Self-care is all about looking after yourself and your mental wellbeing. It’s not self-indulgence or selfish behaviour.
Self-care may help you face the multiple demands of a busy life.
Consultant Psychologist Dr Bec Jackson says that the popularity of self-care as a concept has really taken off in recent years. “The strong connection between self-care, resilience and wellbeing has propelled self-care into popular culture,” she explains, “But like all popular concepts, sometimes it may lose its original potency when everyone is talking about it.”
So, why is self-care important? And what is it anyway?
Well, there’s far more to self-care than lighting a scented candle once a week or treating yourself to a manicure. Self-care is all about looking after yourself and your mental wellbeing. With the help of Dr Bec, let’s take a look at how to bring more meaning into your self-care practice.
Firstly, Dr Bec wants you to know that self-care is not the same as self-indulgence, nor is it selfish. “Self-care can be mindfully attending to what you need to be happy, healthy and well,” she explains, “I first learned about self-care when I was studying psychology at university. There was a focus on health professionals looking after their own wellbeing to avoid work-related stress, burnout and compassion fatigue. We tackle these issues through the lens of self-care.”
In the years since, Dr Bec has seen how important self-care is in the various personal and professional domains of her own life and that of her clients.
Why is self-care important again?
Dr Bec says there are many reasons to incorporate self-care into your day.
“For parents, learning how to care for your own mind, body and spirit needs, leads you to be a more emotionally and physically resilient parent,” she explains, “If you care for yourself, you could be more child-centred and mindful towards your children.”
Dr Bec likens self-care for parents to the airline practice of “fitting your own oxygen mask before assisting children and others.” Self-care could give you a chance to recharge in small ways so you may continue tending to the multiple demands of parenting.
In other contexts, Dr Bec says that self-care is equally important. “For my clinical clients, the first step in a wellbeing and mental health plan was an audit of how they were tending to their own basic needs. Paying attention to self-care such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, and hobbies was part of examining more complex needs,” Dr Bec explains.
Likewise, for professionals in a corporate context, Dr Bec says that self-care is about the need to develop good self-awareness to help manage stressors.
Self-care strategies to explore
Knowing you should practice self-care can be very different from knowing how to practice self-care. Should you make new year's resolutions to motivate yourself? Should you pull out the mindfulness colouring books when you’re feeling stressed? Should you eat brain-healthy foods or get a life coach to help you navigate the self-care journey?
To help keep it simple, Dr Bec shares three strategies to help you with your self-care:
1. Get to know yourself
Dr Bec says self-awareness is about understanding who you are and your limits. “It’s good to be mindful of when you’re doing too much and figure out what could be done to slow down.”
She also says that it’s important to know your ‘tells’ – the signs that you may have been neglecting your own needs.
Take the time to make your self-care meaningful by understanding exactly what you need. It may be something like digging into why you can’t get motivated or how to boost your energy when you’re tired.
2. Bookend your day with self-care
Dr Bec recommends finding ways to start your day with self-care and then using it to
decompress at the end of the day. “You could start your day with yoga, journaling, morning meditation or listening to a motivating podcast as you drive to work,” she says, “At the end of the day you may choose to debrief with a loved one or hop into bed with a good book.”
3. Practice self-compassion
Dr Bec says learning how to practice self-love and compassion is important. “There is only one you, acknowledge what makes you unique, know your own struggles and speak kindly to yourself,” she explains, “Offer yourself the same level of concern, understanding and attention that you would a good friend.”
Try using this self-care checklist
Dr Bec shares the following ideas to get your self-care practice started:
1. Eat well
You need energy to function, so have nourishing snacks on hand and plan to incorporate your favourite healthy foods into your everyday eating routines.
2. Stay hydrated
It’s simple, but it makes a big difference. Also, be conscious of the effects of alcohol on your health and hydration.
3. Decompress throughout the day
Many people may not have the opportunity for extended breaks, but try to integrate mini-breaks throughout the day as this may help refresh your mind and body.
4. Seek joy
Identify what you enjoy doing and plan ways to integrate it into your day or, at the very least, your week.
5. Get out in nature
If you can’t get out in nature, find ways to bring it indoors with pot plants, fish tanks, sunlight or nature photos. Nature has a restorative aspect for the human brain.
6. Feed your spirit
Maybe it’s meditating, praying, observing the stars or watching a sunrise. Or perhaps it might be unleashing your creative side with painting, writing, singing, music or craft.
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Article originally published by HealthyLife.
Image credit: Jackson David on Unsplash
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.