Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate marketing links, which means I may get paid commission on sales of those products should you purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you.
You’ve probably heard about ‘Self-care’ in some respect recently. Articles about improving and practising self-care have been appearing more and more on social media and in magazines, making us question exactly what it is and exactly why need to be focusing on it so much. It should be pretty easy to define exactly what ‘Self-care’ is but the message has got confused some where to just taking long relaxing baths, treating ourselves to the things we want and ‘loving ourselves’. While this is all of course true, it’s far to vague and doesn’t give enough direction or explanation.
So What Is Self Care?
Self-Care is the conscious process of looking after all aspects of ‘The Self’ and creating balance to ensure your ideal state of mind and body. It is keeping physically fit and understand when to look after yourself (NHS). It’s mindfully paying attention to yourself and caring for yourself (Psychology today). It’s taking acton to maintain or improve your own health and protecting tier well0being & happiness (Oxford English Dictionary).
Why Is Self-Care Important To You and Me?
In an age where anxiety, stress and mental health issues aren’t being dealt with as effectively as they should be, We need to start taking a more active role in our own Self-care. Learning and regularly practicing self-care can not only reduce stress levels and create a mental balance, it will help you feel healthier, connect better to those around you and really appreciate those special moments. Ultimately contentment with self is the goal in my opinion.
As with anything, learning to effectively practice self-care takes commitment and effort. Think of it like an exercise regime. Yes if you work out once in a blue moon you’ll feel great, but those endorphins only last for so long. Plus you don’t see or feel the full effects & benefits from a single workout that you would from routine and regularity. Self-care is exactly the same. Practice it once in the blue moon and it will give you a boost but make it a regular part of your life and it will be transformative. However before we learn how to effectively practice self-care, it’s necessary to understand the different elements which contribute to it.
The Seven Essential Areas Of Self-Care
Self care can be broken down into 7 areas, focusing on different aspects of our life, mentality and wellbeing. If all 7 of these areas are balanced, it follows that stress levels will be lower and we will generally live happier, easier lives. We have to accept that each of these areas effect the others and therefore our overall happiness & wellbeing. As well as this, we also need to reminder ourselves that while we may not be in control of events and factors that surround us, we are in control of how we react to them and thus how we allow them to effect us.
Physical Self-care encompasses anything to do with the body, from moving and exercise, sleep & rest to nutrition and even sexual needs. To find balance in this area can be as simple as going for a walk or maintaining a regular exercise regime, or as complex as changing ones diet to ensure less processed food and more nourishment. Improving this aspect of self-care also has great benefits for mental health and overall wellbeing. However as with any habit it can be hard to start/change.
- Eating a Healthy, balanced diet – especially when you’re a mum, its all to easy to grab a quick ‘bite’ to eat or to finish off the kids dinner. But all these little bits add up. Making the effort to eat healthily and enjoy good food is not just good for our bodies but good for our minds too.
- Exercising regularly – exercise releases endorphins = happy happy you! Plus increased fitness over time isn’t a bad thing either. It doesn’t have to be 5 hardcore gym sessions a week. It could be dancing around your house while doing house work. Walking 10k steps a day and then pushing yourself to 15k a day.
- Getting good quality sleep – When we sleep our body repairs itself. Our mind shuts off and we relax. However, so many of us struggle to get to sleep and stay in a deep sleep. (COMING SOON! MY TOP TIPS TO DRIFT OFF AND STAY IN REM!)
- Take a holiday – When life is getting all too much a change of pace and scenery is sure to rest the workings of our minds. If you’ve not been away for a while and had a break for ‘life’ why not book one!
- Have a massage or treatment
This is possibly one of the main areas that lead people to take up self-care. Improving mental health, especially if you suffer with a condition such as anxiety, stress or depression can be a constant struggle. Its something that Self-care can greatly help to alleviate and be a great support during recovery. As well as this, if you can find balance in this area, it can make finding balance in others much easier, enabling you to improved wellbeing with ease.
- Learning & Practicing Mindfulness – Being present can help you appreciate whats around you, process things better and react with more clarity (COMING SOON! MY BEGINNGERS GUIDE TO MINDFULNESS!)
