Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you likely know a bit about ‘self-care’. You’ve probably seen many social media posts about it, infographics with tips or ideas of what to do, and you may even recognise a need for it. But we’re getting snippets of information, and without some digging around the topic, you may not recognise the importance of it for good wellbeing and when it comes to being able to take care of others. So to save you the time, here’s the down-low on self-care!
What is self-care?
It’s taking care of yourself! Duh. But you knew that. Self-care is not actually synonymous with self-indulgence or the same as treating yourself after a long day though, like you may have thought. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day.
So it’s actually closer-related to self-discipline, doing the stuff we know we are supposed to do to live a healthy lifestyle, but often we really don’t want to do. Listening to our needs and tending to them in the best ways we can, which sadly aren’t usually the easiest ways. But your weekly bath and face mask, or night of gaming still counts, and might make it that bit more appealing to you!
There’s a strong chance that’s not what you wanted to hear (or read) but, here’s why it’s important:
It helps us to cope with daily life, the stress, the demands we face and manage our responsibilities effectively.
It promotes positive health and wellbeing, preventing illness and mental ill-health.
It helps us to develop resilience, build confidence, and to feel good in ourselves. To feel positive about our lives.
And it’s not just about the things we do ourselves, it also refers to seeking medical attention when we are poorly or injured. Speaking to mental health professionals when our mood is interfering with our day-to-day life (or even before), or when we need help navigating difficult situations like bereavement or divorce. Asking for help is self-care, whether it’s professional, or from your friends and family when life feels a bit chaotic!
On top of helping yourself to feel better and improve your wellbeing, self-care is important when we’re taking care of or supporting others. Caring for others can deplete our resources, it can be draining and emotionally exhausting, especially when we can’t fix their problems (which is often the case). Self-care helps replenish our own resources, so that we can offer our support without deteriorating our own wellbeing in the attempt.
Some ideas to amp up your self-care routine:
Get an early night!
Eat a proper breakfast
Go for a walk in the park
Call a friend to ask how they are
Sit with challenging feelings
Now, you might be thinking ‘these just sound like wellbeing tips’ - and you’d be right. But this is what self care is about. It’s doing the healthy stuff, even when you really don’t want to. It’s going to bed early instead of scrolling through instagram for two more hours. It’s making time to have breakfast before a busy day despite missing those extra 10 minutes in bed. And we know you know this.
But if these things aren’t an issue for you, we don’t need to panic! If you sleep well and feel good during the day, you don’t need to change your routine. If you scran a piece of toast on your morning commute and that keeps you going, stick with it. If you’re already at the gym, you don’t need to add in yoga, swimming and walking the school run. While self-care is important, and can be about changes, we don’t need to upheave our steady routines if they are already working for us.
Those wellbeing tips that are everywhere, funnily enough, actually work. But we still need to adapt them to our own lifestyles, our individual needs and actually enjoy them because it makes them far easier to implement and stick to than doing it because you saw Holly Willoughby talking about it on This Morning!
Think about what you can do to improve your self-care routine. Could you be adding more fresh foods or home cooking to your diet? Are you moving your body enough each day? Would it be beneficial to ask for some help with your workload or the household chores? Are you allowing yourself to feel the tough feelings that are making you blue?
Take some time to reflect, to look at your lifestyle and how you might amp up your self-care routine. When we’re taking care of ourselves, we can ensure we’re in the best possible place for us. Which then means, we can offer the best possible support for others, our family members, children, and friends.
Steady self-care: if after reflecting you think there’s room for improvement, try making steady changes that are more manageable than changing everything at once or setting expectations too high. Part of self-care is being compassionate with yourself too, so be patient, try different ways to change things up and be kind to yourself when you can’t be bothered in a week's time or just need a rest or require a piece of cake instead of that smoothie. Taking care of ourselves won’t fix all our problems or challenges, but will equip us with the ability to navigate and cope well with them.