Self-care is more than just having a nice bubble bath and using good products on your skin (though that’s a good start!). If you look it up in a dictionary it might say something along the lines of taking care of yourself without medical or professional input.
I think most people understand the importance of self-care but what do we actually mean by it and how do we practice it?
In my eyes self-care is about nourishing ourselves in a holistic way – from eating healthily to looking after our mental well-being. It’s also worth noting there is a difference between self-comfort and self-care.
Self-care may feel indulgent….
It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary. Brené Brown
Self-comfort is behaviour or habits that often soothe us in the short term but are not great in the long run. Examples might include eating a bowl of ice cream when we are feeling miserable, binge watching TV to numb stress etc.
Self-care has a more long term effect. It’s something that will nourish us and be good for us in the long run. For example, this might include going for a walk, eating healthily, spending time with positive people and getting proper rest.
Let’s take a look at a few different aspects of self-care
Eating healthy, nutritious food is one way to value our bodies. This habit helps to reduce and prevent the incidence of illness and disease. It also helps to maintain our energy level and mood. A car needs fuel to run and so do we. But it’s no good putting petrol in a diesel car! Have you noticed how you feel after eating certain types of food? One way to work out which food suits you best (or the opposite, which food types make you feel sluggish) is to keep a food and mood diary. This can help you to identify patterns or problem foods.
We also need to ensure we get plenty of rest and good quality sleep. If you are constantly working late and getting up early your body will take steps to let you know that that’s not acceptable, often by becoming ill or showing physical symptoms.
Make time for your well-being or be forced to make time for your illness
Believing in ourselves and trusting that we can do something, that we can handle whatever life throws at us is important. When we practice self-care we believe that we are worth investing in our self; both in terms of time and money. We take the time to look after our self by prioritising ‘me time’ – whether that’s a walk, going to the gym, visiting a friend, pursuing a hobby. We’re also willing to spend money on our self – whether that’s treating our self to a massage or investing in our personal development by enrolling on a course or working with a coach.
Self-care also includes talking to yourself in an appropriate manner. How often do you notice that niggling little voice inside your head that says ‘don’t be daft, you can’t do that’ or ‘you’re too old / fat / unfit to do xyz’. That little voice needs bringing into line! If you wouldn’t say it to a friend don’t say it yourself!
Practicing self-care also involves looking after our self emotionally. This element can be particularly difficult at times. We may have to remove our self from toxic situations, relationships or people. If you come home from work every day feeling completely demoralised and undervalued it’s bound to have an effect on your well-being. Perhaps it’s time to look for a new job (or create one!). It’s the same with relationships – you shouldn’t be feeling worse for having an encounter with someone. A proper, nourishing relationship should make you feel supported, inspired and loved.
There may be some circumstances where you can’t remove yourself from a toxic relationship, for example if it’s family. However, there are ways to minimise and lessen the impact of these relationships. For example, reduce the time spent with the person, meet in a different place to usual that is more neutral, do an activity with them instead of just visiting or plan something nourishing for after the encounter.
Doing the ‘inner work’
By this I mean things like healing past hurts, working on parts of our self that we are unhappy with, strengthening our resilience and building our self-esteem. Self-care is accepting who we are but also acknowledging who we want to become and taking the action necessary to get us there. This could include reading, listening to audios, doing courses or working with a coach.
Putting yourself first
This can be uncomfortable for many people who are used to putting others first. I’m not saying that you should be neglectful or insensitive but it’s not going out of your way to please others all the time either. If you allow yourself to be used like a doormat then people will use you like a doormat – you’re training them that that sort of behaviour is OK. When we say yes to someone or a task we are also saying no to something else. That something else is often us – maybe it means you won’t get an evening in to spend reading / chilling out as you planned, or time to spend with your family, or time to go to your exercise / cookery / dance class. Learn to start recognising what you are saying yes to and what you are saying no to – have you got them the right way round?
By having clear boundaries about what is acceptable and not acceptable to us we train people to treat us how we wish to be treated.
As you can see self-care is deeper than it first looks. It’s an ongoing process that should be practiced daily. The more you do it the easier it becomes and the greater the benefits you will experience.
If you’d like more help to make self-care part of your daily life get in touch and let’s have a chat.