We have all seen photos and articles on the Internet encouraging us to add ‘self care’ into our days. Personally I love some of the suggestions that come up of things to do and the beautifully inspiring photos that accompany them.
This trend may have come as a result of our frantically busy schedules, our internal pressure and the expectation to put others’ needs before our own. We may have reached the point where we are due to rest and feel the need to reinvigorate ourselves. All of these things are valid and good reasons to partake in self care.
Self care is not just about bubble baths and Netflix though – that is the pretty Instagram version of self care and they are usually a fleeting fix.
Self care is being a Responsible Adult.
This form of self care is focusing on the deeper level activities that make us feel good and nurtured for our long term wellness.
Getting some daily exercise, fresh air, nature and sunshine. Making good healthy meals and food to nourish our bodies. Staying hydrated. Maintaining good hygiene. Having a disciplined sleep routine. Take time to be still and quiet. Taking a break from social media and the news for a dedicated amount of time each day. Being creative instead of consuming.
It is also all the things that we never see on social media or encouraged in articles because they are considered standard parts of life and not at all eye catching in an article headline.
A lot of self care includes the things that we don’t always want to do and may require a lot of discipline. It might not feel good in the moment, but it will likely feel good afterwards and for the long term. Making sure we have regular check ups at the doctor or dentist. Taking a break when you have too much to do (which is exactly when you need a break the most). Saying no to commitments that you are pressured into and people pleasing. Maintaining our boundaries even when it is difficult. Feeling the obligation to maintain relationships and friendships that have run their course. Being kind to ourselves when we feel we don’t deserve it. Asking for help when you need it. Self care is both the nice and the difficult things we need to do for ourselves.
No one else is taking responsibility for your care once you are an adult. These are all things that when we were a child, a parent or guardian would have been reminding us to do or organising it for us. We have a responsibility to ourselves and others around us to take care of ourselves in a way that maintains the best possible version of ourselves. Healthy self care is somewhere in the middle between parenting and taking care of yourself, while also being able to take care of others without it being detrimental to the health and wellbeing of either party.
It is not selfish to take time to maintain yourself and replenish your energy. We don’t question whether we should service our car to keep it running well, so why do we question and deny our own needs for maintenance?
Self care should not be a reaction from a lifestyle that is constantly exhausting you. In that scenario, it may be wiser to take a proactive rather than reactive approach, and review your lifestyle and stressors instead of trying to constantly recover from them.
If you have been putting off some of the self care tasks that are less appealing, do it and follow it up with an activity that you do enjoy.
As always, experiment! If bubble baths don’t float your boat, find activities that make you feel alive, that you lose track of time while doing, and as though your internal battery has been recharged.
Take (self) care Readers.
As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
One of my all-time favorite people to recommend is Brooke McAlary and her new book, Care, helps us work out what to do when the world’s problems feel too big and we are burnt out from trying, and we need to restore ourselves so that we can continue to care for things.
I’ve had a lot of medical appointments over the years and I have learnt a few tips from my experiences and from the medical practitioners and their staff.
Don’t wait and miss the opportunity for a quality rest break.
Matt Haig is a brilliant writer and human being who is constantly investigating and questioning the effect of modern life on our mental health. He is a huge advocate for mental health wellness, and has shared his experiences through his multiple fiction works and his non-fiction books.