Self-care is one of those terms that is often misunderstood. People wrongly equate it with being selfish. Shouldn’t we put others before ourselves? If we put ourselves first, doesn’t this mean we’re neglecting those closest to us? The answer to both of these questions is no.
You know the flight briefing before take off, where the cabin crew goes through emergency procedures? They instruct us to put our own oxygen mask on first before helping others. There is a logical reason for this. If we can’t breathe properly, it’s unlikely we can help others to safety. The idea of self-care is a similar concept. If we’re functioning below par, we are unlikely to be of use to other people. This is true in terms of taking care of dependants, having meaningful relationships, etc. So it makes sense to ensure we are happy, healthy and functioning at our best. And, don’t we deserve to be treated like everyone else? Aren’t we worthy of our own time?
Where do you begin?
Once you have made the decision to allow yourself to be important, there are lots of simple things you can do to practice self-care.
Time is always a sensible place to start. Do you make enough time for yourself? Or is your time spent running around after your boss, colleagues, family, and friends? Try to carve out a little time each day, even if it’s only half an hour. Spending it doing something you enjoy. This could be reading, running, working out, crafting, or just simply sitting.
Do something kind for yourself
Run yourself a long hot bath with scented oils. Light some candles and use all your favourite products. You could do this quite simply in your own home or as part of a spa weekend away. Imagine the luxury of relaxing in a deep free standing bath, followed by a soothing massage. You will emerge feeling calm and refreshed. Even twenty minutes with a mug of tea and your favourite magazine after a hectic day will help you wind down.
In order to create time for yourself it may be necessary to establish some barriers. You don’t have to say yes to everything. Get into the habit of saying no when something is inconvenient or unhelpful.
A healthy diet
One of the best ways we can be kind to ourselves is to put the right food into our bodies. Rather than reaching for ready meals after a busy day, opt for a homemade version. Each time you cook, make twice the amount and put half in the freezer. It only takes a few minutes extra to do a little more chopping, etc. Having your own food on hand will avoid you taking short cuts and loading up on unhealthy processed food.
Take a good look at your diet and assess whether it’s working for you. Most of us could benefit from reducing or removing refined sugar from our diet. And this doesn’t mean denying yourself. You can still enjoy delicious food without the unhealthy side effects.
As part of this process, review your exercise at the same time. Are you getting enough? If the answer is no, start small. Think of ways you can build this into your everyday life. For example, get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
It’s not selfish to practice self-care. We have to take care of ourselves first before we can take of others. And it’s important to remember that we are also deserving of care and attention. It’s not selfish. It’s survival.