I did an internet search for ‘wellbeing at home’ this morning, and I was disappointed to see where the main focus lay: I had not realised before the lockdown, almost all the results would be for ‘wellbeing at work’ or ‘student wellbeing’ which are business and government led initiatives to tick boxes around increasingly manifest mental issues. Thank goodness involved bodies are working hard to make a difference in these areas.

It struck me that although many adults would say that the most important area of their lives to get right is their home life, almost all the emphasis lies in the workplace. The aphorism ‘Charity begins at home’ isn’t an excuse not to give to the needy, or share our bounty: it is meant as a failsafe for those who would give away all, and leave themselves and their families in need, so adding to society’s burden. This goes with the grain of human nature – so for most people it is an easy trap to fall into.

If we take this approach to wellbeing there should be a clear focus to look after ourselves first, and then those nearest and dearest to us. But for many of us (and I obviously speak as a woman, though I do not intend to exclude men in this) this path goes against our natural grain, as for the main part we look to care for our nearest and dearest, and even our wider circle, before we give time and energy to our own needs.

It is essential for each one of us to tend our own needs, like a passenger on an aircraft applying their own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs – yet many of us find it difficult to give ourselves the thought, time and energy which self-care demands. Regular ’scans’ of our physical and mental state may highlight areas for focus, helping us clean out the ‘junk’ from our lives which in turns frees up ‘RAM’ for positive action. 

When did you last think about the state of your mental and physical body in an holistic way? That is to say – not by focussing on one aspect at a time, such as wanting to lose weight; or wanting to be happier; or wanting to give up smoking; or wanting to drink less alcohol; or wanting to be a better parent etc. but to think about oneself as a ‘whole package’ from a wellness perspective. The wellness of your whole life impacts the lives of those you care for, which makes caring for yourself the first step in caring for those around you.

It is easy to put others first, and to end up running on empty – but this is a wrong way of being, and it takes its toll. Take the initiative and make changes in your day-to-day life which work toward a broad wellbeing plan tailored for you. Write down how you feel both mentally and physically, to help you focus on areas for change. The personal wellbeing work you do, does not have to be dramatic and ‘all at once’ (though for some people this might be the perfect approach) you may choose to change your patterns of behaviour incrementally.

Don’t set yourself insurmountable barriers which give you an excuse to give up. If you have tried and failed to give up smoking for years; don’t make that the first thing you choose to change, then give your whole plan up because you don’t succeed with one aspect. 

Write down all the things you need to work on, large and small, then choose easy and difficult areas of work on in equal measure. This way you get the boost of achievement mixed with the satisfaction of making important changes for yourself. Though I believe that home is the place to start, your working life will naturally be part of your wellbeing plan, and needs to be included if your approach is to be truly holistic.

I write this because I know this is where I am currently, I need to put my own house in order and work out an holistic wellbeing plan for myself. My life patterns have changed dramatically in recent months and I need to feel grounded and well again if I am to flourish. I know this will require focus, I know I need to look to my self in order to improve my wellbeing and energy levels. It is easy to look ahead and say “Things will settle down soon. I’ll have more time soon.” But now is the time for action because as Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda says: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift – that is why it is called the present.” So take your present and turn it into a gift for yourself, and I will try to do the same.

Victoria Burton-Davey is a professional artist and wellbeing advocate