The advent of an understanding that mental health and well-being is of utmost importance in our lives has led to the words “self-care” finding their way to the forefront of many conversations. Many people however, don’t truly understand what self-care means, how to undertake the practice, or its benefits. If you are one of these people and you’re looking to find some answers, read on!
Self-care is a broad term to define any activity you can engage in on a regular basis which fosters kindness towards yourself and will improve your quality of life. Long-term benefits of self-care activities will have impacts on your physical health and mental health. Engaging in these practices will also help you learn about yourself, it will boost your productivity, and it will enhance your self-esteem. So how do you start?
Imagine you’ve had a terrible day at work because your work demands have increased, you arrive home to find that your child has painted on the walls and your partner forgot to put the laundry in the machine even though you reminded him/her. You may be feeling anxious about work and you’re likely frustrated with your child and your partner.
A good first step to begin your self-care practice is learning to recognise moments like the above experience when you need to manage your own emotional distress. Any experience where you might say to yourself, “I need time to recharge, to relax, and to calm my mind” is a good indication that some self-care is needed. The lovely thing about self-care is that it can take any form. You might enjoy a gym session, reading a new book or returning to an old favourite, listening to a mindfulness meditation, or meeting a friend for coffee.
However, self-care isn’t just something we should be doing when we’re experiencing emotional distress. Smaller acts of self-care should be an ongoing, daily practice to reap the long-term benefits. For example, keeping to a sleep routine is an excellent form of self-care. A good sleep routine will ensure you get quality sleep, leaving you feeling well-rested, focused and attentive, and ready to take on your busy day. Another small form of self-care that can be practiced daily is keeping a gratitude journal (three things you are grateful for each day/week). This will help foster your sense of connectivity to the positive aspects of your life, as well as help you learn what fuels your positive energy.
The most important thing to know about self-care though, is that it will be different for each person. Your best friend might enjoy mindful guided meditations every morning while you might prefer to sit with your coffee reading the newspaper. Learning what works for you will be the hardest part of putting self-care practices into your daily routine but, once you understand what activities you can do to be kind to yourself, you’ll be well on your way to improving your mental and physical health.