What is self-care?
Self-care is more than treating yourself. Self-care refers to the activities and things we deliberately choose to do regularly to maintain and improve our health and wellbeing.
The benefits of self-care.
Self-care is an effective tool for managing many mental health difficulties. For example, regular self-care helps prevent stress and anxiety and helps manage symptoms of depression. By incorporating self-care activities into your everyday routine, like going for a walk or socialising with friends, you give your body and mind time to rest, reset, and rejuvenate to avoid or reduce the symptoms of mental illness.
Self-care isn’t selfish.
Self-care is an essential part of maintaining our health and wellbeing. From shift workers to the Kardashians to world leaders: we all need self-care to look after ourselves properly. It serves a vital role in continuing the progress that we make in therapy and “topping up” our tank so that we can weather the challenges and difficulties life may throw at us. When we fly on an aeroplane, we are told to apply our oxygen mask first before we help someone else if there is an emergency. The same thing goes for self-care. Without looking after ourselves, we won’t have the necessary tools and resources to help others around us.
Self-care is a practice.
Making a smoothie once isn’t self-care. Self-care requires regularly practising something. Unfortunately, self-care is often the first thing that gets sacrificed when life is busy and stressful (this is especially true for parents).
Have a read of our tips for creating and practising self-care regularly.
Start by identifying days/times in your week when you can practice self-care. Maybe this means ‘unscheduling’ part of your day on a Friday afternoon or getting up early on a Saturday morning (although, no shame if you’d rather have a sleep-in – that can be self-care, too!).
Reflect: Reflect on self-care practices you’ve previously enjoyed and maybe new things you’ve always wanted to try – make a list and write some ideas down.
Identify any barriers to practising self-care: Are there barriers to maintaining your self-care? A good place to start is exploring how you can address them. For example, if the high cost of a gym membership stops you from joining, consider whether there are free community groups or a free app you could download and work out at home. If you’re struggling to wake up early to go for a walk before school or work, maybe there’s another time of the day that works better for you?
Tell a friend or partner: Tell a friend about the practise you’d like to keep. They can help check in and keep you accountable, or if you’d like to do something together, they can always join you!
Self-care looks different to everyone.
While for one person, self-care might involve going for a run, for someone else, self-care might look like curling up with a cup of tea and a good book. A self-care practice for one person might not work for another, and that’s okay. Find what works for you – you are the expert in your life.
How can I choose a self-care activity?
And now for the fun part! When choosing self-care activities, thinking about your different needs can often be useful. Identify areas where you’re taking good care of yourself and areas where it’s more of a struggle. Maybe you’re good at getting up and having a shower, but you often skip breakfast. Make some goals about different areas of your life where you’d like to use self-care more. It can be helpful to break down your goals according to the different types of self-care and domains where self-care activities can be useful. The six forms of self-care we’ve mentioned here are: physical self-care, emotional self-care, spiritual self-care, vocational self-care, social self-care, and financial self-care. Check out our self-care suggestions below:
Physical self-care: Refers to things like taking care of our body, sleep, eating and physical wellbeing. Ideas for self-care might include:
- Cooking yourself a yummy meal
- Creating a new exercise routine
- Going to your GP, taking medication, or treating physical health issues
- Getting a good night’s sleep
- Moving your body in a way that feels good for you
- Showering and taking care of physical hygiene
Emotional self-care: Refers to looking after your mental health and emotional needs. Ideas for emotional self-care might include:
- Going to therapy
- Writing in a journal
- Talking to a friend or family member
- Reflecting on your feelings
Spiritual self-care: Refers to activities that make you feel connected to your inner self and provide a sense of safety, comfort and feeling at ease. Spiritual self-care might include:
- Going for a walk outdoors
- Swimming in the ocean
- Burning a candle or incense
- Praying, meditating, or practising a mantra (if this applies to you. If not, that’s okay)
- Switching off your phone for an hour
Vocational self-care: Refers to activities that make you feel supported and engaged in your study, work, or role in life. Vocational self-care might include:
- Talking with a mentor (teacher, supervisor, or person with lived experience)
- Joining a support group
- Organising your desk or workspace
- Keeping a planner to track essential dates
- Writing a to-do list
Social self-care: Refers to activities that make you feel connected and supported by the important people in your life. Social self-care might include:
- Talking to friends or family
- Going to a picnic, party or gathering
- Attending a community class or group
- Calling or texting friends and family
- Going on a date
- Going to a gig or festival
Financial self-care: Refers to activities that help you feel in control of your money and spending. Financial self-care might include:
- Writing a budget
- Saving for a holiday
- Going to an Op Shop
- Bringing your lunch from home
- Making a plan to pay off debt
- Visiting a financial planner, accountant, or financial counsellor
Self-care is a core part of looking after your health and wellbeing. Without it, we are more vulnerable to emptying our tanks and burning out. To start a new self-care plan, consider what you do well in terms of looking after yourself and some areas you’d like to improve.
Let us know how you go!