How good are you at looking after yourself? By this, we don’t mean if you eat three meals a day, how often you exercise, and if you keep your nails and hair nice and clean and presentable.
What we mean by this is, how much TLC do you give yourself? For instance, how much ‘me time’ do you give yourself – if any? How often do you get to shut the bathroom door behind you for an hour and pamper yourself? How else do you treat yourself, if at all?
Because living a healthy, balanced life, involves keeping an eye on all of those different elements that make us tick, and this includes our emotional, mental and social wellbeing too.1
What do we mean by self-care?
Self-care is something that we consciously do to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. In the words of the Self-Care Forum, it is:
‘The actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness.’
While this may sound like somewhat of a simple concept, you’d be amazed at just how many of us happen to overlook it. This can be because:
- We’re too busy to think about it
- We’re creatures of habit and very much stuck in our routines
- We instinctively put other people’s needs ahead of our own
- Feel that self-care can potentially be perceived as being selfish
Getting into the habit of self-care can be beneficial in many ways. It can help improve our mood and reduce anxiety while also improving our relationships with others.2
What are the four categories of self-care?
If the concept of self-care is something that’s totally brand new to you, then you most probably haven’t realised (until now) that it spans four different areas. They are:
1. Physical care
This relates to the body and how you’re living, moving, breathing. Are you eating a healthy and balanced diet? Drinking lots of water and exercising regularly? Are you only spending minimal amounts of time in front of the TV and other devices?3
3 ways to tune into your physical care:
- Appreciate your body
- Get plenty of sleep
- Exercise to help manage stress4
2. Emotional care
Relates to the love and care you show yourself and others and how you manage your relationships. Do you surround yourself with people who have a positive influence on you? Do you make time for spending time with those who care about you and who you care about? Are you in the habit of dealing with any issues sooner rather than later to prevent them from building up?5
3 ways to tune into your emotional care:
- Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings
- Try to stop being self-critical of yourself
- Have a heart-to-heart chat with a close friend or somebody who knows you well6
3. Spiritual care
This can involve prayer or meditation or the practice of visualising or practising being grateful. You may also spend more time in the great outdoors, at one with nature, or spend time identifying what you find most meaningful within your life right now. Ideally, you want to focus on the non-material aspects of your life and be appreciative of them.7
3 ways to tune into your spiritual care:
- Go for a walk in the countryside
- Reflect on what you are most grateful for
- Do something creative8
4. Mental care
Mental, psychological, acts of self-care activities are based on your personal and professional development. It’s about acknowledging the things that are in your control and paying attention to your inner experiences, thoughts and feelings.9
3 ways to tune into your psychological care:
- Learn a new hobby or skill
- Do some voluntary work
- Read a good book or watch a stimulating film10
What are the benefits of self-care?
Self-care relates to so many different areas of our life – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually that it can benefit us in lots of different ways. There are far too benefits to list in this article alone however, we can give you a glimpse of why it’s so great by listing a few of the advantages below:
Benefit 1 – It can help us feel less stressed and more relaxed
Taking the time to do chilled out things that relax us, such as taking a long, hot bath and surrounding yourself with candles, going for a leisurely walk or listening to relaxing music or an thought-provoking audio book, has the ability to help us feel more calm and positive overall.11
Benefit 2 – It can make us feel better about ourselves
Taking time out to do what we enjoy and be kinder to ourselves can, in turn, make us feel happier and more fulfilled. Research has found that people with higher self-esteem find it easier to deal with setbacks and are more likely to achieve any self-improvement goals they may have set themselves.12
Benefit 3 – It can have a positive effect on our relationships
If you are happier and healthier in yourself, then you’re more likely to approach your relationships with other people with this outlook and in this way too.13
If you feel overwhelmed by your work or home life, are always flat-out busy, have a ‘to do’ list that is always far too long, you could do with getting some more sleep, you don’t have enough time for exercise or eat more healthily, or practice self-care, let alone think about it, then you may well be due a dose of self-care.
Because, we hate to say it, lack of self-care can lead to high blood pressure, low immunity, poor sleep, increased stress and anxiety and feeling generally grumpy and snappy.14
What are some self-care ideas?
You’d be surprised at just how many different ways there are to embrace self-care. It doesn’t have to involve anything too major, sometimes the smallest of things can pick us up and make the biggest of differences. There’s no right way to go about and there’s no wrong way either, all that matters is that whatever you choose to do, it enhances your life in some way.
Ideas to get you into the self-care mindset
- Give yourself a manicure.
- Have a massage.
- Read a book or magazine for an hour.
- Have a nap.
- Order a takeaway.
- Look at the stars.
- Watch your favourite TV programme with no interruptions.
- Try a new hobby.
- Wear an outfit that makes you feel great.
- Go to bed early.
- Have a lie in.
- Write a list of 10 things you’re grateful for and why.
- Spend some time gardening.
- Buy yourself a treat when you shopping.
- Watch the sun as it rises or sets.
- Have a bath.
- Get your hair cut.
- Listen to your favourite songs.
- Chat to an old friend.
- Cook your favourite meal.15
How to create your own self-care checklist
It can sometimes be difficult to get into the swing of doing something new because it is so new. But hopefully, the more you remind yourself to take care of yourself, the easier it’ll become.
There are certain things you can do to help you on your self-care journey though. For instance, you can buy self-care journals/jotter pads that act as a useful reminder to check in with yourself on a regular basis.
You can also create your own self-care checklist based on what you are looking to get from the whole experience at any given time.
What to ask yourself when creating your self-care checklist:
- Do I really want to do what’s on my self-care list?
- Do I find these actions truly worthwhile?
- How much time can I realistically dedicate to my self-care every day, week, month?
- Have I tried anything in the past that I can build upon?
- Does my list cover the four categories of self-care?
- Are my new self-care habits going to cost anything? If so, can I afford them?
- Am I trying to cram too many self-care things in?
- Am I taking care of my physical care – e.g. getting 7 to 9 hours’ sleep every night, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly (which is a good basis for any self-care regime).
- Can my self-care plan be adapted to changes?16
There are self-care books, there are checklists, there are journals, there’s even a Self-Care Awareness Month run by Action for Happiness every September and a Self-Care Week, which runs this year from November 16 to 22. If you’ve never heard of it until now, well now you have. And if you have never tried it, now’s your chance. The beauty of self-care is that everybody can try it on their own terms and at their own pace.
Best of luck with your self-care journey. For more insight on incorporating this way of living into your world read, ‘The importance of self-care.’
Last updated: 9 November 2020