What does Self-Care Mean to You? was first published in December 2018 and updated in February 2021.
Self-care. It’s such a broad term – but what is it?
Definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary include: The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health and the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
What is Self-Care?
Although the act of self-care may look different to everyone, essentially, it’s all the same.
Self-care is something that makes you feel good and energises you. It’s something you want to do, rather than something you feel like you should be doing.
Self-care is looking after yourself, mentally, physically, and emotionally, knowing when to slow down and when to say no. It’s about taking a step back and asking yourself what would be the best thing for me to do right now?
Self-care is recognising the signs that you’re feeling overwhelmed, then taking steps to figure out how best to deal with it. Or better still, taking preventative measures, by finding ways to look after yourself, so you can reduce the chances of becoming overwhelmed in the first place.
Mental Health Awareness and Self-Care
Who knew that nearly 12-months after the UK went into its first lockdown, there would still be a global pandemic happening? The UK is now into its third lockdown. Many people are still isolated, some are dealing with grief and bereavement, while others are dealing with unemployment or the ending of a relationship. All of these things affect our mental health, which in turn affects how we think, feel, and act.
Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma around mental health. Although people are starting to talk more openly about their problems, it’s still considered a taboo subject among many. With symptoms like anxiety, stress, and depression at an all-time high, it’s more important than ever to look after ourselves and practise self-care. Last Thursday was Time to Talk Day. A day aimed at getting people to start conversations about mental health, helping to break down barriers and myths, and remove the stigma that surrounds it.
I’m currently studying towards my Level 3 certificate in counselling skills, and I’m learning so much about mental health and how it affects us. Sometimes, self-care is simply taking time out and doing something you enjoy. Other times, it might be talking to someone, getting things off your chest, and putting a voice to things that are worrying you.
If this is the case, and you feel like you need to speak to a counsellor, I’ve listed some websites at the bottom of the post that you might find helpful.
What Activities Contribute to Self-Care?
Self-care isn’t one size fits all, and my self-care routine will probably look different to yours. And, given the current pandemic, your self-care routine will probably look different to how it did 12-months ago.
We’ve become more aware of just how fragile our mental health can be, and how important it is, to find activities that nourish and nurture us. Many people are also taking this time to learn new skills, and are turning to more holistic therapies, like crystal healing and Reiki.
But if an activity positively contributes to your well-being and makes you happy or feel good about yourself – it’s self-care.
- Exercising regularly
- Being creative e.g., writing, drawing, making something
- Taking your dog for a walk
- Having a lie-in
- Binging on Netflix
- Having regular phone/video calls with family and friends
- Listening to your favourite music
- Going for an hour-long walk, and making the most of the outdoor exercise time you’re allowed
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating healthily
- Taking on less
- Taking a break from social media
- Learning new skills
There is no right or wrong answer, everyone deals with stress and anxiety differently.
As long as it helps with your mental well-being – it’s all good.
What Self-Care Means to Me
My self-care routine hasn’t changed much in the last 12-months. I still do the same things I did before lockdown; it’s just I’ve become more consistent with some of them. The only thing I can’t do at the moment, is go out hiking, so I’ve just included my current self-care routine.
For me, self-care means some form of exercise every day. It’s non-negotiable and has been for over 20-years. My daily workouts are naturally part of my day, just like brushing my teeth. A variety of running, resistance training, Pilates, and HIIT are things I do regularly to make me feel good. Exercise releases endorphins, which trigger positive feelings within the body. Getting active helps me deal with stress and helps me to figure out the answers to things that are bugging me.
I find running outside especially therapeutic, and a positive to come out of lockdown is that I’ve developed a more regular running practice.
Along with working out, journaling helps me to figure things out. Sometimes, I just need 10 minutes to release some pressure before my head explodes. Other times, I can easily spend an hour working through issues that are troubling me. Journaling provides a judgement-free space, where I can write whatever I want.
