Do you ever hear people saying they struggle to set aside time for themselves because they're too busy? Or, how about describing "me time" as being self-indulgent or selfish?
Thing is, these ways of thinking are often associated with self-care. Which for many, can be an unhelpful barrier to taking better care of themselves.
Self-care is a conscious decision to act in ways that support and promote your health and wellbeing. A holistic approach will likely cover the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of your life.
Though varied, self-care can include more than just those commonly known activities such as exercise, eating well, meditating, and journaling.
Though it’s become more popular in everyday conversations, the idea of self-care isn’t new. However, when mentioned nowadays, we assume people are talking about engaging in activities that are healthy and good.
The Self Care Forum describes self-care as:
“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.”
Ordinarily, what comes to mind when thinking about self-care, are things like exercising, meditating, enjoying a bath, and so on. This tells us there are various forms of activities to choose from.
But although self-care isn’t complicated, it’s worth noting it can be quite a broad concept. In fact, when considering other definitions, it’s clear to see just how broad it can be.
For example, the World Health Organisation defines it as:
“The ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
This definition highlights where self-care goes beyond enjoying a spa or working out at the gym. In fact, the WHO's definition shows it's about empowerment.
It’s about taking ownership of our wellbeing, rather than looking to others to solve our problems. However, though self-care can be a broad concept, it simply means what it sounds like: taking care of yourself.
Attending to your health and wellbeing is more important now than ever. Equally, when considering your responsibilities, it’s probably obvious to see where your effectiveness could be impacted by your health.
And it’s for this reason self-care is for everyone - teachers, healthcare workers, entrepreneurs, students, pastors, community leaders, and parents, all benefit from practicing self-care.
In other words, when you recognise the importance of self-care, we all benefit. In fact, taking responsibility for your wellbeing not only helps you, but your family, friends and community.
There are just as many benefits of self-care as there are self-care practices. However, in addition to the decreased stretch on healthcare resources, it promotes autonomy, self-efficacy and personal responsibility.
And importantly, each of these are integral to your self-worth. But in addition to these, some of the more obvious benefits of self-care include:
Let’s take a brief look at each in more detail.
It goes without saying, how you engage in relationships is influenced by how you feel. And this is more obvious when the role you play in a relationship is one where you carry responsibility - parenting, for example.
The better you take care of yourself, the more you’ll be able to give to those around you. I’ve heard it said that, “You can’t give from what you don’t have.”
Second, though self-care shouldn’t be considered a substitute for professional support, it’s still important. Put differently, prevention is more preferable to cure.
So, in taking steps to prioritise your wellbeing, you’re putting in place protective measures to help minimise the risk of mental illness down the road.
Recommended: Exercise, Depression and Anxiety: The Evidence
Whether you’re aware of it or not, how you treat yourself shapes how you see yourself - and vice versa. And though that might sound obvious, it’s important to see the connection and then know where to make changes.
For example, treat yourself with kindness will increase the chances of you seeing and valuing your intrinsic worth. This could prove helpful when you make mistakes or get caught up in unhealthy comparison with others.
Recommended: Cultivating Unconditional Self-Worth
Fourth, from hygiene and professional check ups, to good nutrition and sleep, taking care of your body is key to self-care. A basis to any self-care plan should be steps to look after your body so it functions well.
After all, how else will you get from A to B and impact others, if your body is fatigued or unwell?
Lastly, switching off from daily pressures is necessary for reducing stress and anxiety. Moreover, activities which bring a sense of calm and relaxation will help lift your mood and improve your overall wellbeing.
It’s for this reason, there's significant benefit in planned relaxation. So, when faced with barriers to practicing self-care, these are just a few of the benefits you might need to be considering.
Again, they include: improving relationships, looking after your mental health, increasing your self-worth, keeping physically well, and managing stress.
Before wrapping up, here’s a sample of ten easy self-care practices.
The added benefit of these simple practices is they can be done for free or on a low budget. So with that, there’s nothing stopping you from choosing one and giving it a go.
Despite looking varied, self-care is a deliberate action aimed at improving your wellbeing.
Generally speaking, practicing it will help you to feel more energised, confident, able to manage stress and anxiety more effectively, and improve your relationships.
In contrast, when neglecting self-care you’ll be more prone to fatigue, stress, decreased performance, and poor physical and mental health. For this reason it’s clear to see where it's beneficial.
As you commit to practicing self-care, not only will you improve your own wellbeing, but you’ll also be more effective in engaging with others.
Where might you need to start giving more attention to self-care?
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Photo credit: Sarah Brown
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