- Journalling – it doesn’t have to be long, or pretty. It doesn’t even have to make complete sense. But by writing about your day, the good, the bad and everything in between, you’ll be better able to process things which have happened. It can also be really insightful to look back on in years to come to compare just how far you’ve come and what has changed.
- Reading books – reading is an escape, a chance to shut off from our sometimes mundane lives and go anywhere we want. It can also be a learning experience and inspirational. Some of my best ideas come after reading.
- Talk about it (with someone you trust)
- Brain dump – Empty your head of all the thoughts which have been rattling around. Try keeping a pen and paper next to your bed so as you lay down and the cogs start turning, you can dump them all out to be processed the next day!
On the surface, you’d be forgiven for thinking psychological and emotional self-care were one and the same. While they are connected, the big difference is that emotional self-care is more focused on – drum roll please! – our emotions; what triggers them, how we respond and react to them. Quite often we feel an emotion – anger for example – and just react. If you’re lacking emotional self-care you may not know how to process what triggers that emotion. Consequently, you may struggle with how you react when strong emotions arise. A few simple techniques & practices can help to develop more self awareness in this area, improving our emotional literacy.
- Write in a gratitude journal – This practice helps to you to become aware of the positives, even if everything feels negative
- Say No without feeling guilty – If you’re asked something and feel instant dread, saying no is the best thing FOR YOU.
- Be aware of our own boundaries and push them tentatively – Knowing, accepting & understanding boundaries is the first step. Once you’ve mastered this you can then test them and expand them over time.
- Compliment yourself – Take the time to compliment yourself when you walk past a mirror. If may feel silly at first but if you make it a regular habit you’ll be sure to see improved mood and increased happiness overtime.
- Plan digital detoxes – Social media and technology can be all consuming, causing us to lose sight of our own emotions. It can cause mass procrastination – come on, we’re all guilty of watching cute cat videos for far to long! – and trigger us in numerous ways. Shutting off technology for an hour or a day can have huge benefits to our emotional state.
Aristole said tan hat ‘Human beings are social animals’ and thats truer now than ever before. We rely on social interactions to validate and support our own emotions & thoughts. As women, forming relationships & friendships outside of our immediate family is also critical to our quality of life. Nurturing supportive relationships enables us to not only have someone to turn to, but also understand that we’re not alone with our struggles.
- Maintain & Nuture close friendships – Carving out time in our busy schedules to have a coffee with a friend or even just ring them for a chat not only makes them feel good, but can also help us to shut off and process things that have happened recently.
- Shut out negative relationships – Conversely, let go of the negativity. If you don’t like the way a friend behaves, acts or treats you then why keep them in your life. If you’re constantly reaching out to them, are there to support them but don’t get the same care & compassion in return, they aren’t worth having in your life.
- Put down the phone & be present – Most of us own smartphones and use social media sights such as Facebook & Instagram but we all find it hard to shut off from the addictive scrolling and pretty newsfeeds. Often this can mean we’re not appreciating those around us. Next time you have a coffee with a friend, set your phone to silent and pop it in your bag. Resist the urge to check!
- Ask for help when you need it – As we’ve seen above, when we nurture friendships and relationships, those people become our supportive system. They want to see us succeed; they enjoy seeing us happy; most importantly they are willing to help us if we need it. You don’t have to do everything alone. Call that friend and ask for help.
- Join a club & Meet new people – One way to expand our relationships is to try something new and meet new people. Sign up for that cooking class you’ve been thinking about; set up a book club and connect with your neighbours. Whatever it is give it ago! You never know who you might meet.
Having balance between our work & personal lives is vital; if we work to much our personal lives suffer. If we are more focused on our personal lives, we might not progress in our career the way we would like. By translating a lot of the ideas we’ve already discussed to the workplace (or business if you’re self-employed) we can restore the balance, making us more productive in our professional lives and more present in our personal.
- Eat a nourishing lunch & enjoy your lunch break – Yes its easy to grab that ready meal to microwave in 30 seconds and work through lunch. Yes, it may be quicker to pop to McDonalds rather than prepare lunch at home. But all this will impact on your physical wellbeing and your professional wellbeing. Having a lunch break gives you a chance to shut off from work for a while and recoup. Teamed with some really good food and you’ll be fuelled for the rest of the day.
