Self-care is the big buzzword around right now. If you search the phrase self-care, you’ll be met with thousands, maybe millions or articles. The sad truth is a lot of these articles don’t explain what self-care is, the importance of self-care or how to practice real self-care. Many people now see self-care as a fad, but that’s because they don’t know how to practice real self-care.
In this post, I’m going to teach you about real self care, why self care is important and break down the myths around modern self care. Here, you will learn the three important aspects of self care and how you can improve your overall health.
What is real self care?
There are a surprising amount of mistruths about self-care so I’m going to destroy these myths for you.
Self care is the act of taking care of yourself and putting your needs first.
The. Simple. Honest. Truth.
It is not a capitalist scam to sell face masks and bubblegum lip scrub.
It isn’t all about hot bubble baths (although it can be, if that works for you).
And finally, the mis-truth that makes me so mad my hair sets on fire…
Self-care is not selfish. Period.
Self-care is about taking the time to do the activities and hobbies that make you feel better. Self-care is putting your needs first in order to help others do the same.
What self care is not…
Self-care is different for everyone because we all have unique, individual needs. How you practice self care won’t be the same as your best friend, your partner or your parents. That is the beauty of self care. Developing the ability to prioritise yourself and your own individual needs.
Your self care is whatever healthy, positive habits or activities make you feel good. For example, for me this tends to be reading and listening to music. For my mum, this is walking and baking.
Self-care is not linear and will be different from person to person.
Why you should practice self care…
Most of us are taught that we must put others first as we watch ourselves fall further and further down our list of priorities. This negative mentality is bullshit, how can you look after others when you are burnt out, exhausted and unable to get out of bed?
The answer, you can’t. This is why in order to help others, you have to put yourself first. It’s like when you’re on a plane and the captain says “In the event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask than any children you are traveling with”. If you started putting the oxygen mask on the child, you could pass out, and then both of you would be helpless.
Self care works a similar way.
When is self-care especially important?
Self-care is always important, no matter what you do in life, however, it may need to be a bigger focus for people who meet certain criteria. For example, if you work in a caring role where you spend your days serving others (careers, therapists, teachers, doctors, social workers etc.) then you need to practice self-care daily. When you spend your days focusing on giving to others, you need to set aside time to practice self-care and look after yourself in turn.
Another example of people who need to make self-care part of their day to day lives are people who suffer from mental illness. I am part of this group and I have seen so many great changes in my life just from taking the time to focus on myself in a positive way. If you suffer from depression, anxiety or eating disorders use some of the self-care ideas at the end of this post to improve your mental health.
3 types of self care and how to practice each individual type.
Self-care is a blanket term really. Before you start practicing self care, we need to break down the areas of our life which will benefit the most from self care.
So, take a moment to relax. Sit back, close your eyes and ask yourself these questions.
What am I struggling with the most right now?
What areas of my life need the most attention? Is it my body, my mind, my social life?
What helps me feel refreshed and re-energised?
You probably won’t have the answers straight away. This exercise is designed to open your mind and make you think before we reach the 3 pillars of self care.
Physical self care is often the most forgotten about. However, it is one of the most important elements of self care. Why? Because taking care of our body is essential to maintaining good health. If your physical self care isn’t in check, both your mental and emotional self care will fall behind.
Physical self-care is about making sure your body doesn’t break down. However, physical self care should feel good. It shouldn’t feel like an obligation.
I’m going to ease your worries right now. Physical self care doesn’t mean vigorous exercise.
That’s a relief right?!
So, here’s some ideas for practicing physical self-care:
- Eating fruit and veg
- Going for a walk
- Going for a bike ride
Mental self-care is very similar to emotional self care in terms of focusing on your wellness. However, one thing people often don’t understand about mental self-care is that it’s not about forcing positivity. It’s about encouraging a more positive mindset and thought patterns.
It’s important to challenge our existing behaviours and thought patterns and try to encourage a more positive outlook. It’s not realistic to expect constant positivity however, making a conscious effort to notice the good things around you will help.
Some ideas for practicing mental self-care:
- Analysing your triggers
- Tracking your thoughts and feelings
- Challenging difficult thoughts
- Practicing gratitude
Emotional self-care is all about keeping your emotions in check and allowing yourself to feel these emotions. Whether you feel angry, annoyed, happy, joyful or sad, practicing emotional self-care will help you understand your feelings and explore the why behind them. Emotional self-care enables you to show more compassion towards your mind.
Being creative is one of the best ways to focus on emotional self-care. Your creativity will help you channel your emotions and begin to understand them.
Some ideas for practicing emotional self-care
- Mindful coloring
- Making music
If you’re looking for more self-care ideas, check out this post full of 50 self-care ideas. Take some time to try out different self-care practices and find the ones that work for you.
What 1 self care habit that changed my life
Once you’ve spent some time practicing self care and experimenting, you’ll find what works for you.
For me, it’s daily journaling.
When I was at my lowest, I started trying to journal every day. Daily journaling is a hard habit to get into but it is difficult because it is worthwhile. In just over a month, I increased my confidence, lowered my anxiety and realized my true potential.
What daily journaling helped me achieve:
- The confidence to pursue my dream of becoming a mental health counselor
- The skills and experience to start a blog to help others
- Road-trip around Europe despite social anxiety and depression.
If you are willing to put in the effort and time, I know that daily journaling will change your life and improve your mental health.
One of the hardest parts of starting a journal is getting started.
So, I have something for you.
My 30 day self-discovery journal with daily prompts to encourage self-improvement. This printable journal has 30 different journal prompts, one for each day to help you explore your subconscious.