Self-care is a word that is used a lot in the media these days. But what is it really? We can all say, yes of course I look after myself, but is this really self-care? And how do we know if self-care is good for us? To help to think about those questions, it might be useful to ask yourself – “how do I take care of myself?” We might find that slightly more difficult to answer. In fact, why not take 5 minutes now and write down what you do to take care of yourself. I wonder what would come up on that list. (Read on to see my list further down!).
So – What is self-care?
Self-care is undertaking an activity deliberately, consciously for your own feelings of wellbeing. This is different from just going through the day, not really thinking about anything you may need to do to improve your physical or mental wellbeing. Easy in theory, but let’s go back to the list you wrote. How many of the activities on that list actually feed you, improve your feelings of wellbeing? And how many of them drain you, leave you feeling less than positive?
Why is self-care important?
It is really critical that we experience good self-care. Good self-care should help you through the day, not just be another thing on the list of things that you SHOULD do. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase
“You can’t pour from an empty cup”
That’s what self-care is about. It’s about filling our cup.
Good self-care really can help to improve your mood and reduce anxiety. Because good self-care helps you to really connect with yourself. It gives you a chance to just concentrate on yourself for a short time in the day. It helps you to switch off, re-balance and feel ready to start again.
Good self-care should re-energise you, making you feel more able to be in control, able to make decisions and enjoy facing challenges in a positive way. It can also help us to be more aware of what we do, and how we feel at different times of the day.
Below are some suggestions for what self-care actually is. And don’t forget that not all these activities listed will be self-care to everyone. One person will read – go to the gym and think – yes, that’s what I would love to do. Another person will think that there is nothing worse they would rather do.
That’s fine – we’re all different and that’s why the list is quite long! So here goes, here are my suggestions of what might feel like self-care to you.
- Watch a sun rise
- Go to the gym
- Read a book
- Go for a run
- Just sit for 5 minutes. Look and listen
- Take a bubble bath
- Walk in nature
- Go for a swim
- Attend a yoga class
- Binge watch your favourite TV show
- Be creative, do something with crafts
- Go to the library or bookshop
- List 10 things you are grateful for
- Sit in a coffee shop and people watch
- Start a new hobby
- Sing in the car
- Go to bed early with a good book
- Bake a cake
- Discover a new hobby
- Sit in the garden and watch the wildlife
- Dig your garden
- Plant some flowers
- Sit in the sun with a cup of coffee
- Write a letter to a friend
How to start ?
OK, that all makes sense, but in a busy day how on earth can we find time for something like this? It feels like just another thing that we need to do.
Firstly, it’s really useful if we can think about wanting to do this self-care thing, not having to do it. That is a real difference our language to ourselves can make. If we can tell ourselves we want to do this, we’re far more likely to do it and benefit from it.
I’ve devised a four point plan that I use to help clients to adopt a healthy self-care route:
- Take small steps. We don’t need to be experts at this immediately. It does take time and practice. So I always recommend starting with just one or two things that you would like to do. And aim for just 5 minutes a day to begin with. Over time this can increase with practice. Seeing the benefits of self-care can also help you to spend more time on it.
- Actively plan this in your day. Self-care needs to be planned in, don’t just let it happen as part of everything else in your day.
- Use resources to help you. There are lots of ways resources can help. This could be positive quotes or thoughts. Action for Happiness do really useful calendars with self-care in mind. This month is Mindful March. Here’s a link to their calendar if you want to take a look.
- Review your day and notice your self-care activities and how they made you feel. Take 5 minutes at the end of the day to consider what you did for you own self-care today. This helps to reinforce the changes that you are making with your own self-care.
I mentioned at the top of this writing that I would let you know my self-care favourites. So here’s a few:
- Taking a cup of coffee back to bed with the crossword on a Sunday morning
- Walking in nature
- Mojo moves exercise class – It’s such great fun and you get to exercise too. Here’s a link if you are interested!
- Creating a wildlife friendly garden in our new house
- My cat!
- My gratitude diary. I spend a bit of time at the end of the day writing down 3 things that I’m grateful for
I hope you’ve found this useful and that you start to think about how you can improve your self-care. And more importantly, I hope you start to notice a difference in how you’re feeling.
If you’d like to talk about self-care or anything else that I may be able to help you with, just send me a message and we can set up a time for a chat.