- Take all your holiday – It’s there for your wellbeing! Make sure you take your holiday days when you need to. Same applies to compassionate leave!
- Negotiate your needs – Your job needs to be beneficial to you just as you are beneficial to your employ. Don’t be afraid to have a chat with them if you’re struggling, if you need time off or support. They will much prefer to work with you than to lose a well trained employee. Don’t be afraid to say NO if you need to as well!
- Leave work at work – For those working 9-5 this can be easier than those who are self-employed. But its vital that we are able to set ourselves clear boundaries when it comes to work. Make sure when you leave the office or the shop or the salon, you’re not taking work home with you. If you’re self-employed set yourself strict working hours and stick to them!
- Attend and seek out training – Just as we are trying to improve our wellbeing and happiness, we should also regularly be looking to better ourselves in our professional lives too. There is always something new to learn and improve on.
A big influencing factor on our wellbeing and happiness is often what surrounds us. We’ve all heard the saying ‘Tidy room, tidy mind’ but so often the washing piles high, toys are strewn across the floor and suddenly we feel the pressure and crack. Maintaining an organised home and work space will not only make us feel happier and more in control; it can also increase productivity.
- Decluttering baskets – Have a small basket in each room and spend 10 minutes a day filling it with things that don’t belong. At the end of the day re-home the contents to the correct place. Donate or bin anything thats left.
- Monitor Tech Time – We’re all aware of how too much TV can effect our children but we forget that we’re just as impressionable at times. Try and have a few hours or a day a week with no tv & Social media. Put on some music, read a book or play instead. Get creative and do something different!
- Be Mindful about mess & be proactive – By practicing mindfulness in our surroundings, we can pick up easier on what’s effecting our stress levels and do something about it. Don’t put off jobs that could take 5 minutes such as washing up or picking up toys. Do then when you see them and you’ll suddenly feel a lot lighter.
- Add some greenery – Green spaces naturally make us feel happier and adding some foliage to our indoor environment is sure to do the same thing. If you’re not too green fingered, or tight on space, why not try a cactus!
- Let in the light and air – We spend so much time indoors that our bodies start lacking vitamin D (something which is in short supply in the UK as it is). Don’t sit in the dark or under artificial lighting for too long. Draw back the curtains and open a window for a refreshing breeze.
Whether you have a religious belief or not, we can all benefit from taking time out to nurture our inner spirit and soul. By holding a strong senses of values and beliefs and regularly pondering our place in the universe, we can develop and expand our spirituality. Being Spiritual is very subjective and means different things to different people but these are some examples of how you can have your spiritual self-care in balance.
- Meditate or pray – Taking time out, even 5 or 10 minutes, to sit quietly and peacefully can massively improve you mood. It can help you relax and reconnect as well as bring some clarity to things you may be struggling with.
- Connect with Nature – We are surrounded by beautiful outdoor spaces; parks, woods, lakes and so much more. Breath in the fresh air. Take a mindful walk to feel relax and appreciate the world around us.
- Visit a Museum – Museums and galleries are for me, a place of huge contemplation. When you are stood infront of a piece of art or a mummified pharaoh from thousands of years ago, it can really put into perspective how small some of our day to day worries and stresses can be!
- Donate or volunteer – Doing something good for other people or your community and making a difference can have a massive impact on your own wellbeing and happiness. Look out in local papers or on Facebook for calls to volunteer in community projects.
- Reflect & Journal – Write it all down. Everything you’re feeling. Everything you’re thinking. Sometimes when we see it in black and white – especially if we walk away and then come back to it when our mind is clearer – it becomes easier to process how we’re feeling.
Wherever you are now, balanced or unbalanced, we all deserve to feel happiness and contentment. Self-Care is not about doing something to impress or please someone; it’s not adhering to a fixed set of rules. It’s very fluid and subjective – you can create your own personal self-care plan based on what works for you. Remember, it’s not about adding more to your ‘To Do List’ but creating a balanced sense of self which.