The art of self-care is essential to our well-being and sometimes it requires a lot more than a bubble bath and a Lush face mask to start feeling good about ourselves again. Popular media would have us believe that self-care can be cultivated by drinking plenty of water and practicing mindfulness activities once in a while. Although these are positive things to integrate into your day-to-day life, we need to remember that self-care is subjective and every one of us needs something different to feel good.
Here in The A-Z of Self-Care, I hope that you find something that benefits you and caters to the self-care needs that you’ve been looking for.
ASK FOR HELP
When we’re struggling, we feel pressured to keep our feelings and emotions to ourselves. You don’t need permission to ask for help – whether that be from family members or friends, work colleagues or a GP, you are entitled to ask for the help that you need to get through.
Bravery doesn’t always come in shining armour. Being brave can be as something as small as finding the courage to get out of bed in the morning, going outside for an hour or speaking up when someone has upset you. Every day we come across things that scare us, but my advice is – be brave, be bold and do the thing; no matter how much it scares you.
For those who don’t suffer with mental illness, cleaning your home and yourself comes as a second nature – unfortunately, this might not come so easily to others. Managing to get in the shower, managing to wash your hair, even managing to do the washing up that’s been piling up is a huge achievement when you’ve been struggling with self-care. Try setting aside an hour a week to undertake some cleanliness tasks that you’ve been avoiding.
If you’ve been taking yourself for granted recently, then finding the strength to be decisive can seem somewhat unachievable. Start small by deciding independently what you’re going to have for dinner or what you’re going to watch on television that night; then when you feel ready you can move on to bigger things that you’ve been undecided on so far.
EXPLORE YOUR BOUNDARIES
Often, we find solace in our comfort zone and rarely want to test the water outside of these. Self-care is not just about being comfortable, sometimes we need to explore our boundaries in order to grow and to see how far we can actually push ourselves. Whilst it’s important to test your boundaries, it’s also important to be aware of where your limits are and to not push yourself too far. Find a balance, try being both inside and outside of your comfort zone.
FOOD & NOURISHMENT
Self-care is also functional on a more basic level, it’s not all about mindfulness and relaxation. Make sure that you are eating food and providing yourself with enough nourishment. Our lives are busy and somewhere between work, play and rest we need to take the time to ensure that we are giving ourselves the fuel that we need to fulfil all of our activities.
Sometimes, nothing can make us feel better the way that a deep, lungful of fresh air can make us feel. When we’re struggling with self-care, home becomes a safe place of solitude and reflection and often we find that we’re only venturing outside for practical things such as work and heading to the shops for food. It’s important that you cultivate some outside-time that is free from deadlines and busy shops, time where you can just breathe and be at one with the environment.
HARMONISE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Relationships can be sources of angst in our lives, and when you haven’t been taking care of yourself, any issues that you may have might hit harder than they usually would. Find time to harmonise your relationships, be that a friendship, a romantic relationship or a familial one – we deserve to surround ourselves with positive experiences and when a relationship has hit a bump or is stuck in a toxic rut, there’s no reason for you not to filter out and harmonise them.
IMPORTANT LIFE ADMIN
All of us fall into the pattern of ignoring important paperwork and life admin that we need to do. Phoning our GP to book an appointment, applying for the next course, arranging our diaries in a manner that is functional, even just filling out a simple form – all of these are things that become daunting and impossible when we haven’t been on top of our self-care. Now’s the time to get on top of everything and spend some time sorting out our life admin.
JUSTIFYING YOUR EMOTIONS IS POINTLESS
Time and time again, we find ourselves trying to justify our emotions – but really, we don’t need to do that at all. We can attribute an action or an event to an emotion we are feeling, but occasionally there is no rhyme or reason to the way that we feel, we just feel that way. Learn that justifying your emotions all the time is pointless, replace this instead with acknowledging the emotion you’re feeling and finding ways to support yourself during this time.
KICK SOME ASS – EVEN IF IT’S YOUR OWN
Sometimes we just need to kick some ass to feel better about things. Occasionally, only tough-love will do it so whether you need to kick your ass in to action, kick someone else’s ass into realising that they need to help you, or whether you just need to realise what a kick-ass person you really are, it’s got to be done and there’s no time like the present!
LEARN TO LET IT GO
Holding a grudge is one of the worst things that we can do, as we hold on to toxic energy – an energy that will no doubt curb our self-love enthusiasm over time. Learn that it’s okay to let it go. You shouldn’t feel any guilt for letting someone get off scot-free for something they’ve done as in the end, you’ll be the one who is rejuvenated by not holding on to that negative energy.
Self-care isn’t an easy ride and you might have to actively motivate yourself to do these things. Whether that’s hiding empowering post-it notes around your home or dragging yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn for an early-morning walk. Whatever you’re struggling to do, you need to find the strength to motivate yourself.
