Self Care Week: 14 - 20 November 2016


Self Care Week this year takes place from 14 - 20 November. Self care sounds so obvious but when we live such busy lives, sometimes we can forget to take care of ourselves or let things slide by convincing ourselves that we’ll do them at a later date.

Our lifestyle choices make a difference to our overall health and it is often the small things like sleeping enough, keeping hydrated during the day, eating healthy and exercise that make a difference. Ignoring these little these things can add up over time and cause ill health.

Whatever your working environment, it’s important to do the things which will help keep you well such as taking proper breaks, taking sick leave when you are not well, and checking that your working space is safe and comfortable for you.

At the beginning of this year, a survey was conducted on people’s views regarding cancer risks. Respondents to the survey were advised that up to 90% of cancers are caused by external factors, however, many still seemed unwilling to change their habits despite being told the risks.

 • Just 20% of smokers questioned would quit

• Only half of the population (53%) would be willing to take up regular exercise

• 51% would not lose weight

• 60% would continue to top up their tans by sun-worshipping or using tanning beds

• Less than half (46%) would hit the hay earlier and get a better night’s sleep

• 34% wouldn’t opt for a healthier diet

• 59% of drinkers wouldn’t be willing to drink less

• 14% wouldn’t change a thing

Whether it's because we hate being told what to do, feeling we have to right to choose how we live our lives, or highlighting that story we read on social media about someone who lived healthy their whole life and still got cancer, we all have our reasons and excuses regarding our health.

Just thinking about implementing all the positive changes above in order to live a healthier life doesn't sound much fun either. But there is another study that shows it can be as simple as four lifestyle behaviours.

On the Cancer Research UK website they discuss The EPIC-Norfolk Prospective Population Study from 2008 which examined the behaviour habits of over 20,000 people aged 45 – 79 with no known heart disease or cancer over 11 years. 

The researchers found that people who followed four health behaviours combined had a difference of being up to 14 years younger in chronological age compared to those who had none of those behaviours.

The four lifestyle behaviours won’t come as a surprise:

1. Not smoking

2. Keeping physically active

3. Moderate alcohol intake

4. Eating at least 5 portions of fruit and veg

The people who did none of the above had a higher risk of cancer and heart disease. Also, they were 4 times more likely to die within the 11 year period. So these four simple things could potentially add 14 years to our lives compared to doing none of them.

1. Stop Smoking

Quitting smoking is notoriously difficult. There are physical and psychological aspects to this habit which make stopping very challenging. A recent study found that cold turkey is the best way to quit smoking rather than gradually stopping.

Cancer Research funded research into why people smoke and ways to quit.  These are the key points on what works.

• Avoid having a cigarette within the first few weeks and months of quitting.

• Medication and nicotine replacement therapy like nicotine gum, lozenges and inhalers can help if used properly.

• Stop smoking services which combine practical advice, behavioural support and nicotine replacement therapy.

• Think about when you smoke, if it’s stressed related then go for a walk instead, breathing exercises can help.

• Keep trying!

More information

NHS Smoke Free website

Psychologist Judson Brewer talks about the relationship between mindfulness and addiction and has a simple tactic to beat your next urge. Watch his TED Talk.


2. Keep physically active

Just like brushing your teeth in the morning and having a shower, exercise needs to become a routine activity you do without too much thinking. Tricks that work on habit forming:

• Start small: if you’ve never exercised before, don’t put yourself off by setting a daunting goal.

• Set behavioural cues and chains: try changing into your workout clothes the moment you get home.

• Concentrate on meaningful rewards and immediate goals like how good it feels when you finish your run is more likely to motivate you than choosing a weight loss goal.

• Keep going: don’t give up if you fall off the wagon. The more you try the easier it will get.

• Keep track: tell your friends for encouragement and keep track of your progress in a diary or on an app.

More information

5 Tricks to Help Form New Habits

7 Free Walking and Running Apps

Fitness Apps 2016

3. Moderate alcohol intake

Know the guidelines for alcohol consumption even though there isn’t a safe level.

Men & women: 14 units a week = 6 glasses of 175ml (13%) wine = 6 pints of (4%) lager or ale = 5 pints of (4.5%) cider = 14 glasses of 25ml (40%) spirits

The NHS has tips on cutting down.

• Set a budget on alcohol.

• Tell your friends and family to get their support.

• Cut back one day at a time.

• Reduce the size of your drink and lower the alcohol strength.

• Drink water beforehand and alternate rounds with soft drinks.

• Have drink-free days during the week.

More information

Drink Aware – How to Cut Down

4. Eating at least 5 portions of fruit and veg

• Snack swap: try swapping your chocolate bar for a banana or a fruit you like. Swap crisps for carrot batons and homemade tzatziki or hummus.

• Replacement: use less meat in your Bolognese, chilli and stews and add more vegetables.

• Start eating beans and pulses. Add lentils to your soup and stews.

More information

What counts as 5 A Day

5 A Day tips


Surely we can all manage doing at least one of these things! Of course, none of us know what the future holds but feeling good on a daily basis has an appeal. Our health is one of the few things we do have control over, whilst it may not be easy but looking after yourself now means you are investing in your future. 

If you have any concerns, please consult your doctor before making any big changes to your health.


Here is more information about self care on the Self Care Forum.


Have you seen the resources from our Teacher Wellbeing Twitter Chat?

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