What is self-care?
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others. It is fundamental to our growth and psychological wellbeing and without it we really do not live to our maximum (PsychCentral, 2018).
What isn’t self-care?
Knowing what self-care is not might be even more important. It is not something that we force ourselves to do, or something we don’t enjoy doing. Self-care is something that refuels us, rather than takes from us. So it makes us feel better within ourselves.
Self-care isn’t a selfish act either. It is not only about considering our needs; it is rather about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, which leads to subsequently being able to take care of others as well. Therefore, if I do not take enough care of myself, I won’t be in the place to give to others.
In a few words, self-care is the key to living a balanced life
Where do you start? Well, there are three golden rules:
Stick to the basics. Over time you will find your own natural rhythm and routine. You will be able to implement more and identify particular forms of self-care that work for you.
Self-care needs to be something you actively plan, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice and you must treat it as such. Perhaps you can add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others in order to increase your commitment, and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care.
What I often emphasise to my clients is that keeping a conscious mind is what counts. In other words if you don’t see something as self-care or don’t do something in order to take care of yourself, it won’t work as such. Be aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels, and what the outcomes are.
Although self-care means different things to different people, there is a basic checklist that can be followed by all of us:
Create a boundaries list of things that you do that distract you from taking care of yourself, examples might include: not checking emails at night, not attending gatherings you don’t like, not answering your phone during lunch and/or dinner.
Promote a nutritious, healthy diet. This takes more time than we think, can you make gradual changes to your diet? If so, what are these?
Get enough sleep. Adults usually need 7-9 hours of sleep each night (The Sleep Foundation.Org, 2019).
In contrast to what many people think, exercise is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health. It increases serotonin levels, leading to improved mood and energy. In line with making achievable goals,, it is important is that you choose a form of exercise that you like!
Follow-up with medical care. It is not unusual to put off checkups or visits to the doctor and to ensure we are in optimum health we need to look after ourselves in all areas.
Use relaxation exercises and/or practice meditation. You can do these exercises at any time of the day.
Spend enough time with your loved ones.
Do at least one relaxing activity every day, whether it’s taking a walk or spending 30 minutes unwinding.
Do at least one pleasurable activity every day; from going for a short walk, to cooking or meeting with friends.
Look for opportunities to have fun in what you’re doing.
“Self-care is not selfish it is the foundation for serving all others” - Heather Petherick