NO MEANS NO
The majority of us feel pressured into following through with plans that we didn’t really want to make in the first place, but listen up – it is okay to say no. We feel obliged to go out and see friends, make plans and stick to them, force ourselves out when really we want to stay firmly in. There’s no shame in listening to what your mind and body want – learn to say no, and mean it.
When we haven’t been looking after ourselves too well, we tend to think that we aren’t good enough to achieve. We question our worth and abilities when an opportunity arises that we might be interested in, and often let it pass us by because we think that we’re somehow not good enough. Self-care means pushing yourself and believing in yourself – so the next time that opportunity knocks, seize it with both hands and run with it!
Things happen every day that are going to piss us off and make us feel down – and that’s okay. It’s part of life to expect these not-so-good experiences – it’s how we deal with the aftermath that matters. Choose a few pick-me-up’s that are your go-to’s when you’re feeling less than great. These can be anything – a chocolate bar, a haiku that makes you laugh, select words from a loved one, an excerpt from a feel-good novel, lines from a song. Whatever you find solace in, make it work for you on a daily basis.
Our time is so fraught with deadlines, meetings, demands, delights, excitement and painful experiences that we need to enjoy some quiet time. Quiet time will give your mind the break that it needs to shut away the perils of every day life and can come in many forms. However you feel most relaxed, whatever gives you the most mental piece, then make it a part of your daily or weekly routine.
RESPECT YOURSELF & OTHERS
Respect is something that seems to be lacking in our society, and part of self-care is learning how to respect yourself and extending that to respecting others. If we don’t look after ourselves mentally and physically, it can breed a contempt for ourselves that we can hold on to for a long time. Learn to respect your voice, your decisions, your goals, your experiences and your values. And, whilst we might not always agree with others, learn to respect theirs too.
Sleep is integral to our ability to function. Sadly, some of us struggle with insomnia or other sleep-related problems which hinder our ability to feel fully rested on a day-to-day basis. If sleep comes easily to you, make sure that you are getting enough of it, if sleep continues to evade you – take the necessary steps to improve the quality of your resting time.
THANKFULNESS IS IMPORTANT
Popular media would have us believe that there is always something that we want or need: whether that be materialistic, relating to our bodies or appearance or appertaining to our personal relationships. So much so, that we are always on the hunt for something and rarely take the time to be thankful for what we do have. Thankfulness is an important part of self-care as it aids us in realising that we have so much richness in our lives, we’ve just been taught that it’s not enough.
Social media is a wonderful thing – we can connect and immerse ourselves in the lives of others. Unfortunately, it is also a horrible and toxic thing that can sometimes do us more harm than good. If you’re finding that certain pages or posts are making you feel uncomfortable or worse about yourself, then know that it is perfectly fine to unsubscribe, unlike and unfollow those who don’t fill your life in a positive manner.
VULNERABILITY ISN’T A BAD THING
We are taught that to be vulnerable, is to be weak – but that’s not the case. Allowing yourself a certain amount of vulnerability can be incredible refreshing and may open up a whole different world in terms of personal connections. Letting yourself feel vulnerable is vastly important in allowing yourself to grow – you have to acknowledge what makes you feel vulnerable in order to challenge yourself.
It’s so simple, but it is so easily forgotten. Self-care is as simple as drinking a glass of water when you’d usually choose something else. Self-care is as simple as drinking a glass of water when you feel sick. Self-care is as simple as drinking a glass of water to calm yourself down. Quench your thirst with water and take care of your hydration.
Not strictly within the alphabet but I think that I can get away with this one. Expectations – as a society we need to learn when our expectations need to be lowered and, incidentally, when they aren’t high enough. Do not expect too much from others, they might be having a hard time too. Don’t expect too much from yourself, you need to give a little once in a while. On the flip side – have high expectations for how you should be treated by others, you are worthy of an amount of respect. Also be aware of the expectations you put on yourself – make them difficult sure, but ultimately, make them achievable.
YOU ARE WORTHY
This term is thrown around willy-nilly in the self-love and body image communities, so much so that it’s become something of a buzz-phrase. But please don’t let that deter you from knowing that you ARE worthy. Anything that you want to do, you’re worthy of it. Anything that you want to achieve, you’re worthy of it. Anything that you want for yourself, you’re worthy of it. Anything that might seem un-doable, you’re worthy of it. Self-care? You’re most certainly worthy of it.
ZEST FOR LIFE
Try to cultivate a zest for life whereby you feel excited come the dawn of each day. Let’s not be ridiculous – it’s impossible to feel positive each and every day, but more often than not, try to make it part of your routine to acknowledge something good that has happened in your day. Look forward to things, no matter how small. Cultivate a zest for life that is suitable for you and how you choose to live.