What is self-care really?
When you hear the phrase “self-care”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? In recent years, the term self-care has been linked to the idea that we need to be taking bubble baths, doing face masks or cosying up with a good book. But what if I told you that it was much more than that? Are you surprised? If you can think about a time that you felt overwhelmed, or over-stressed. How would the single act of a taking a nice relaxing bubble bath make you feel? Perhaps you might feel a temporary relief in the moment. Does it help when the next day you are back in the situation that is stressful? The answer might be yes, but it might also be no.
Self-care is more than those single relaxing moments. They can certainly help, especially when combined with other things. If they help you feel refreshed and recharged, then yes, they are self-care. Self-care is also much more personal than a list of relaxing activities. It’s about meeting your needs as an individual.
It is also anything that takes care of your physical, emotional and psychological health. Learning to listen to yourself and what you might need.
Let’s break that down a bit.
Physical: anything that takes care of your body. This can include your diet, exercise, sleep, eye tests, regular dental checks and visits to the doctors when you need it, and not as a last resort.
Emotional: learning to recognise your feelings, and to feel and process them. Bottling them up, or pretending they don’t exist might feel helpful in the moment, but they will likely cause issues later down the line when they force you to acknowledge and deal with them.
Psychological: this can be about keeping a check on your stress levels, working on having a healthy sense of self-esteem, and also anything that can help you feel connected to others.
There is this idea that if you’re not doing something active, then you’re not being productive, and are therefore lazy. We need to be able to get to a point where we recognise that recharging your batteries is just as important as eating healthy and doing exercise. It’s also not being selfish to take care of yourself, and show yourself some respect.
Setting boundaries is an important element of self-care. This can often mean learning to say no to things that you don’t want. For example, if going out and doing something fills you with that sense of “Ugh, I really don’t want to”, then ask yourself why you feel you have to. Is it because you feel you “should” be doing it? Anytime you find yourself saying the word ‘should’, take a step back. It can often mean it’s an expectation that has come from someone else, so it can be a good opportunity to explore whether it’s something you want to do or believe. Learning to listen to yourself can help you here. You might find that you need to let some people go in your life, particularly if they are not supportive, or toxic.
Sometimes a boundary needs to be about what you are taking in on social media and the news. They are often geared towards negativity and this can be overwhelming as well as impacting on your self-image. If you need to, it’s ok to limit the amount of time you spend reading/watching the news. It’s ok to only follow people on social media who feed into your own values and likes, and that don’t spread misinformation.
I fully appreciate that this can be easier said than done. It’s ok to seek support from those around you if you need it. If you feel like you need more support to start implementing or exploring this further, please reach out and see how I can help.