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As we approach the holidays, I think we can all agree that as a community – even though as Canberrans, we’ve been luckier than most – we’ve been through a tough time this past year.

We’ve had lockdowns, mask wearing, separation from friends and family, scuppered weddings and funerals, and uncertainty around work and the future.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through my journey as a chiropractor and business owner over the years is how important self-care really is, even amid all the chaos we face each day.

I used to put my business and everyone else first, but never myself. That’s why I love this graphic so much…

Fitting Your Own Oxygen Mask chart

We hear it each time we get on an aeroplane (remember that big thing with wings?). “In case of a cabin pressure emergency, put on your own mask first before assisting others.”

It’s a simple concept that makes sense. You can’t help others for very long if you don’t take care of yourself first.

And yet, how many of us carry on assisting others with their oxygen masks and giving little thought to how long our own oxygen supply will keep us going, or if the mask is even on?

I’ve seen this over and over with my own patients: people putting their family, partner, business or career needs first, often not leaving much time or energy to put towards looking after themselves.

Sometimes that’s necessary for a period of time, but it never works out in the long-term. If you keep putting other’s needs ahead of your own, you’ll eventually wear out, either physically, mentally or emotionally. And then you’re no good to anyone!

As the holidays approach, put some thought into regaining some good habits, and try putting your own needs higher up the list. Here are a few of great ways to practice putting your own ‘mask’ on first:

Journal and meditate in the morning, or another quiet time of day

These are both great ways of clearing your head. As human’s we have an incredible mind that is capable of conceiving, dreaming and creating so much wonderful stuff.

The flip side of that is that our minds can also dream and conceive of things that worry us. We can hang onto thoughts of things that mostly won’t come to fruition. It can be not only a terrible distraction, but also a great detriment to your health.

Set a low goal – write one line or one paragraph. Promise to meditate for only five minutes. Develop that habit by choosing a time that suits. First thing in the morning is great for some, while for others, lunch time or at the end of the day suits better.

No phones until 9am, No phones after 8pm

Outside of emergency times (eg someone going to hospital; plumber call for burst pipe) you need to ask yourself, ‘do I really need to check my phone that often?’ Try leaving it first thing in the morning, and the last hour or two before bed.

You’ll start and finish your day with less worry and anxiety, and more presence and happiness. What a gift to those around you!

Block and batch times to check email/social (2x day)

This is really an extension of the above. Batching your check-ins to email, text, Facebook and other apps will save you loads of time – it’s so much more efficient to do it in batches instead of dribs and drabs throughout the day.

Doing this will also keep you more present to the people and tasks around you throughout the day. Again – a gift to not just yourself, but those around you.

Reflect every single day on something you’re grateful for (even if it’s just your coffee!)

There is so much written on gratitude and the great effects on your life, relationships and health. I won’t bore you with more. Suffice to say, take a moment and reflect, every day, on something that’s great. Every day above ground is a good day!

Spend most of your time with people who make you feel good

This one isn’t always easy. A bit like cleaning toilets, there are some people we just have to share part of our day with! BUT, you can develop some more consciousness around how and with whom you spend your time.

Most of us feel somewhat squeezed with our time, and could do with a ‘review’ of how we divide that time. Think of those who bring you joy and try to connect more with them, and a little less with those who don’t.

Get 8 hours of sleep every night

There is a small proportion of the population that can get by on less – famous examples include Winston Churchill, Kevin Rudd, Richard Branson and Angela Merkel. For most of us, around eight hours’ sleep per night is ideal for good health.

The most common culprit for less sleep is tech – watching, playing, communicating, or browsing. Do yourself a favour and switch off from the tech an hour or two earlier and get enough sleep.

Long term sleep deprivation has terrible health effects, mostly related to the stress response this creates.

Spend active time outside for at least 30 minutes every single day

A double benefit, here – exercise and time in nature. We are blessed with nature in Canberra – beautiful flora and wildlife – on or near our doorstep.

Time outside for a simple walk, run or bike ride is a great re-set both mentally and physically. It’s also an excellent way to connect with a close friend, partner or family member. Again, start with a small promise to yourself – 10 or 15 minutes – and build from there.

Speaking of looking after yourself, make sure you get in for your adjustment before Christmas and schedule your first one for the New Year.

We are booking up fast, so reserve your time. Having a spine and nervous system working well helps you to function and feel better.

Looking forward to sharing a wonderful (better!) 2022 with you next year!

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