Self-care is important. VERY important. Here are three important reasons why;
Firstly, when you take care of yourself, you send yourself (and your nervous system) a message of safety. The problem with modern life is that it doesn’t make us feel that safe. Our poor nerves get a hammering. It’s decidedly more ‘fight or flight’ than ‘rest and relax'. When we do something to take care of ourselves we slow down. We’re sending ourselves a message of safety and security. And that sure is a good thing in an age of anxiety.
Secondly, self-care sends you the very important message that you are a worthy and valuable person, worthy of being taken care of. Self-worth is linked to anxiety, so anything you can do to bolster self-worth is vital. With self-worth, you can also feel stronger, more capable, more able to handle whatever the future brings. You’re less likely to beat yourself up and you handle setbacks more easily because you feel good about yourself as a person.
Thirdly, self-care is especially important if you're looking after others. Whether you're a parent, partner, friend or a carer - you can't pour from an empty cup, so it's vital to fill yourself up first. If you're depleted, not only will you feel rubbish, but you won't be in a good position to help anyone else either. The more you take care of yourself the easier it gets because you start to feel more and more that you’re worthy of being taken care of.
Especially for women we can feel it’s being selfish to put ourselves first. Partner, children, family etc the old tradition is they all should be the priority. But I always think of what the Health Visitor told us new mums in our post-natal group. Look after yourself, make sure you keep your post birth appointments etc, find time for yourself, if you aren’t fit and well you can’t look after your lovely new family.
On an aeroplane, an oxygen mask drops in front of you. What do you do? As we all know, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. It is also one of the easiest things to forget. But you benefit greatly from self-care and so do others in your life.
It really is not selfish. A calm and happy you radiates good feeling to everyone you meet. We all know smiles are contagious, well so is stress. Don’t be a martyr. Being a stressed out Mum, employee, business owner, carer or friend because you think it’s selfish to take care of yourself isn’t helping anyone, especially not you. If you’re taking care of yourself, other people will benefit. The Barista that you’re able to be friendly to because you’re feeling happier, your colleague who you can support because you’re the calm and clear-headed one, your partner that you’re able to truly appreciate because you’ve slowed down enough to see the little things that they do for you. Peace starts with you, and it’s contagious.
Also for Mums you are showing your children, especially the girls, how important you, and self-care is. Lead by example ladies!
Have I managed to get my point across?! The more you take care of yourself the easier it gets because you start to feel more and more that you’re worthy of being taken care of. (If you’re still telling yourself ‘I don’t have time to take care of myself’, ask yourself ‘do I have time to feel bad?’).
So how can you make self-care work for you? Try one of these suggestions -
1. Spend time with a parent or mentor—someone who makes you feel protected and inspired.
2. Volunteer to help a cause that means something to you.
3. Listen to music from one of the happiest periods of your life.
4. Practice a mindfulness exercise, even if it’s just deep breathing.
5. Light some candles and enjoy a nice glass of your favourite wine.
6. Think of three positives associated with your current problems.
7. Take a hot shower or bath, then change into some soft, clean clothes.
8. Do some creative writing—imagine a fantasy scenario, and lose yourself in it.
9. Go to bed early and make sure you get at least a full 8 hours of sleep.
10. Paint something—it can be as abstract or realistic as you like!
11. Say out loud “Nothing lasts forever. This too shall pass.”
12. Visualize a beautiful, calm location and spend 10 minutes imagining you’re there right now.
13. Keep your hands busy with a repetitive activity like knitting, sewing or solving a puzzle.
14. Write down ten things in your life that inspire gratitude.
15. Sketch something, whether it’s an elaborate drawing or just a doodle of patterns that appeal to you.
16. Go for a walk.
17. Plan a day trip and take photographs of 10 things you see that inspire you.
18. Look into local retreats where you can meet like-minded people and escape from society.
19. Watch YouTube videos of cute animals.
20. Hug someone you love (friend, family member or partner) for 12-15 seconds—studies show this boosts immune system function and prompts the release of calming hormones.
21. Do some yoga—even just five minutes of very basic positions can help you feel calmer and stronger.
22. Go to a café, order your favourite delicious coffee (or some other kind of luxury drink), and read a book or magazine.
23. Find any reminders of bad times, and get rid of them—they’re only adding negativity to your space.
24. Slowly file, buff and paint your nails, then massage soothing cream into your hands.
25. Make a playlist of uplifting songs, and know you can tune in to it whenever things get rough.
26. Let yourself cry if you need to—holding it back tends to make people feel worse instead of better.
27. Challenge yourself to write down 20 things you love about life.
28. Just say “no” if someone is asking you to do something that feels too much.
29. Recreate a favourite date or day out with your partner or a good friend.
30. Take a full day (even if you have to call in sick) and just take care of yourself.
31. Eat a square of dark chocolate, which is proven to lower the levels of certain stress hormones.
32. Skip your household chores for a full day.
33. Watch several episodes of your favourite TV show, back to back.
34. Empty out your wardrobe, and donate old, ill-fitting or unappealing clothes to charity.
35. If you need to make a tricky decision, create a list of pros and cons.
36. Head to the gym and sweat out your stress with a serious workout.
37. Head to a beautiful, quiet place and watch the sunset. Bonus points if you can find somewhere by the water.
38. Dance to your favourite songs, and really put your whole body into it!
39. Watch a movie that is guaranteed to make you laugh.
40. Go cycling or running in a beautiful place (you’ll get the endorphins flowing and expose your mind to natural beauty).
41. Get your favourite comfort food and savour it without any guilt—you deserve it.
42. Go for a drive with your music turned up loud. Sing along if you like!
43. Switch off from the internet for a full day.
44. Go shopping and treat yourself to one little item that you don’t really need but that represents caring for yourself.
45. Take a long, slow walk, listening to some of your favourite relaxing music on your headphones.
46. Reset your brain and revitalize your energy stores by taking a 15-20 minute nap.
47. Plan a weekend away, whether it’s by yourself or with some people whose company you love.
48. Make a cup of tea and just sip it in quiet stillness.
49. Cook a healthy meal that’s packed with delicious, fresh vegetables.
50. Deliberately externalize your feelings of stress, sadness or frustration in a journal entry.
51. Interact with your pet, or go to a place where you can touch some animals (e.g. a petting zoo or cat café).
52. Pick up the phone and call someone who understands you.
53. Reorganise your workspace, getting rid of clutter. Research shows that this helps to declutter your mind too.
54. Smile at yourself in the mirror—you’ll be surprised at how quickly the smile becomes genuine.
55. Read a good book (under a blanket if it’s cold, or lazing in the sun if it’s warm outside).
56. Offer to walk someone’s dog for them.
57. Play a sport, or sign up to learn a new one—it’s good for your social life and great for pent-up frustration.
58. Watch some trashy TV or read a trashy magazine—sometimes, we all need a little escapism.
59. Book a massage, a manicure, or a facial. If you can afford it, book all three!
60. Plan a night out (or a night in) with your favourite people.
61. If you are religious or spiritual, spend some time praying.
62. Take a hot bath with bubble bath or even Epsom salts.
63. Sit by a river and watch the movement of the water.
64. Have a pamper session with face masks.
65. If all that fails make an appointment to see a counsellor. Even just one session of unburdening yourself could make a difference.