Self Care. Everyone is throwing this phrase around now. First it was mental health, now it’s self care. But what IS self care? Why do we need to bother with it? Where has it come from? In this article I will answer all this and more.
What is Self Care? Everything You Need to Know!
The Definition of Self Care
As always, I like to start these articles with a dictionary definition. In this case, self care is defined as follows:
“The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”
Self care is vital for managing mental health and wellbeing. Not just for yourself, but for those around you. How often have you snapped at someone for no good reason, only to apologise later because you were tired or stressed?
Self care is easily one of the things we find hardest to identify in our day to day lives if we are not making a conscious effort to make time for it. If I asked you now, what do you do to look after yourself, you would probably struggle to give me some examples.
This is why it is important to actually identify WHAT you are going to do which classifies as self care and WHEN you are going to do it! Having said that, self care shouldn’t be forced either. If you don’t want to do it, then youre not going to get any benefit from it.
As I have already touched upon, everyone has been talking about raising awareness about mental health. I love this! As someone who has for a long time now had to work on looking after her mental health, it is great to finally see people being more confident and open about how these conditions affect people.
But now we all know that these conditions exist, how do we keep ourselves mentally healthy? Can we prevent any of them occurring?
Well these are good questions. And whilst current medicine cannot guarantee you won’t get dementia if you do your sudoku everyday, a lot of people have certainly seen the benefit of practicing self care.
The key to self care is being self AWARE! You need to be able to recognise the warning signs your brain and body is sending you so that you can prevent your mental health from worsening. This can be tricky, as I’m sure you can imagine. It can take a very long time to identify the warning signs, and then you have to figure out what is going to work for you. It’s can feel like a pointless endeavour if you don’t already struggle with your mental health. You have to think of it as investing time, in order to safeguard your health and wellbeing in the long run.
So How DO You Identify The Warning Signs?
One of the simplest ways is to keep a mood journal. For those of you who haven’t done this before, it is basically a method of tracking your mood each day, and reflecting on what made you feel that way. Some people use a scale of faces, some use a numerical scale. It doesn’t really matter which you use, you just need to keep it long enough to start seeing a pattern. You can then see what the triggers might be which cause negative feelings.
Once you have done this, you can then start the more enjoyable part of the process. This is to explore different activities associated with self care which help you relax and feel more able to cope with the triggers you may have to face.
Isn't it Selfish?
The important thing to note is that self care IS NOT selfish. f anything you might be doing your load ones a favour by taking some time out for yourself! No-one likes a miserable Mary!
One of the biggest reasons it isn’t done enough is because we feel like we should be worrying about others instead of ourselves. We guilt trip ourselves into sacrificing our time because we want to look good to others. But you might actually find that by spending an hour a week doing something for yourself, you are actually able to be there for others more effectively.
What Counts As Self Care?
There are a few obvious activities which you can do to look after yourself; have a bubble bath, put on a face pack and paint your nails for example. But not everyone actually enjoys that. And that can be a big factor in the success of a self care routine.
Have a think about the things you really enjoy doing. Hobbies or pastimes which help you to relax and take your mind off the day to day stresses you are trying to endure.
Maybe you llike crochet, or maybe you like to go for a walk on your own and watch the birds. It doesn’t have to be complicated, if anything, the more simple it is, the more likely it will actually work.
Commit To Yourself
Once you have decided how you are going to take some time for yourself today. TELL EVERYONE! If you plan on spending an hour in the bath but the kids keep coming in to have a wee, it’s not exactly going to be relaxing.
Tell people what you’re going to be doing, when and most importantly why you are doing it. This will not only ensure you commit to it, but that you won’t feel guilty and most importantly you won’t be disturbed. If needs be, make it the same time each week so it becomes part of a routine and you don’t feel like you have to keep explaining yourself.
So my homework for you this week is to put some time aside for yourself. Do something you enjoy and most of all, relax! Once you’ve started, you won’t look back.