Self-care is any activity that we engage in to take care of our personal needs and well-being. It is vital to our mental and overall health and, ironically, it’s something we frequently neglect to practice.
Everyone has mental health so self-care isn’t only for those who struggle with mental illness. It is important that we all take the time to do things for our own well-being because it will refresh and recharge us so that we can feel and be at our best.
Benefits of practising self-care
Self-care improves our lives in different areas and in different ways, all of which are important to our overall health.
Practising self-care can have remarkable effects on our self-esteem. When we take care of ourselves, it affirms our self-worth. By taking care of ourselves and our needs, we’re telling ourselves, ‘I deserve this’. And we do.
With regular self-care, our self-awareness is greatly enhanced. Our go-to activities will usually be something that we already enjoy, but it also gives us the opportunity to branch out and try new things. This enables us to figure out what we do and don’t like and, if we discover new interests, it can potentially lead to new passions and goals.
Self-care encourages self-improvement. It promotes rest and relaxation, which benefits our overall health and wellness, and it also promotes healthy relationships. When our self-esteem and self-awareness improves, it has a positive effect on our overall mindset. This, in turn, enables us to care for our friends and loved ones in a way that we might not have been able to do before.
Do we practise self-care enough?
I am a member of the wonderfully supportive mental health community on Twitter. I decided to poll some of my friends to see if they practise self-care as often as they feel like they need to. The results were not at all surprising to me.
Out of 135 people, 77% of them don’t practise self-care as much as they know they need to. While this is a small poll, the trend would be the same if more people participated: We do not practise self-care as much as we need to.
Why is this the reality for so many of us?
The lack of energy or time are two of the most common reasons why we don’t practise self-care as much as we need to, but our financial situation or feelings of selfishness or guilt are also contributing factors. Many of us are of the opinion that practising self-care makes us appear selfish when, in reality, that is far from the truth.
Self-care doesn’t have to be time consuming, physically draining, or costly. In fact, sometimes it’s the quick, simple things that are happening on a regular basis that keep us rejuvenated.
Establishing a self-care routine is ideal, and the easiest way to do this is to schedule self-care days during the week. According to another poll I posted on Twitter, many people feel like they don’t have time to practise much self-care. The best way to combat this is to schedule it. Write your chosen methods of self-care in your calendar and dedicate that time to it. For example, if you want to take an extra long shower after you get off work on Friday evening, jot it down and stick to it.
Need some inspiration? Here are a variety of easy and beneficial self-care ideas that you can start implementing on a regular basis:
- Keep a diary or journal and write down any and all of your thoughts whenever you feel like sharing something, whether it’s good or bad.
- Take some extra time in the shower. Bathe yourself twice and condition your hair after you rinse out your shampoo. Then, turn your back to the water, close your eyes, and feel the water run down your back as you take deep breaths.
- Establish or develop a skincare routine. Take time to exfoliate your face and/or moisturise your skin.
- Take a nap. Never underestimate the power of a good, refreshing nap!
- Cook a healthy, filling meal with your significant other or spouse. Or, nothing is wrong with ordering takeaway and having a date night at home.
- Do some yoga or go for a nice walk. You don’t have to do vigorous exercise to be physically healthy.
- Drawing or colouring can be a wonderful way to relax and wind down from the day. Colour in a colouring book, or do some watercolour.
- Doing a social activity can be very beneficial. Go to a group counselling session or join an online community that piques your interest. For example, I recently created a new mental health support forum for those who want to discuss mental health-related topics in a more private, stigma-free setting.
- Buy yourself a new book and read. Reading is a great way to relax, and it’s also a great way to learn new things.
- Play with your pet(s) or visit a humane society or pet store to spend time with an animal. Petting and playing with an animal is very beneficial to your mental health. It is said that listening to a cat’s purrs can relieve stress or emotional tension.
Self-care is something that we can’t and shouldn’t have to compromise on. We all have mental health, and it is vital that we nurture our health and well-being by practising self-care, even if we take an extra long shower one night a week or order in take-out.
Never feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You deserve it.
Nicole Carman is a mental health blogger and advocate. She has been diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder, depression, and anxiety, and she does her best to turn her diagnosis into a positive one by advocating for mental health. She tells her story and details her journey through life with mental illness on her blog, Navigating Darkness, and she created The Mental Health Awareness Project, which is a mental health advocacy initiative that strives to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. She also created the Mental Health Blog Family, which is a collection of mental health bloggers who work together to educate the public on mental health-related topics.You can connect with her on Twitter @ItsNicoleCarman