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Say 'yes' to yourself: why practising self care is essential for well being

What is self care?

What comes to mind when you hear the words ‘self care?’ Often when I bring it up during counselling sessions, my clients say that they don’t have time in their busy lives for self care or that they feel selfish and guilty about making time for themselves when there are always so many others things to be getting on with…but what actually is self care and why is it so important?

Self care is about looking after yourself, not about being selfish…it is being able to recognise and respond to your own needs so that you are able to balance your emotional, physical and spiritual needs and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself. Practising self care means engaging in specific activities or processes which support your own mental and physical health and well-being. Self care is good for you!

What are the benefits of self care?

In a society where there is a deficit of available services to support people with mental health issues in particular, self care increasingly becomes an even more essential tool for helping people to keep themselves well by alleviating stress, building resilience and managing other physical and mental health problems.

People who consistently set time aside to ensure they are adequately looking after themselves are more likely to have a better quality of life, better health, be more efficient in their professional lives, maintain healthier relationships both personally and professionally and also have an increased ability to meet the needs of others around them. Having poor self care puts you at risk of becoming emotionally and physically drained or ‘burning out’ which essentially means that placing excessive demands on your energy, time or resources (doing too much) has left you worn other words: you can't pour from an empty cup!

What prevents people from practising good self care?

There are many things which affect our ability to practise self care, such as: lack of time, busy work schedules, having other commitments, tiredness/lack of sleep, lack of resources or facilities available to us e.g. exercise equipment, a quiet room to spend time or relax in, being in unhealthy food environments e.g. being surrounded by unhealthy foods such as ‘junk food’ vending machines, having a lack of positive role models who engage in healthy behaviours and practise good self care.

Having specific mental health conditions can also impact on the likelihood of us engaging in self care practices, for example depression can lead to a lack of energy and motivation which often means self care is neglected.

Those with low self-esteem or who experience feelings of worthlessness are also less likely to prioritise themselves and make time for self care.

Some tips for practising self care:

Don’t let some of the things that make practising self care more difficult get in the way of looking after yourself properly…you are important and you can’t be the best version of yourself or be there for others if you are not also there for yourself.

Your own self care should be tailored to suit your individual needs and preferences…there is no point setting aside time to meditate if you don’t enjoy it or find it helpful!

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Make a list of things that you want to stop doing as they have a negative impact on you e.g. not checking emails late at night, not going to gatherings you don’t enjoy, not answering your phone during or working through mealtimes

  • Try to eat more nutritious, healthy food

  • Pamper yourself with a manicure, facial or grooming session

  • Aim to get enough sleep. If you are struggling with this look into ways of improving your sleep hygiene

  • Exercise…it really is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health. Exercise boosts serotonin levels which improves mood and increases energy. What is important is that you choose a type of exercise that you like!

  • Look after your physical health. Make sure you are paying attention to what is going on in your body, if need be seek advice and don’t put off check-ups or GP appointments

  • Use relaxation/breathing exercises and/or practice mindfulness/meditation to help you relax and feel calmer

  • Spend as much time as you can with positive people who model healthy behaviour and good self-care. If you can’t see them in person, keep in contact by talking over the phone or by video call

  • Do at least one relaxing activity every day such as going for a walk, listening to music, having a bath or reading

  • Do at least one enjoyable activity every day, whether that is cooking, crafting, watching your favourite tv programmes, gaming or meeting with friends

  • Seek out opportunities which make you laugh – a funny book, film or person can lift your mood and help foster a more positive outlook

  • Identify what is really important to you, and learn to say ‘no’ to unnecessary demands on your time and energy

Therapy can provide you with a supportive and safe space to ‘off load’ some of your worries and stresses and help you to develop a more positive self concept, identify your individual needs and find ways to implement better self care. It can also support you to build greater confidence in setting healthy boundaries which will aid you in becoming more able to say 'no' to those who ask for too much from you.

So…start prioritising yourself more, be kinder to yourself and remember to practise good self care… it has the potential to help you thrive in life!

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