Self care is a concept that is widely discussed, especially on social media and as mental health awareness grows, naturally we will hear more about self care. But what is self care? Defined by the Online Dictionary as ”the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.”
One of the reasons self care routines or acts are interesting is that they are completely individual. For example, on a bad day you may consider motivating yourself to wash your hair as an act of self care. Whereas, for another person attending a gym class would be classified as self care for them at that given time. Self care is a fluid concept that can adapt to how you feel at any given time.
However, there is one consistent factor and that is stress. During stressful times it is a constructive and helpful idea to have a self care plan ready for yourself. Self care and wellbeing is a journey of exploration, you will need to be open minded and try new things in order to find what actually works for you. Below are my three top tips on starting your journey to improving your wellbeing and constructing a self care plan:
Before you begin to even contemplate healing, you need to recognise when your mind and body needs to be healed. Again, this is an individual process. It might help to write a list of symptoms you recognise in yourself when things are beginning to deplete. The process is about preventative care, recognising in yourself the warning signs before you reach that low point or total burn out.
To give you some inspiration or help, some factors people notice can be anything from disturbed sleep to a break out of acne, and feelings of irritability. Stress and over working yourself can often manifest in your body / health, so its likely you will have symptoms. Once you do recognise you are becoming run down it is important to mentally have a plan of action.
Furthermore, when you are ready to try and practice self care, you might be confused as to what actions are defined as self care. As aforementioned, it can be any act that helps you distress and aids in maintaining a healthy mental state. You might not be used to practising such acts, and if this is the case you must try some techniques in order to find what will work for you. Here are some ideas that may help;
Headspace App is an app that offers guided meditation and mindfulness – it is free to download and you only need up to 10 minutes spare per day. Perfect for those with a busy lifestyle who struggle to unwind.
Exercise; joining a local gym, classes or even going for a jog all constitutes as self care. Exercise releases happy endorphins and is proven to improve depression and general mood.
If you aren’t ready to join the gym or start meditating, self care can also come in alternate forms. Doing anything that you enjoy and helps you relax is counted as self care. Try to re-connect with what you enjoy, we all lead busy lifestyles and it is almost too easy to fall into monotonous routines – sadly forgetting things that you once really enjoyed. It could be reading, cooking, painting your nails, tidying up, gardening – literally any act that helps you unwind. Personally I find writing therapeutic, it keeps my brain active and engaged. It is the best way for me to express myself and it’s a skill that is perfected over time, yet it can also be creative and I love that.
Once you discover what works for you, it is just about implementing these acts into your lifestyle.
Another important factor is working out how to implement these acts into our daily lives. One aspect that is often overlooked is that some people lead such busy lifestyles that finding time for self care can be challenging. However, I think the way you must see it is if you run yourself into the ground you won’t physically or mentally be able to sustain such a busy lifestyle. This means your self care and wellbeing must be prioritised and this is mandatory. How you decide to incorporate acts of self care into your routine, is again, individual based. I would suggest that you could pick a day where you have no other commitments, for example Sundays or Monday evenings, and you dedicate at least an hour per week to completing an activity you enjoy. If you can increase this to several times per week (depending how busy you are), that would be great for your mental wellbeing!
I’d like to finish this post by expressing just how important self care is. All too often people spend their lives caring for and looking out for others – but what about yourself? Don’t forget who you are and always remember to look after yourself.
Additionally, it is of utmost importance that we understand that these acts are not miracle workers – rehabilitating your mind and breaking negative mental attitudes is something we must work at and this takes time. All these factors depend on your individual mind state and needs, and therefore self care may be suitable for you in addition to a therapy that suits you.