No-one is going to get offended, take anything the wrong way, or give their unwanted opinion. It helps me get my head straight and writing things down is one of the best ways for me to find solutions to my problems.
Meditation comes in different forms. For me, I like to listen to music and then I concentrate on my breath. When thoughts arise (which they frequently do!), I acknowledge them and then let them go. Occasionally, I’ll listen to a guided meditation.
The main thing is, I’ve locked myself away from the outside world and for 10 minutes, I’m giving myself permission to relax and just be. Even if I end up with a monkey mind, at least I’ve been in a quiet space, away from everything. Ian bought me a meditation cushion a couple of years ago, which has been a gamechanger. I now associate this with my meditation practice, and having a dedicated cushion makes all the difference. A bit like when you roll out a yoga mat and try and leave your worries off the mat.
I always have a journal nearby, because sometimes, after I’ve finished meditating, I have a moment of clarity about something that I’ll want to write down and explore further.
I love reading.
This is how I start my day (followed by a workout), and I sometimes end the day with a good book too. It’s pure relaxation, and given the opportunity, I could spend all day curled up with a good book.
My mother-in-law gifted me a Kindle a few years ago because the number of books I owned was causing me to feel anxious. The amount of reading I do has increased – which can only be a good thing – because I don’t have to worry about the piles of books anymore.
Having said that, throughout lockdown I’ve found some peace with the number of books I own. They bring me joy, and I now have them all out on a bookcase. I’ve also taken recent delight in purchasing some more physical books to add to my collection.
This has been the biggest change for me recently.
I’ve been vegan for several years, and my diet has always been fairly good. But over the last few months, I’ve been feeling really tired. It’s been a difficult 12-months. I haven’t been sleeping well, and I’ve been struggling with stress and anxiety, so I know they’ve been contributing factors.
In January, I decided to tighten up my diet and eat more nutrient-dense, whole foods. I’ve done a lot of reading during the lockdown, and my new favourite books to read are about endurance and ultra-athletes. I’ve had Brendan Brazier’s book Thrive for a few years, but I wasn’t ready to apply any of it – until recently. I want to increase my running this year, so feeding my body correctly to help performance and recovery is vital, and I’m already noticing a difference.
The books I’m currently using for nutrition are Thrive, The Plant Power Doctor and Healthy Vegan, by the Bosh! boys, along with some of our recipes that we’ve developed over several years. Changing my diet has been a gamechanger, and I’m feeling so much better in myself.
I like feeling fit and healthy. I don’t like feeling sluggish, bloated, and unhealthy, and I’m currently feeling better than I have done in a long time.
This is a broad term for me. This can be anything from writing, Zentangle, or making something. I drop hobbies and pick up new ones all the time, but having some form of creative outlet in my life is important for me.
I even went on a course a couple of years ago where I learnt how to make a scatter cushion – I enjoyed this so much, I started selling them!
Not exactly at the top of everyone’s self-care list but clutter and the amount of stuff we own makes me anxious. I don’t like the feeling of things building up or the walls closing in. We also live in a house that we’re renovating, so it’s especially important for me to try and keep on top of things.
It’s said our surroundings are a representation of what’s going on inside our head. That’s why de-cluttering can be so therapeutic. I always feel lighter, when I have a good tidy up or clear out. By getting rid of things that no longer serve me, I can make space for new things that do and give myself some head space in the process.
Create Your own Self-Care Routine
As you can see, self-care is a broad term that will mean something different to everyone. But if a certain activity helps with your mental well-being, brings you happiness or adds value to your life, you’re onto a good thing.
Try and create a regular routine. I always feel better when I meditate or allow myself to do something creative, and being in lockdown has given me the space to do this.
You can practise as much self-care as you like, but sometimes, you might find yourself needing a little extra support. If this is the case, please don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Sometimes, you might just need a friend to listen while you offload some niggling concerns. Other times, you might want to talk to someone who’s qualified to listen. Please visit the charity Mind for general advice, or the BACP or Counselling Directory to find a counsellor in your area.