Taking a look at the definitions of selfcare and its importance as well as ways to start and improve on the skill. This blog also includes a self care checklist and some creative ways to practice self-care on a limited budget.
What is self-care?
The concept of self-care has previously been known as a word that's over used and under defined, sprinkled in to conversation with little explanation and leaving folks with the feeling that they ought to be practising it but with little to no direction in how to or where to start.
Self-care is in fact defined by the individual who practices it and is unique to everyone. In its basic format, self-care is the act of purposefully looking after your body and mind through various behaviours and actions.
Self-caring behaviours can involve looking after your own physical needs such as making efforts to achieve adequate nutrition, sleep and exercise as well as bathing and grooming. Self-care can also involve participating in acts that bring you joy or relieve stress and anxiety by taking care of the mind e.g. hobbies, self-soothing, watching TV and avoiding uncomfortable stimuli.
Self-care can also include the act of protecting oneself from physical and psychological harm by distancing the body and mind from toxic relationships and environments e.g. avoiding people who have been known to take advantage of you in the past, or putting in physical barriers to stop yourself from self-harming.
Why is self-care important?
Self-care is important for our mental and physical well-being in many ways and is linked to our sense of self-esteem. When a person experiences low self-esteem, self-care can feel difficult to practice and in turn they may neglect themselves, consequently lowering their self-esteem in a viscous cycle.
Self-care is helpful in improving ones self-esteem when practised more frequently and when a person feels better about themselves, self-care will seem easier to practice. This cycle directly helps improve feelings of confidence and self-worth.
Self-care also helps us to build a loving relationship with our bodies and mind by practising kindness, love and compassion towards ourselves. This can help ease body dysmorphia and dysphoria by allowing ourselves to feel comfortable in our own skin and learning to accept and appreciate the space we take up and our existence.
By making ourselves feel better through acts of self-care we can directly help reduce our stress and improve our overall physical and emotional well-being, this can help strengthen our resilience to developing mental health illnesses and prevent existing ones from worsening. Self-care is also crucial for overcoming relapse and successfully pursuing any form of recovery.
Self-care can also strengthen personal boundaries by allowing us to protect ourselves against harmful situations and people, preventing burn out and avoiding abuse from the external world. When self-preservation is practised then ones own values, morals and ethics can be discovered, worked upon and strengthened, further reinforcing our own sense of self-worth and personal autonomy.
How can I start caring for myself?
Whilst understanding what self-care is and why it’s important, practising it can still feel difficult. Here are some tips for better self-care practice:
- Starting of small is a great first step; aim to complete one act of self-care a week by setting a 10 minute alarm to practice and explore self-care techniques. From here try to increase the frequency and duration until you can manage to practice some form of self-care at least once a day. Be sure to add ‘self-care’ on to your to-do list so that you don't forget!
- If you struggle to come up ways to care for yourself, make a list of activities and items that you like and add to them gradually. These can help prompt ideas on how you can care for yourself. If picking an activity is hard, try putting each self-care suggestion on a piece of paper in a box or jar to randomly choose from later.
- When out shopping, consider purchasing an item that will serves only your needs and don't share it with anyone else. This could variate from a nice smelling shampoo or cup of coffee, the point is to allow yourself privacy, space and self-compassion.
Discovering how to care for your body, mind and soul can be an exciting journey, let yourself try newthings to see what you do and don't enjoy. Self-care not only nourishes thebody, mind and soul but helps you to get to know the person you truly are.
Daily self care check list
Although this list may have some obvious components to it, items are often forgotten about. Writing down or following a list may make it easier to meet the bodies basic needs through self care practices.
- Drink a glass of water
- Spend 10 minutes outside
- Have a shower/bath
- Eat at least 3 meals a day
- Write down one sentence describing how you feel emotionally and physically
- Self-care activity of your choice
Self-care on a budget
Self-care doesn't have to be expensive, or cost money at all! Here are some ways to practice caring for yourself without having to spend a lot of money.
- Give yourself a massage.
- Pick flowers for yourself on a walk, put them in a vase or press them.
- Watch your favourite movie or show or take time to watch something you've been meaning to.
- Arrange to see a friend or family member you love spending time with.
- Bake or cook yourself something you really enjoy making and/or eating.
- Make extra time for a hobby you enjoy.
- Have a nap.
- Buy a nice smelling soap.
- Take an extra-long shower or bath.
- Write a letter to yourself, praising all your hard work.
- Play a game on your phone.
- Create a “no” list, with things you know you don’t like, or you no longer want to do. Examples might include: Not checking emails at night, not attending gatherings you don’t like, not answering your phone during lunch/dinner.
- Read a book or blog that you enjoy.
- Find a place with enough room to stretch mindfully.
- Listen to your favourite music or make a new playlist.
- Wear your comfiest clothes.
- Take yourself out on a coffee date.
- Take a walk in a forest, along the beach or somewhere with a calm atmosphere, pack a picnic, snack or hot drink.
- Drink a glass of water.
- Put your phone on silent when you go to bed.
- Say ‘no’ to working extra shifts.
- Start a journal.
- Try out some simple yoga.
- Make your own face mask (there are lots of recipes online).
- Try making something through arts and crafts.
- Go to a charity shop, buy yourself or a friend a small inexpensive gift.
- Wrap yourself up in a blanket.
- Clean and/or organise your bedroom.
- Set a bedtime prompt alarm to make sure you get a good night’s sleep.