If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you’re certainly not alone. Data from the 2023 Kalmfulness Index revealed that nearly half of UK adults (46%) feel stressed and unable to cope, with 52% feeling close to burning out.

In a report on the research, psychologist and psychotherapist, Dr Charlotte Armitage said, “Engaging in a self-care routine is an important part of maintaining good mental health. Routine is the bedrock of healthy psychological functioning and ensuring that we’re making our own needs a priority is essential for mental health[…].”

While it can sometimes feel difficult to prioritise our health and wellbeing, doing so is an important first step in alleviating stress, becoming happier, and taking back control of our lives. For many, it can be natural to prioritise others, and you may even feel selfish putting your own needs first, leaving you little time and energy for yourself.

If this sounds familiar, the good news is that, while shifting the focus onto ourselves may take some boundary setting and inner reprogramming, it’s a journey that can be profoundly fulfilling. The improved wellbeing that can come from prioritising self-care may lead to better relationships, increased self-esteem, and boosted productivity.

With that said, we’ve pulled together a list of six key things you can start doing today to look after your health and happiness.

1. Have open and honest conversations

Have open and honest conversations

We live in a fast-paced society where many face-to-face conversations have been replaced by fleeting texts, emails, social media DMs, voice notes, and video calls. These methods can be quick and convenient (especially at work or when maintaining long-distance relationships), but they can also make it difficult for people to approach sensitive or serious topics with one another.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for people to bottle things up and to try to deal with problems by themselves; regardless of the impact on their health and wellbeing.

Therefore, while it can be awkward, it’s important to work on becoming more open and honest with others about your needs and boundaries. This might mean saying no to unnecessary work meetings, telling your family that you need more time and space for yourself, or just being transparent about how you’re really feeling when someone asks how you are.

If you find it difficult to have open conversations via text or email, then – if possible – try to organise phone calls or face-to-face meetings. It’s also worth having these conversations somewhere you can speak openly while being clear that you need time to get things off your chest. This way, you’ll know that the person doesn’t have to rush off and has time to listen, which will hopefully relieve some pressure.

Speaking up about your needs and concerns is an important step in advocating for yourself at work and in life generally. It can allow you to feel seen and heard, give you greater control over your destiny, and help you build confidence. Plus, if you don’t use your voice, how will people know what you need?

2. Get familiar with the different types of rest our bodies need

Get familiar with the different types of rest our bodies need

It’s easy to assume that rest equals sleep. But human beings are complicated and, according to author and TedX speaker Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, we may need other types of recuperation to feel like the best versions of ourselves. For example, even if we get a good night’s sleep and feel physically rested, we may still feel mentally or socially tired.

Signs that you may need mental rest could include feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. In this case – in addition to getting a good night’s sleep – things like taking a few quiet moments, offloading thoughts into a journal, going for a peaceful walk, or taking some deep breaths may help you rest and recharge.

It’s also possible to feel socially exhausted, regardless of the quality of your sleep. For instance, you may find yourself having little energy to generate small talk because you’ve been spending a lot of time around others. Or you may feel drained after spending time with particular individuals – perhaps due to unhealthy relationship dynamics.

In these situations, you might need to allow yourself space from toxic relationships, more time with people that boost your energy and make you feel good, and/or more time alone. How you manage your social rest may largely depend on whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert.

To find out more about the different types of rest, including emotional and creative rest, you might want to read our article on the 7 types of rest you need to be your most productive self.

3. Explore ways to connect with nature

Explore ways to connect with nature

It’s well-documented that spending time in nature can benefit our mental and physical wellbeing – such as reducing stress and boosting immunity. But many of us find it challenging to make this a priority.

Therefore, it can help to explore ways to make connecting with nature a habit. This could include enjoying your morning coffee while you watch the sunrise, treating yourself to some fresh-cut flowers when you do your food shop, or taking your run outside rather than doing it on the treadmill.

When we’re feeling overwhelmed by technology or stuck in unhelpful thought loops, connecting with nature can help us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. This can give us grounding and reassurance, and offer us fresh perspectives on situations.

For more ideas on making the most of our natural world, why not check out our article; 32 ways to connect with nature and feel inspired.

