Taking time to look after yourself and your mental health is time well-invested. Here I am going to give you some ideas of what self-care really is and how you can make it work for you.
What is self-care?
The term “self-care” is used a lot at the moment, but what does it really mean? In a nutshell, self-care is taking time to look after ourselves, to establish and maintain our mental health. This will vary from person to person, but could range from talking a walk to having a bubble bath. In our busy daily lives, we sometimes put more value on “getting things done” and put pressure on ourselves to achieve more, rather than be more. Making time for self-care is about getting a balance in your life to recharge and reflect and step off the hamster wheel for a while.
What counts as self-care?
We can be very goal-orientated in our daily lives and these self-care activities are more about how we feel rather than what we achieve. In fact, we will sometimes find ourselves in a state of ‘flow’ when we are really engaged with something we love doing. This is when we are “in the zone” and become fully immersed in an activity.
How will I benefit from self-care?
Science has shown us that our minds are inextricably linked to our bodies so when our mental health is struggling, it often affects our physical health. This could be as simple as headaches and fatigue we get we are stressed or more long term physical conditions that can be caused by ongoing mental health problems. Self care can …
- Boost physical health
- Improve emotional health
- Allow you to reset and recharge
- Cope with daily stress
- Avoid “burnout”
How do I embrace self-care in my life?
It’s not a quick fix where you can try self-care one day and then feel better. Proper self-care is a habit that is as important to your health as brushing your teeth and ideally would form part of your daily routine.
I believe it’s important to know what activities can make a positive impact on your mental health and keep a record of them somewhere to use as your ‘self-care toolkit’. For some, creative activities like craft, sketching or writing count as self-care. For others it is exercise like riding their bike, running or a nature walk. Most people will have a number of different activities that rejuvenate them. Make a list of activities that bring you joy and add to them over time. Then find time in your week to include this self-care and spend that time focused on something you really enjoy. Little and often seems to work best and is more achievable long-term. You will see from some of the ideas below that as little as five minutes a day can make a noticeable difference.
An important step in embracing self-care into your life is self-awareness – if you are in touch with how you are feeling, you will be able to see when you might need to step up your self-care. Keeping a record of what activities help your mental health can make it easier to remember when you are feeling low. It’s particularly difficult for us to remember what helps us when we are struggling with poor mental health.
Ideas for self-care
Here are some suggestions for activities that could count as self-care. Try them out and see if they help you and could be added to your “self-care toolkit”.
- Read a book
- Write in a gratitude journal
- Try drawing, sketching or painting (even just a doodle or colouring can get the creative juices flowing!)
- Go for a run
- Take a new route to or from work and enjoy the different scenery
- Dance to your favourite song(s)
- Wake up early to watch the sun rise
- Try a mini meditation
- Try cloud watching or star gazing
- Speak to a good friend
- Take a short nap
- Write out your thoughts
- Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to for a while
- Take 5-10 minutes to really notice all the sounds, sensations, etc you are experiencing
- Light a scented candle
- Let yourself have a lie in
- Book a holiday
- Have a massage
- Try a digital detox for an hour
- Have a healthy snack
- Look at inspiring pictures, whether it is landscapes or cute animals!
- Do something nice for someone else
- Get an early night