Many people flinch when they hear the term self-care. Worse still, some don’t even know about it. Often that’s because no one taught us or because the people who raised us did not know about it themselves. And yet self-care is of the utmost importance when it comes to an adult’s wellbeing.
What is Self-Care?
Self-case is the art of knowing how to take care of ourselves and how to meet our own needs. Self-care simply means being well connected to ourselves. Taking care of ourselves is not selfish – quite the opposite. Self-care allows us to be more engaged in life and help others in more efficient and loving ways.
Self-care can be applied to our body, our physical wellbeing, and our mind, our psychological and emotional wellbeing.
When people hear about self-care they automatically associate it with their physical wellbeing: Am I sleeping enough? Am I eating healthily? Does my food contain enough nutrition? Am I getting enough exercise? Should I drink or smoke less? …
And of course we know when we don’t look after our body as well as we could, feel we should or maybe hoped we would (when we were younger). There is plenty of information about the physical side of self-care out there. Our psychological and emotional health on the other hide is a different matter altogether.
Most of us have never considered that we need to look after that part of ourselves. And even when we realise that emotional and psychological self-care is necessary, we often struggle to know how to.
Generally, it is not something that is widely discussed as the focus is usually on our physical wellbeing. Emotional wellbeing is also not usually considered as something that can be influenced greatly (unless we attach our happiness to external circumstances like winning the lottery, marrying Mr or Mrs Right, going on holiday, working in our dream job etc.)
As children we learn by watching and imitating our parents and if our parents did not know how to care for themselves then this is not something we would have been able to pick up and practise. There is no need to place blame on anyone else or ourselves. We just use this awareness as a place of honest realisation and acceptance that allows us to learn a new skills that will greatly enhance our state of mind and therefore overall wellbeing.
Looking after our psychological and emotional wellbeing includes (but is not limited to) the following:
- paying attention to ourselves
- being aware of what is going on for us (awareness of our own feelings, thoughts and behaviours)
- being honest about our strengths and perceived weaknesses
- taking responsibility for ourselves
- identifying our needs and meeting them
- creating a life that’s meaningful to us
- developing self-compassion
- allowing ourselves to take risks
- creating opportunities for personal exploration and growth
- setting and maintaining boundaries
- engaging in healthy and fulfilling relationships
- living by our own values
These are some examples of how someone with great self-care would live their life. What about you? Which one area do you want to pick for self-evaluation? Which one do you want to add to your life and practice first?
Sounds like hard work. Why should I bother?
Many of us just love to help or care for others, often at the expense of ourselves. We might feel selfish for doing anything for ourselves. Or we might think that if we used up energy for ourselves that we would have less to give to others and giving is what it’s all about for us. Maybe we are unconsciously giving to get …
Sometimes we also secretly wish that someone else would look after us. Or we worry that if we started looking after ourselves, others would stop doing so or caring for us altogether.
All these thinking patterns create difficult emotions for us. We might see them as reasons for not engaging in healthy self-care. But at one point we must ask ourselves if this is working out best for us and others.
A lack of self-care will, inevitably at one point or another, lead to the following
- poor states of mind resulting in depression, anxiety, stress, anger
- physical and emotional exhaustion
- difficult, unhealthy or abusive relationships
- patterns of codependency
- feeling used, victimised, neglected or disrespected
- feeling at the mercy of others and feeling disempowered
Ok then. You have a point. But how?
First of all ask yourself the following question:
‘Where am I on my list of priorities?’
Be very honest with yourself. How many people or things do you put before yourself? Right now from your current state of mind, it might feel to you like that’s necessary and that you have no choice. Rigid thinking patterns keep us from seeing things with clarity. Thinking gets in the way of us doing what we deep down know is right for us. Practice noticing the difference between intuitive knowing and the chaos thinking creates. That in itself is a massive step towards excellent self-care!
Next ask yourself this:
‘In which ways could I look after myself better?’
There are millions of different ways and you will have to explore what’s best for you. Be experimental and open-minded but most of all have fun with it. This is not the time to take things too seriously or to berate yourself for not having done it earlier in your life. You’re doing it now and that’s perfect.
Here are some ideas but feel free to make up your own and let us know so we can add it to this list:
- Check in with yourself a few times during the day and identify how you are feeling. Then name the feelings. Connect with yourself.
- Spend time alone without distractions (i.e. tv, phone, housework, etc.). Learn to just be there for yourself.
- Praise yourself not just for the for the things you do or handle well but also for all the ways in which you are wonderful.
- Notice when you become self-critical and practice self-compassion instead. Compassion always leads to better outcomes than harshness.
- Say no when you want to say no.
- Give yourself time off from impressing or pleasing others.
- Be honest with yourself.
- Explore new activities and hobbies.
- Connect with people.
- Have some fun!
- Allow yourself to take risks.
- Be open to new opportunities.
- Find ways to relax yourself.
I hope that I’ve given you some pointers that will allow you to explore how well you engage with self-care. Always remember that self-care is not an option but a necessity for a healthy and happy life.