4. Check in with yourself

Check in with yourself

When we’re busy looking after others, completing to-do lists, and responding to emails and text messages, it can be easy to deprioritise ourselves. When this happens, we may stop listening to our body’s mental and physical cues, and fall out of sync with our needs.

Perhaps you’re familiar with being so rushed off your feet that you don’t realise you’re hungry, masking your tiredness by having yet another coffee, or not allowing yourself sufficient time to grieve after a loss. Often, this is because it’s only when we proactively stop and check in with ourselves that we’re able to register how we’re feeling and more carefully assess our needs.

If this sounds like you, why not consider creating self-checkpoints throughout your day where you meet with yourself (without distractions) and see how you’re doing – in the same way you might do with a friend? To start with, your checkpoints could be for a few minutes first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, and in the evening.

You could even keep a mood journal – noting down the first thoughts and feelings that come to you during check-ins, and what may be triggering them. If you decide to do this, try to notice any patterns that appear. For example, if you wake up in a good mood and are often feeling miserable by the evening, perhaps there are reoccurring triggers you need to work on addressing.

5. Aim to be active every day – but start small

Aim to be active every day – but start small

We all know that exercise is good for us but, for many, it’s one of the most daunting aspects of prioritising our health and wellbeing – and one of the first to go when we feel short on time.

Interestingly, this can often be because we don’t put enough importance on exercise in the first place, yet commit to doing too much, making it unsustainable. For example, committing to going for a run three times a week when you’re new to running can seem like a good idea, but may feel like an uphill battle (both in terms of planning and fitness) – and end up leaving you sore and overwhelmed.

Therefore, if you want to start being more active, it can help to start small. The first step might be to become more protective of your time and to learn to treat exercise the same way you would honour a commitment to a work deadline or a coffee date with a friend. That way, it’ll be much more difficult to nudge it out of your schedule on days you’re feeling busy.

Rather than putting together an intense fitness schedule, it can also be useful to explore creative ways to work exercise into your existing routine to make it more sustainable. This might include walking or cycling to work or the supermarket rather than driving, getting off the bus a stop or two early, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or doing more gardening.

Though small, these things can gradually improve your fitness, allowing you to make smoother transitions into other fitness-related activities.

For more ideas on how to introduce exercise into your routine, why not check out the fitness section of our website? We also run a range of fitness classes over on Rest Less Events – there’s everything from yoga and Pilates to belly dancing and aerobic fitness.

6. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning

drink a glass of water first thing in the morning

As we know, another key component of looking after our health and wellbeing is eating a healthy diet. However, this can often feel like a lot to tackle all at once, especially when we’re shackled to other commitments.

So, a simple way to start improving your nutrition is to begin by drinking more water – and, specifically, by drinking a glass first thing in the morning.

Hydration can be tricky to keep on top of. But starting the day with a glass of water can be a good way to take a moment for yourself and set the tone for the rest of the day. Plus, it can help to rehydrate your body after a night without water, boost mental performance, and jumpstart your metabolism.

It’s also easy to mistake thirst for hunger. So when we’re properly hydrated, we may feel less hungry, which can reduce our calorie intake and give us more time to make healthier food choices.

If you struggle with drinking water, our article 9 healthy and hydrating alternatives to water, may offer some useful ideas.

Final thoughts…

With research showing that over half of adults are close to burning out, it’s worth considering whether there’s more you could be doing to meet your own needs. It’s important to remember that prioritising your health and wellbeing isn’t selfish – it’s essential for maximising your quality of life.

Showing others that you prioritise and care for yourself can also give them a sense of reassurance about doing the same, and promote a wider and more positive self-care culture. Plus, when we feel like the best version of ourselves, chances are, we’ll be more productive, have stronger relationships, and be better equipped to help those around us.

As children’s author Nerissa Marie said, “Taking care of yourself first is the greatest gift you can bring to this world. When you learn to love yourself, it’s like turning a light on.”

For more self-care content, you may want to read our articles; 16 ways to improve your confidence and self-esteem and 8 ways to empower yourself every day.

Do you prioritise your health and wellbeing? Do you plan to use any of the tips in this article? Or perhaps you have some suggestions of your own you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.