Person practises yoga next to rooftop pool

The MO guide to self-care

When it comes to wellbeing and mental health, even small steps and changes can help to clear your mind and boost your mood. We asked four industry insiders for their tips on self-care, from morning rituals and meditation to dealing with stress. Their number one pointer? Make self-care part of your everyday routine. “There’s so much wellness advice out there, it can feel overwhelming,” says Jeremy McCarthy, Mandarin Oriental’s Group Director of Spa and Wellness. “We’re supposed to exercise, meditate, walk, stretch, diet, socialise… The list goes on and on. The important thing, I think, is not to feel pressured to do it all; it’s more about creating opportunities in your week to do things you find restorative and energising.”

Breakfast table on penthouse terrace suite, Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona

Start the day right

“When we wake, our unconscious mind is very open to suggestions, whether positive or negative”, says therapist and behavioural change coach Andrew Johnson, who offers consultations at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London. He advocates starting the day with positive, present-tense affirmations – for example, try repeating ‘I am relaxed’ rather than ‘I am going to be relaxed’. “It doesn't matter if that’s true in the moment,” he says. “What matters is that you want it to be true.” For Andrea Lomas-Gong, MO’s Head of Group Spa Operations, mornings start tech-free. “There’s no checking emails or texts for me first thing – I use an alarm clock to wake up – to avoid temptation! I don’t look at my phone until I’m on my way to work, and have done my workout and meditation, and eaten breakfast.”

Beach deck with views of ocean at Mandarin Oriental, Sanya

Find stillness

If exercise can be a powerful mood-booster, it’s also important for the body and mind to be still. “The nature of our modern lifestyle is that our bodies are too sedentary, but our minds are too active,” says Jeremy McCarthy. “Before mobile technology, there was a lot of time in our day when we couldn’t do anything other than think and reflect. Today, every moment of downtime tends to be filled with digital activity or streaming content. Our minds need a chance to slow down and process all of the input, so I try to appreciate moments in my day when I can just sit and think for a few minutes.”

People ride horse in Hyde Park, London

Reconnect with nature

Spending time in the great outdoors can be transformative, whether you’re squirrel-spotting in an urban park, gardening, or hiking up a mountain. “I think in general, we all benefit from being in nature,” says Jeremy McCarthy. “I try to find activities for myself and my children where we’re completely immersed in nature, and don’t even think about looking at a screen. I’m a real beach-lover, and surfing’s a great example.” Andrea Lomas-Gong, meanwhile, finds moments of escapism even in the city. “I like to do my own little forest bathing in the parks. I adore Hyde Park, Central Park, and the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.”

Person practises yoga at sunset

Make time for meditation

Meditating should be part of your daily routine, says Neelam Khatri, Spa Wellness Manager at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. “In the same way that you take a bath or brush your teeth every day, take half an hour out for yoga and meditation – it’s like inner cleansing.” Getting started doesn’t have to feel daunting, according to Andrew Johnson. “It can be as simple as noticing your feet on the floor, closing your eyes and bringing your awareness to the breath. With a little practice you can notice the stillness within you, and bring it back to the working day. Most importantly, let go of any assumptions that you need to ‘try’; you need to let go, to access the best inner state.”

Selection of essential oils

Travel smart

Self-care can take a back seat when you’re travelling, but it should be a priority. As a first step, try going for a jog once you land, even if it’s a short one. “After a long flight, I go out and run in the park as soon as I can,” says Andrea Lomas-Gong, “It gets the circulation moving, and gives me a vitamin D boost.” She also suggests travelling with an aromatherapy ‘first-aid kit’. Her own always includes three favourite oils from Aromatherapy Associates; Revive, for morning showers, Deep Relax for evening baths, and the frankincense-laced De-Stress Mind, which she uses for meditation.

Penthouse suite bedroom at Mandarin Oriental, Lago di Como

Make sleep a priority

“A good night’s sleep is essential for mental health and general wellbeing,” says Andrew Johnson. “Avoid the news after 5pm, avoid caffeine after lunchtime, do your best to set a night-time routine at the same time, make your bedroom as dark as possible, and don’t have mobile devices next to your bed.” Andrea Lomas-Gong (who puts her phone away by 9pm) advocates a candlelit bath and lavender tea, followed by simple stretches and a quick head massage. “I hold a lot of tension in my scalp, as most of us do.” If you struggle to drop off, or wake in the night, she recommends the 4-7-8 breath: “breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for seven, then slowly exhale for eight. It’s a fabulous way to help clear the mind.” Her final tip? Jot down your feelings and thoughts before you go to sleep, “The key is not to look at it before you go to bed,” she says, “Simply write, then close the journal.”

The spa tea lounge at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum

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