Self-care seems to be the new buzzword. But do we really understand what self-care is and when we need to do it?
Many of us tune into the need for self-care when our emotional wellbeing is poor, but it is most effective when it is treated as a preventative measure. It enables us to live happy and fulfilled lives, which is a genuinely great thing.
Self-care can be defined as “the practice of activities that are necessary to sustain life and health, normally initiated and carried out by the individual for him- or herself”. When practised successfully, self care is a habit which is incorporated into a person’s life.
Self-care comes in many different forms. The obvious things which spring to mind are physical acts such as doing yoga or exercise. But acts of self-care are varied and can be exceedingly small, such as unwinding with your favourite TV programme, buying yourself some flowers, cooking a new dish.
Counselling is one of the best forms of self-care. It can be eye opening, lifechanging and improve people’s lives. Yet I find people often believe they need to hit rock bottom to be “bad enough” to warrant help.
Changes in day-to-day patterns e.g., appetite and sleep can be signs that your emotional wellbeing is suffering. This may be the point at which people engage in self-care. But once a certain threshold has been reached, that person is feeling depressed and anxious, lacking the energy and motivation to look after themselves. People can therefore find themselves spiralling, unable to engage in the very things which will make them feel better.
The relationship you have with yourself can play an integral part in self care. Imagine you are someone who struggles to value yourself, does not feel good enough, and places others needs above yours. Just the mere thought of spending time and attention on yourself may feel completely alien. Yet the inability to address your needs further compound the notion that you do not matter, perpetuating low levels of self worth. It often takes something quite extreme to bring about change.
We are all busy and it is not always convenient to pause, listen and respond to our needs. However, these are useful questions we can ask ourselves which may identify we are struggling.
- Has my appetite changed? Am I struggling to eat or craving sugary, comfort food?
- How is my sleep?
- Are my usual coping strategies working?
- Is my mood consistent or am I feeling particularly angry or low?
- Am I feeling guilty or shameful about things which are not my fault? Or replaying past events where I wish I responded/acted differently?
- Do I feel like a failure?
- Am I feeling more anxious that normal?
Failing to practice self care does not need to become another stick to beat yourself with. However, putting off self care means you are more likely to struggle, and we all deserve to feel good about ourselves.
I would instead invite you to consider how you might identify ways to look after yourself which are effective and sustainable. If you would like to know more about how professional counselling can help, please sign up for my newsletter on the “contact me” section on my website.