The importance of self-care: how to look after your body and mind

The importance of self-care: how to look after your body and mind

There’s a lot of advice out there, right? The endless feeds which incorporate the body beautiful for the top fitness brands throughout our social media platforms. There to show you what you could achieve if you “really put your mind to it”. So how do you go about looking after your body and your mind?

What if your mind can’t be simply “put to it”? If your mind is anxious about your child starting school? What if every time you look in the mirror you see someone ugly staring back at you? If your mind keeps telling you that you can’t? that you’re worthless, that there’s no point to any of it.

Putting your mind to it won’t work

This will simply set us up to fail before we have even started. This is the reason behind a lot of inactivity today.

Standing in front of your mirror, staring back at you may be excess weight, wrinkles, stretch marks, a C-section scar, poor posture, and bad teeth or maybe you have a physical disability. Any of these physical attributes can bring negative thoughts into your mind, especially if you’re comparing yourself to models we see online and in the media. Sadly a lot of people both young and old are experiencing poor mental as well as physical health, but there are ways and means for you to take care of yourself.

Wanting to change

The cycle of change from where you are at the moment has to be at the contemplation stage. For anyone not quite here and still the pre-contemplation stage unfortunately this won’t help. You need to be ready to begin to take steps of self-care.

Step 1 – Professional help


If you are struggling mentally, this could be something such as stress at home. The children have been playing up and you’ve found little to no time to yourself. Perhaps your finances are low and you’re worried about how to pay your bills. You may feel down and depressed and have been for some time. No matter what you’re feeling right now; it’s a good idea to get the right help and assistance.

Speaking to your GP is a good place to start. It’s also worth reading the NHS guidelines on certain mental health conditions to help you to understand your own mind better. Your GP will be able to point you in the right direction dependent on your own personal circumstances.


A fitness professional such as our gym instructors across all LLeisure sites, or personal trainer is a great place to start if you are looking for advice on how to look after your body. From free Tanita readings for members to nutritional advice and full exercise support; they can really help give you the motivation you need.

Mixing your plan up with different activities will help keep things fresh and motivated. The hormones released after exercise should also go some way into helping you feel good about yourself. Something as small as a 15 minute lunch-break walk, to an hour’s fitness class, can all help.

Step 2 – Motivation


Motivation is all in the mind and if your head isn’t in the game, the body won’t follow. Look out the window, “it’s too cold”, “it’s too hot”, “oh I’m not going it’s raining”, “I didn’t sleep well last night”. The excuses can go on and on; usually it because your head isn’t in the right place.

The trick to remember is that it’s okay to miss a day. It’s okay to not want to train because this morning you spent 40 minutes scrubbing cat sick of the bathroom rug and a further 20 minutes answering questions about where babies come from. All you want to do now is sit and have a coffee instead of meeting Julie down the pool for your weekly swim.

You’re letting no-one down. You’ll go next time. Your head has to be in the game for the body to follow you. Patience and perseverance is key here. Make a note in your diary to do an extra 2 lengths next week.


Get yourself in front of the mirror, take out your camera. Take a photo on day 1. Put it somewhere dark and hidden for a good few months. Eat a bit better, train a bit and take another picture; preferably wearing the same clothes. Put them side by side and stop, look, take it all in.

That person looking back at you can do this. They’re stronger than they were before, fitter, healthier and hopefully happier too. They may have missed a few sessions, perhaps had an injury. But they got back up and tried again. Even if you’re not at that target weight yet, or hit that 5k personal best at park run at the weekend, you’re a healthier version of you a few months ago. Think about it, bottle that emotion and keep it close.

Try repeating this exercise every 3-4 months, maybe put together a bigger picture after 12 months. Keep going! You’ve got this!

Step 3 – Relapse


My mental health problem is manageable. I’ve suffered with depression since 2011 and thankfully I sought professional help. I now function at about 80% most days instead of my old 3% lock-myself-in-my-bedroom-all-day-and-sleep depression. I know that something, anything, one small life event such as the loss of a job, a death of a family member or my own health failing me could spark a relapse.

Relapse is normal. We are human. Just as we think we are getting better, more stable, things on the up – life can come back up and remind us that we’re not as strong as we thought.

And that’s ok

Revert back to stage 1

The process should be a speedier this time. Muscle memory will help with the physical side of things, whilst your doctor should be able to help with the referral and treatment plan, as well as your previously learnt self-help tactics.


One of the biggest relapse reasons is injury. You’ve trained for about 3 months and now you have torn your calf, have a knee problem or maybe tennis elbow??!

Ah, I can’t play football anymore. So you don’t do anything. Football is the only exercise you do and nothing else appeals, therefore you won’t be able to do any exercise with a bad knee anyway.

Well maybe you can.

We have people on hand at all sites to help with this. From injury to disabilities and long term health conditions; we have staff on hand to help – it’s all part of your membership at no extra cost. A knee injury may not allow you to play football, but we can get you in the gym working upper body and providing you with the tools to rehabilitate your legs with gentle exercises to speed up the recovery process, which should see you playing football again much quicker!

Step 4 – Rest


Take a time out. Try and have a holiday booked somewhere with people you love. Family, friends or even a short break alone can give you the time you need to recharge your own batteries. Everyday life can be stressful. Maybe you have been getting up at 5am, running at 5:30am-6:30am, travelling to work in rush hour traffic,  home for 6pm, cook and eat dinner, get the kids to bed, speak to your partner for 5mins before they fall asleep and then you’re in bed at 11pm to do it all again tomorrow *and breathe*.

Day in – day out.

This can take a toll on your own mind. You lose reason, you may even forget for a moment why you have started to include exercise in your life.  It’s really important therefore to stop doing it for a short time. Let your mind recover and spend time doing other things you enjoy. Especially taking time to enjoy yourself in the company of the people you love.


Every time you exercise you cause damage to your body. So why do we do it? The small tears in our muscles break it down and cause minute damage. We improve our overall strength more when we’re not exercising, it’s the time we take to eat, sleep and rest where our bodies repair themselves and get stronger for our next workout.

If you are at the stage you are exercising 3-4 times a week 52 weeks a year, this may not have allowed your body sufficient time to recover in between workouts. This may be leaving you open to overuse injuries, which could become long term.

Just like your mind, the body needs a time out too. Keep eating the right foods, drink enough water and get enough sleep during your breaks from exercise. Don’t worry you won’t lose progress, only give your body the much needed and deserved time to relax that it needs, ready to hit it hard on your return.

Remember that one will not work without the others full co-operation.

How you look is not more important than how you feel – and vice versa.

To work well both have to be on board with your plans and working together in perfect harmony to be 100% all of the time. Realistically this won’t always happen; and that’s okay. We’re all in this together, and our teams at the leisure centres can be a good place to start for all things physical. The mental benefits will follow.

If you’re interested in joining us at Kimberley Leisure Centre Please get in touch or call in and we can talk to you about how our fitness support can help you on your way.

Heather, Kimberley Leisure Centre

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