When you hear the term “self-care” what’s your first thought?
Do you think of self-care as me-time or pampering? Perhaps a nice-to-have, but not really essential?
Do you think that its something that you’ll get to eventually, after everything else on your to-do list is done?
Or maybe you wonder…
What exactly IS self-care?
Well, in its broadest sense self-care is about looking after your physical and mental well being.
- staying fit and healthy
- being aware of what depletes you and taking steps to replenish your mental and physical health
- treating yourself as kindly as you would treat others
In a nutshell, self-care is the things we do to protect, maintain and improve our health and wellbeing.
Why is self-care important?
Perhaps the whole idea of self-care seems a bit self-indulgent to you? Do you feel a sense of guilt about putting yourself first? About putting yourself before even (…gulp) your family?
However, the cold hard reality is:
if you’re not taking care of yourself, how are you going to take care of anyone else?
Think about the oxygen mask analogy. In aeroplanes, you’re told that if the oxygen mask drops you must put your own mask on before helping anyone else. Because if you pass out, you’re not going to be much use to anyone else. In fact, you’ll be a hindrance.
If you really want to be there for others, you MUST take care of yourself first.
Logically, it makes so much sense!
What self-care is NOT
- self-care is not selfish, indulgent or vain
- self-care is definitely not about ignoring the needs of others.
Self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Plenty of self-care activities take just minutes.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. There are lots of easy, simple activities you can do.
It doesn’t have to be expensive. Self-care is not about going away on weekend spa breaks or treating yourself to expensive makeup or clothes.
Benefits of self-care
Through consistently incorporating self-care into your life you’ll:
- Feel more calm, relaxed and generally less stressed
- Get to know yourself better
- Build self-esteem and feel more confident – by taking the time to take care of yourself you are acknowledging to yourself, your family and the world that you are important
How to practice self-care
The best way of taking care of our physical and mental health is to eat nutritious food, get restorative sleep, exercise regularly and consistently do activities that make you feel good.
But which activities? One person’s favourite self-care activity is another person’s bore. And that’s fine. You don’t need to justify to anyone else why your favourite activity is important to you.
Experiment, and find out what works for you.
Remember, self-care is all about finding what works FOR YOU. Not what works for your friend or what your friend or partner says you should do.
- What activities make you feel relaxed and recharged?
- What activities make you feel happy or excited?
- Where’s your favourite place to hang out?
- Who are your favourite people to hang out with?
Knowing yourself is important in finding the right self-care activities for you. As an introvert, I didn’t understand why certain activities tired me out and made me feel more stressed, while the same activities made my extrovert husband feel happy and recharged.
Everything changed when I read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”.
If you are an introvert too, I highly recommend reading it.
This book had such a big impact on my life! It changed the way I saw myself. I no longer felt like there was something wrong with me that I needed to fix. As soon as I’d finished it I handed it over to my husband with a request “please read this – you’ll understand me so much better”. He did, and it’s given him great insight, which has helped to strengthen our relationship.
I now have a better insight into when I need to seek time alone, and when I need to be around others.
Practice self-care regularly
It’s important to make self-care part of your routine. How? Firstly, keep it simple. Start slowly and purposefully. Schedule it. Make a commitment to yourself and add it to your diary or planner.
When deciding which activity to choose, think about the end result. Go for something that will make you feel you feel accomplished and rejuvenated.
50+ Self-care Activities to Try
Moving your body will make you feel happier – your brain will release dopamine which will make you feel good! Not only that, getting active will energise you, build your confidence, and help you sleep better.
- Go for a walk
- Go running
- Practice some yoga
- Go hiking
- Lift weights
- Try a new class at the gym
- Go out dancing (or just dance in your kitchen to the radio)
- Go swimming
- Do some gardening
Take some time to let your body and mind recharge and recover from the constant juggling, ticking off to-dos and general fast pace of life.
- Read a book
- Read a newspaper or magazine
- Watch a film
- Watch an episode of your favourite TV series
- Have a nap
- Write a letter or postcard to a friend
- Write a thank-you note
- Go to bed early
- Focus on your breathing for 1 minute
- Soak in the bath
- Do a jigsaw
- Diffuse some essential oils
- Stop the constant scrolling and refreshing by turning off your phone (or put it in a drawer)
Get Social (In Real Life!)
Friendships are so important in protecting and maintaining mental health. Not only are friends fun to be with, but they’ll also help you see things in perspective and keep you grounded.
- Meet friends for coffee
- Go on a night out
- Join a club
- Go on a picnic with friends or family
- Call a friend for a chat
- Go to the movies with friends
- Plan a date night (or date day) with your partner
Tackling a creative project or activity has so many benefits. Getting into a state of ‘flow’ where you are completely immersed in what you are doing will boost your productivity, creativity and happiness. And if you’re baking, you’ll also have cake!
- Cook your favourite dish, or try a new recipe
- Play music
- Draw, paint or doodle
Excess clutter and disorganized spaces can make you feel anxious and overwhelmed. And clutter isn’t always just physical stuff. It’s also those nagging ‘should-dos’ or ‘need-to-remembers’ at the back of your mind.
Tackle an organization project (no matter how small) and feel accomplished and happier!
- Declutter a shelf, a drawer, or a cupboard
- Complete a nagging task on your to-do-list
- Update your planner or calendar
- Organize your photos into a photo book (physical or digital)
- Make that appointment you’ve been putting off
Having something to look forward to will help you feel positive about the future. Thinking about your dreams (big and small), setting goals and working on action plans to achieve them will help you feel accomplished and satisfied.
- Write a bucket list – where do you want to go, what do you want to see
- Create a vision board – physical or digital
- Set some goals for the next year, what do you want to achieve by this time next year?
- Plan your next vacation
- Enrol in a class for something you’ve always wanted to learn
- Write a list of books you want to read
- Write a list of movies you want to see
Do any of these ideas inspire you? Are there any others you’d add?
Through practising regular self-care you’ll get to know yourself better and as a result, you’ll be kinder to yourself. This is a good thing.
Give yourself permission to ask for help if you need it. If you have any ongoing physical or emotional concerns do seek advice from a professional practitioner.