We’re talking tweaks to our daily routines, habits and even how we talk to ourselves, to help us navigate the next phase of this choppy chapter.

We asked some of the wisest wellbeing experts we’ve talked to this year to share their personal ‘self-care gifts’. You never know, there could be something in there for all of us…

The gift of staying connected

John-Paul Davies, therapist and Counselling Directory member

“The global pandemic can shake our sense of safety needed to really live this life, rather than just survive it. My best self-care gift is therefore to make sure I’m still thinking, feeling and acting in ways that build connection and trust in myself and the people and world around me. This means me keeping in a ‘calm and alive’, or balanced state as much as possible, often by just leaning into the thoughts, feelings, behaviours and relationships that encourage it.

“I know my wellbeing depends on the levels of trust and connection I feel, and that if I’m intentional about maintaining them, I’ll be doing what I can make this year the best it can be.”

The gift of asking what we need

Suzy Reading, psychologist and author of And Breathe

“The self-care gift I’d love is to invite my loved ones to encourage me in honouring my needs. It would be the greatest kindness for my family to plant some seeds with me – just the simple prompt of, ‘What might you need today?’ and support or space in taking that nourishing action. It can be so hard to give ourselves permission, a little gentle coaxing is sometimes needed. Time to have a bath, locking the door and feeling complete dispensation to let the world wait. The opportunity to go for a solo walk, or with some kind companionship.

“After such an extended chapter of uncertainty and constraints, the fatigue is deep. We’re also acutely aware that this has been a challenging chapter for everyone and it can be difficult to turn our attention inwards, offering ourselves the tenderness we need. This gift of asking someone what they need can make all the difference and it’s one that we can lovingly reciprocate, encouraging open dialogue around our thoughts, feelings and needs.”

The gift of patience

Jenny Stallard, coach and founder of Freelance Feels

“My gift is patience. Like many of us, I often expect things to be perfect straight away, for things to slot into place or new plans to take hold. I would love to be more patient, accepting some things will take more time than the deadlines I set for myself! I also hope patience would give me more of a sense of calm and consideration on some of my plans and decisions.”

The gift of saying no

Sally Baker, senior therapist

“Women often find it more difficult to say ‘no’ to the random requests other people demand of them. Socially, girls and young women are frequently praised for being compliant and helpful. The ability to choose to authentically say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when asked to do things by others can be the best gift you can give to yourself, and practising saying ‘no’ can be a revolutionary act that might take some practice.

“Whenever you are asked to do something you’re not sure about, check in with yourself first. Instead of ignoring how busy, tired or overwhelmed you are feeling and saying a knee-jerk ‘yes’, take a breath and pause. Ask yourself, ‘What’s my hunch about this?’ Hunches come from your intuition, and your intuition always has your higher good in mind. If your hunch says ‘no’ then use the stuck record technique to make sure you don’t get pressured to do things you don’t want to do.

“This technique uses a similar short phrase that you say repeatedly each time you’re asked to do something your gut says you don’t want to do. Use your own words but something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I wish I could but I just can’t’. With this approach, you don’t explain or expand upon your chosen short phrase, so that eventually, your ’no’ response will be acknowledged.”

The gift of a nourishing start

Dr Sunni Patel, founder of health coaching and food education platform Dish Dash Deets

“I would like to stop feeling the need to reach for the phone in the mornings and practise some bed meditation before a sun salutation to start my day. This will help me to ground and focus, help set up my body-clock and reduce any heightened cortisol effects and anxiety that is naturally occurring as soon as we wake up.

“I tend to feel that by starting work as soon as I wake up, I am being productive – but what that actually does is add stress early on in the day. By swapping the phone for self-care practice, I know I will be able to handle situations easily throughout the day and also provide the mental clarity, self-gratification and sense of wellbeing with stillness that I require in 2022 to bring the best for my clients, my business and events, as well as for myself and loved ones.”