If you haven’t heard of the term “self-care”, then where have you been?! It seems to be the hot buzz term that all new parents are being told to do. But are we all talking about the same thing when we say self-care?
If you were to take a quick squiz of Instagram, you would be forgiven for thinking that self-care is no more than washing your face or having a hot shower. And whilst those things are great, in our opinion they are the basics that all humans should be entitled to. Instead, the self-care we’re talking about is the stuff that has you feeling calm inside, bursting with joy, or lighting you up so feel you can take on the world.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care is defined as “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” To break this down, it means thinking about what brings you joy, taking action to do the things that make you feel good and prioritising your needs before others. Yes, you read that right: putting you first.
Psychotherapist, Anna Mathur, is an expert on the topic and says “it’s about value, self-worth and believing you deserve treating yourself with care and respect. It’s about recognising the difference in what one day may be self-care, can be self-destructive procrastination the next. It can be a fine line.”
Isn’t Self-Care Kind of Selfish?
Nope, nope and double nope.
Self-care isn’t selfish or ignoring the needs of others. The purpose of self-care is to make sure that you protect and prioritise your own well-being and happiness so that you have more energy, love and compassion to give to others.
We all know what they say on aeroplanes: “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others”. Why is this such an important part of health and safety messaging around the world? Because if you don’t have enough oxygen to survive, you can’t help anyone else. It’s the same when you’re looking after others. You cannot help anyone thrive in life if you are exhausted, miserable and barely surviving yourself.
How Do I Figure Out What Self-Care Is For Me?
Understanding what self-care is for you may require a bit of self-reflection. Here are some questions that may help you figure it out:
- When was the last time you laughed really, really hard? What made you laugh? Who were you with?
- When was the last time you did an activity and lost all track of time? What was the activity? Who were you with?
- When was the last time you felt really strong and like you could take on the world? What made you feel like that? How long did the feeling last?
- When was the last time you felt really content and were not constantly thinking about the next thing on your to-do list?
- When was the last time you felt content, relaxed and calm?
- When was the last time you felt really excited? What were you doing or thinking about?
- When wast the last time you felt attractive? What were you doing? What were you wearing?
Take the time to really think about your answers and write them down on a piece of paper. Once you know the answers, think about what small things you can do every day – just for you – to bring more of those wonderful moments into your daily life.
I’m Struggling With Ideas. Give Me Some Examples of Self-Care.
If you’re having a bit of a mental block about what self-care may look like to you, we’ve come up with some ideas you might like to try out to see if they work for you:
- Get into a skincare routine. Start and finish each day by setting aside some time to look after your skin, especially your face. Be mindful about your actions and use the moments when you’re splashing water on your face or rubbing cream into your skin to take some long, deep breaths. You may also like to introduce a face roller to your routine too as it’s a great way to remove tension and means you can give yourself a mini-facial anytime.
- Body brushing. Get the blood circulating and energy flowing by dry brushing your body each morning. Start at the feet, be mindful as you go and work your way up.
- Say no more. Identify the things or events that you feel you “should” do and challenge yourself to say no if you don’t want to do them.
- Take time to tune into your body. Is your heart racing with anxiety just thinking about attending that dinner you agreed to last week? Are your shoulders tensing at the thought of yet another kid’s birthday party? Listen to the clues from your body and create some firm boundaries about what you are comfortable doing.
- Call your friends. Yes, we’re all busy and nobody has time to take a call. But rather than scroll your phone mindlessly for an hour, why not try calling that friend you haven’t spoken to for ages. Nothing puts you in a better mood than having a long overdue catch up with an old friend.
- Do the things you love and that make you feel alive. So we know this one is a bit abstract but that’s OK. Think about what really brings you joy and find a way to bring it into your life. Be firm with yourself about where you can create more time and make it happen.
When Should I Do Self-Care?
Self-care should not be a source of stress or something to add to your long to-do list. It should instead become part of your mindset and daily life. Self-care shouldn’t be something that makes you feel more stressed but instead make life more manageable because you are not pouring from an empty cup.
Self-care will look different to everyone on different days. On some days it might mean putting the to-do list off until tomorrow whilst a wave of anxiety passes or it could mean cracking on with all the jobs whilst you feel energised so that you can relax later. It might mean saying no to that ex-colleague when they invite you for a coffee or it could involve taking control and inviting your girlfriends out for dinner.
On some days, self-care may be as simple as waking up 10 minutes earlier to enjoy an uninterrupted hot cup of tea or journaling about your week ahead. Don’t put pressure on yourself but instead figure out what you need to feel good and go from there.
Start small and be consistent
If you’re new to the concept of self-care then start small and build up. Try this 10-minute meditation every day for a week or commit to doing one small, positive thing a day that makes you feel good. The trick isn’t to try and do everything everyday but rather to stay consistent so that the little, positive actions become regular habits.
But I’m A Busy Mum, I Barely Have Time To Get Dressed!
We see you and totally get it. You can’t go to the toilet on your own, your baby always wants the boob and your day-to-day life revolves around naps and drop-offs. Self-care right now, for you, might be surrendering to this phase of life whilst you’re in the thick of it. Give yourself permission to let go and embrace where you are right now. Keep looking for the little moments of joy, calm and peace, ask for help when you need it and remember that this phase will pass.