs need some tips on getting self-care right. Leadership coach, Mel Kettle, shares the five foundations that must underpin your self-care regime, if you want to be mentally ready to tough out the ups and downs of business.

Self-care can mean many things to different people, but I reckon there are five core foundations that we need to get right, if we are to be all right.

Foundation #1: Be aware of your health

Physical health is often the easiest to look after; it’s usually quite obvious when things start to go wrong. We feel unwell, unexpectedly lose or gain weight, or experience physical pain.

Mental health issues can be a bit trickier to identify. Good mental health means being able to experience the good and bad aspects of life and cope with them in a psychologically and emotionally healthy way. Our physical and mental health are linked – a deficit in one can lead to negative consequences in the other. If we don’t get enough of the right foods, exercise or sleep, our mental health can decline. Even consuming too much sugar, cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs can negatively impact mental health.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has learned the hard way what can happen when you let the basics of food, sleep and exercise slip. It’s not pretty. If it’s been a while since you last had a regular health check, perhaps it’s time to book one in.

Foundation #2: Get the basics right

For me, the basics are having the right nutrition, getting some exercise, and getting enough sleep.

If one of these is temporarily out of alignment, the other two can help pick up the pieces. But if two or more are consistently dysfunctional, you’re asking for trouble.

Foundation #3: Have clear boundaries and stick to them

I used to be a ‘yes’ girl. I’d say yes to everything. We risk teetering on the edge of burnout when we say yes to everything. I was a people-pleaser who didn’t know how to say no, and on the rare occasion I did, I felt I was letting people down.

When we start to say no, we take back some control over our lives. Saying no creates boundaries around what we will and won’t do; boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and a healthy life. They can help you make decisions based on what is best for you. This is a vital part of self-care. Not having healthy boundaries can impact all areas of your life, including your physical and emotional health, your finances, and your relationships.

Imagine your boundaries as a fence around what you want to protect. Sometimes you need to open the gate to slip out, but mostly you want that gate closed to protect what is most important to you.

woman lying on dock by a lake reading a book

Foundation #4: Do something every day that brings you joy

Seeking joy should be a guiding principle for us all. Knowing what brings you joy and doing some of these activities every day will recharge your personal batteries and increase your energy.

Research tells us that when we focus on joy, even for as little as thirty seconds a day, our stress hormones reduce, oxygen flow to our bodies increases, and we are happier. Joy and happiness also lead to a longer lifespan.

When we do things that we love and that provide a sense of achievement, we automatically feel happier. But perhaps more importantly, when we love and are kind to ourselves, we are more likely to be kind and loving towards others.

Foundation #5: Practice gratitude

When life is going well, gratitude allows us to celebrate and amplify our positivity and our success. When life is difficult, gratitude can help us through challenging times.

Did you know that practicing gratitude for as little as thirty seconds each day can reduce your stress hormones, increase oxygen flow to your body and make you happier? It can also increase your energy, improve your mood, make you feel more optimistic and boost your self-esteem. We gain resilience when we practice gratitude.

You don’t need to jump in and do it all at once. Start small and start with one thing.

This is an edited extract from Fully Connected by Mel Kettle. 

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