Self-care is a word that gets bandied about a lot but what is it? It’s something we should all be doing, it’s vital to your wellbeing, helping you live a full life being able to manage stresses and strains and avoid feeling rundown, but what is it?!
It has been defined as taking action to preserve and improve your overall health, physical and mental. It’s a practice (yes, a practice it will take time to embed it into your life if it’s not something you currently do) and once you master it you will reap the rewards! It’s about finding something that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed, that takes you away from the pressures of everyday life, even if just for a few minutes a day.
Sometimes practising self-care might mean having to say no to people, that might be at work or home. Maybe you find you’re over stretched because you can’t say no to helping people. Try to remember that sometimes it’s ok to say no.
Your physical health is important, do you get enough sleep or take enough exercise? Maybe it’s time to go to bed half an hour earlier, take a short walk on your lunch break or try a new physical challenge.
How about your brain? Do you challenge it? Maybe you could learn a new language or practice mindfulness. Look at your beliefs and values, exploring them and seeking understanding can help to improve your self-esteem. Try to adopt a positive mindset.
Try to cultivate self-compassion for yourself. Have an awareness of your feelings and emotions and try not to beat yourself up because you’re struggling to get yourself out of your bad mood. Accept that your feelings are not you; your feelings are data and you can choose how you use this information.
Spend time with supportive friends, who you can share with as equally as they share with you, this is vital to helping you look after yourself. Your friends can help you feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. Try to share with them what is really going on for you and encourage them to do the same.
Looking after yourself can lead to feeling of empowerment giving you confidence and a feeling of satisfaction. Self-care will help you manage mental health problems, however it’s not an instant solution and will take time.
Some things you can do for self-care –
Are you kind…to yourself?
Being kind to ourselves, can sometimes seem like an alien concept. We can easily offer kindness out to others but often we struggle to offer the same compassion to ourselves.
Think about the language you use towards yourself; do you call yourself useless, blame yourself for everything that goes wrong and tell yourself you’re not good enough? If you answer yes, then it sounds like you may have an inner bully. Your inner bully will keep chipping away at your self-esteem, but where did the bully come from? Maybe you were raised in a home without compassion and don’t really know what it is to experience it, maybe you’ve felt humiliated by another authority figure such as teacher and this is the voice of your inner bully.
Yes, sometimes you will make a mistake, it’s part of being human but part of having compassion for yourself is knowing the difference between making a mistake and being a bad person.
Being kind to yourself can help you foster kindness towards others. People who are kind to themselves experience a happier connection to the world and more positive relationships with the people around them.
How can you be kind to yourself?
• Notice that inner bully; the language you use towards yourself, the sound of the voice. Often, we say things to ourselves we would never say to someone else. When you notice it try to reframe it, imagine you are speaking to a friend what would you say to them? You are just as deserving of kindness as the people you are kind to!
• Give yourself permission to be imperfect, it’s ok to be good enough!
• Remember your thoughts are opinions, not facts!
Finally exploring why you find it hard to be kind to yourself with a trusted friend or counsellor can help.