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Take care of yourself

Ready why better self-management also requires us to pay attention to our physical and mental health.
Man stretching in fitness clothing.
© Deakin University
Learning to take care of our physical and mental health is the basic foundation for good self-management.
This means adopting a sensible approach to sleep, exercise and diet, and are usually areas of our life where we can all take small steps to effect change.
However, getting enough sleep, exercising more and eating better are also the resolutions we are most likely to make and break, which can become a vicious cycle.

How can we be healthier?

There are well-known sets of recommendations about what type of sleep, exercise and nutrition our bodies need. For example:
  • Sleep – Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Scrimping on sleep doesn’t just impact your ability to perform, it can also have long-term impacts on your physical and mental health.
  • Exercise – Standard guidelines from organisations like the World Health Organization suggest we need around 150 minutes of moderate exercise (like walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (like running) each week.
  • Nutrition – There are similar guidelines about balanced nutrition.

Developing productive strategies

Developing strategies that effectively motivate and support long-term health and behavioural change has given rise to a vast field of research. Unfortunately, there are no simple answers, but we can point to some strategies that seem to be helpful.
Like other areas of self-management, leading ourselves to better health requires self-awareness and planning.

Make it a habit

This may seem like an unhelpful suggestion for achieving something you are struggling with, but this doesn’t mean ‘just do it’. A habit is something that is done at a regular time and is incorporated into our routine. It is something that we build a set of rituals around.
As Christine Carter explains, there’s a difference between a to-do list task and a habit:
‘Do a 30-minute yoga video twice a week’ isn’t a habit. It’s a to-do item for your task list because there’s no clear trigger, and therefore no clear way to make it a routine for you. If you want to squeeze that twice-weekly yoga into your schedule, a better approach would be to say, ‘I’ll pop in my 30-minute yoga video after dropping the kids off at soccer practice on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons’. (2014)

Develop an implementation plan

This may sound somewhat formal for personal goal-setting, but research shows that breaking down your goals and thinking through possible obstacles or barriers is an effective way of ensuring we follow through on our intentions.
You can try developing a plan to overcome what might be getting in your way by answering these three questions:
  1. When and where does the obstacle occur and what can I do to overcome it?
  2. When and where is an opportunity to prevent the obstacle from occurring in the first place?
  3. When and where is a good opportunity for me to act on my physical and mental health goals and what would I need to do?
In terms of exercise, researchers found using these three questions to help people think through their goals led to them becoming twice as physically active as a similar group who didn’t do this pre-planning.

Your task

Think through a personal change you’d like to make to improve your physical and/or mental health and identify some of the obstacles that may be preventing you from realising your goals.
Using the questions above, what are some strategies you could put in place to overcome these obstacles?
Use the comments to share your goals and strategies to achieve them. Remember to like or reply to any posts that you find helpful or interesting.
© Deakin University
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