How to Practice Self-Care
"Self-Care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on Earth to offer others"
Self-Care – The practice of taking action to preserve one’s own health - Oxford dictionary
‘Self-care’ is a medical term which was coined in the 1950s to describe activities that allowed institutionalised patients to retain their independence. These tasks may have included personal hygiene, washing and dressing, cooking, shopping, and basic housekeeping. They may seem obvious to us now, as essential to everyday living but for those to whom this term applied, they were crucial in building self-worth and therefore never taken for granted.
Only in the last few decades has the term ‘Self-Care’ taken on a new meaning.
There is no new, modern definition. Perhaps ‘Self-Care’ means something different to each of us.
A relaxing bubble bath? A glass of wine at the end of the day? Retail therapy? Time out with a friend to share our news?
When we compare our current lives to those of our diverse ancestors, we see that often, much of their attention was taken up with the business of survival. The concept of self-care as we now know it might have seemed irrelevant or even surplus to requirement. If there was shelter, enough food on the table and no threat of immediate danger, there was much to be thankful for.
In later years, society has developed the concept of ‘Self-Care,’ to include more than simple survival skills. This is not because we are somehow weakened by our vastly improved technology and progress. Neither are we ‘snowflakes’ that are far too used to the creature comforts of immediate connection to the internet for information and entertainment from the device in our pocket.
Could it be that the concept of self-care as we know it has evolved because, as a collective, we have noticed that despite all this progress, something is lacking?
What could that be?
What might we have lost along the way?
Time? Space? Presence? Connection? But to what? Each other? The Land? The Planet? The Divine? Ourselves?
Let us remember that our ancestors, by their nature were living in the moment.
Somehow, amongst all this progress in the New World, we may have drifted away from our innate ability to do this as we are continually encouraged to project ourselves forward towards our goals and to utilise valuable energy safeguarding and insuring against any number of disasters that can now be forecast.
We have already discussed the therapeutic benefits of mindfulness and shared tools which help achieve mindfulness.
But is there more to Self-Care than mindfulness?
How do we define it for ourselves?
Let us remember that ‘Self-Care’ has also become Big Business. From the latest bath products and essential oils to the newest gym equipment, even to self-help podcasts and courses (we see the irony here,) suppliers know that you have a need.
When seeking to look after the Self, it is difficult to know who to listen to, especially when everyone is talking.
What does Self-Care really look like?
The first and most important step towards learning to practice Self-Care is to know yourself.
You can listen to the vast body of experts in the field of human wellbeing about what is generally recommended but without a profound knowledge of the Self it is impossible to know your own needs.
Once these are established, a plan for meeting them can be made.
You can begin with the Self-Check exercise in our previous article (the link is below but we include the questions here.)
· What do I want to achieve right now?
· What is taking up most of my thinking right now?
· What am I feeling right now?
· What is draining me?
· What is supporting Me?
This exercise will bring you in touch with what is going on for you right now. It is very effective when done regularly and recording your answers will help you to see patterns in your daily life.
On this occasion, however, you are using it as a preliminary to assess your Self-Care needs.
Once you have done this, continue buy asking yourself the following questions:
· What do I need more of in my life?
This is a limitless list of those things which you may have already identified as sustaining and nourishing you. You may describe them as “good for the soul” but, unless you are committed to the practice of Self-Care it is unlikely that you make enough time or space for them in your daily life. For example: meditation, music, art, dancing, swimming, reading, cinema, theatre, socialising etc. Take your time with this and do not allow any limitations to discourage you.
Once you have listed these, you can place them in order of importance.
· What do I need less of in my life?
These may be necessary to your job or home life in some way, but with a little help, consideration and planning could be reduced in number, volume, or intensity. For example: bills, debts, work, meetings, arguments, chores, accidents, misplaced items etc. Again, order these in terms of importance.
You may wish to record how much of your time is taken up with these activities.
· What will I no longer put up with in my life?
This is a full stop. What things are you no longer willing to tolerate? Once you have made this promise to yourself, you must be clear and disciplined with your boundaries so that they are understood and adhered to by all concerned – especially you – no exceptions.
Now, look at your lists of desires and obligations.
They have much information to offer you in terms of your ‘Self-Care’ needs.
You can now begin to look at ways of managing your time and adjusting your activities to increase the things that nourish you and minimise those that drain you.
The following links will help you to set your intentions, manage your time and make a plan:
If at any time you feel that your progress is blocked, consult our Resilience Toolkit. There are many and varied tools there to help you to move forward
Self- Care is often portrayed a collection of kind and gentle acts towards the Self which ultimately create feelings of Wellbeing. However, when being kind and gentle towards the Self, it can be all too easy to ‘cut ourselves some slack’ and give up on our goals. This is resistance. The paradox here is that the goal is ‘Self-Care.’
One crucial but often overlooked aspect of Self-Care is commitment to practice.
This takes discipline.
It can be difficult to commit to yourself when you have people and projects depending on you and you perceive that the world is watching and judging. The only thing that matters here is what is going on for you.
During our years of research, we have found that those who add certain practices into their lives such as meditation, yoga, dietary changes and exercise, reap far better rewards when they are committed.
Make a promise to yourself to commit to your Self- Care.
Be clear and precise.
We have often heard it said that you cannot pour from an empty cup.
It is time to tend to your Self.