At the heart of self-care is the recognition of the importance of your needs. When things get difficult, we can find ourselves opting out of our self-care activities because we have so much on our plate. Whereas, in these situations, we need to rely on our self-care activities to refuel and help us deal with our competing demands.
In this article, I will be breaking down what self-care is and the benefits of looking after yourself. More importantly, I will be attempting to make it less elusive and something that you can work towards achieving in your everyday life.
What is Self-Care?
As self-care looks different for everyone, it can be challenging to define. However, viewing self-care as an active ongoing creative process of looking after your health means that you can tailor it to suit your current life stage and circumstances. For me, this currently means structuring my health into the following categories; physical, social, mental, spiritual, emotional, and financial. Thinking of my health in these categories has made it possible to build self-care into the infrastructure of my life. I am better able to identify my current needs within each category and plan the necessary self-care activity. This has made the process more manageable and helps me prioritise my current needs. Your definition of self-care can be different and can involve different categories. At the core of creating/defining your self-care activities, is the ability to recognise and meet your individual needs.
Why do we look after ourselves ?
Practicing self-care can help build our resilience and maintain balance in our lives during difficult or stressful periods. With self-care strategies in place, we can cope better during stressful periods and avoid burnout. It also places us in a better place to help our family and friends. Even with knowing the benefits of self-care, we can often find it difficult to practice. This may be due to the current notions about self-care. The self-care industry has manipulated the basic principles of looking after ourselves and made it appear as a luxurious treat and in some cases completely out of reach. When we now think of self-care activities, we envision a luxurious holiday or a full spa day, etc. Though these activities can help rejuvenate you, in isolation, these activities may not be enough especially if you have other ongoing health difficulties that need to be prioritised. For example; going to a dentist with a toothache as a form of self-care may be more beneficial than going on a full spa day. So, how do we cut through the noise around self-care?
How to Self-Care
Earlier on I mentioned that I broke down my health into 6 categories and depending on how busy my day is I try to do one small activity to help me look after something from that category. Take my physical, it could be waking up early to complete a 30-minute workout, or sometimes it might actually mean prioritising sleep. With my mental health, it might mean grounding myself while having my morning cup of coffee and acknowledging where I am, and accepting it without judgment. With my financial health, it might mean adhering to my monthly budget and grabbing my coffee from home because I know that having to not worry about finance towards the end of the month is also me looking after myself. The idea is to do something little every day to look after the different categories of your health. Depending on your life stressors and what category needs to be prioritised, you can tweak and include other activities. The goal is to move away from only completing once-off self-care activities and making it an integral aspect of your lives. So, how do we achieve this?
Make it simple: Once you have created the different categories of health that are important to you, plan everyday things to look after yourself. This can be as simple as journaling a minimum of 5 minutes every morning to check in with yourself.
Prioritise what matters:If you find that you are struggling in one category of your health, paying special attention to this area may be the best thing for you.
Be flexible: Your needs may change depending on the type of day you had. Swapping a planned workout with a bubble bath may be more beneficial after a draining day.
Allow for creativity: In recent years, one of my friend groups have dispersed around the world. We initially used to try to arrange video calls to stay in touch but struggled because of the time difference. We have instead started doing video messages where we catch each other up weekly and it gives us lots of material to reply and talk about during the week with voice notes and text messages. More importantly, it falls directly into my social health and it is one of the many ways I am using to stay connected with people.
To conclude, your self-care activities don't need to be complicated or expensive. They just need to be meaningful activities that you enjoy.
Please note: If you are struggling to complete your self-care activities or find that they are not improving your mood over time. You may want to check-in with yourself. One of the biggest form of self-care you can practice is acknowledging that you are not okay and may actually need a professional's help.
If you are looking for daily tips and suggestions on how to look after yourself, follow me on Instagram at drabiola.m.o. You can also download the self-care worksheet on the resources page to create your personal self-care plan.
If you or someone you know is currently looking for a psychologist, you can schedule a session with me at www.alafiacounselling.com.