The World Health Organization defines self-care as: ‘The ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.’
• It is not associated with self-indulgence or being selfish.
• It refers to taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, mentally well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to do and want to accomplish in your day or week.
• Is about taking steps to take care of your physical and emotional health needs so that you can be your best version of yourself.
• Helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
• Self-care includes everything related to staying physically healthy — including hygiene, nutrition, and seeking medical care when needed. It’s all the steps an individual can take to manage stressors in his or her life and take care of his or her own health and well-being.
• Self-care is anything that you do for yourself that feels nourishing and happy.
BENEFITS OF SELF-CARE
When self-care is practised regularly, the benefits are many and have been linked to positive health outcomes such as:
• Reduced stress
• Improved immune system
• Increased productivity
• Improved self-esteem
• Reduced resting heart rate
• Reduction in blood pressure
Why DO WE NEED Self-care now?
According to Google trends, the number of searches for ‘self-care’ has more than doubled since 2015! In today’s society, anxiety and depression is at an all-time high! With Covid-19 being present for the past 2 years ‘stressors’ and ‘stress’ have also sky-rocketed! In 2019 researchers published a self-care framework in The BMJ to specifically point out that in addition to self-care being the activities individuals do on their own to promote physical and emotional health, it also includes the ways that individuals interact with clinicians and healthcare systems to tend to physical and emotional health. There are a lot of people and factors that bear on any one individual’s ability to engage in self-care. Self-care has also become more mainstream.
HOW DO I SELF-CARE?
Self-care requires checking in with yourself and:
• Asking yourself how you’re doing?
• How are you feeling?
• What is your body asking for or needing right now?
Some people use self-care practice to deal with difficult news stories, work stress or personal issues. Others use it to maintain their happiness day to day and to keep their ‘buckets full’. Self-care does not mean the same thing for everyone. Everyone has their own ‘go to’ self-care practices, and even your own definition might change over time depending on your needs or stressors in your life. Engaging in self-care regularly can help you better prepare for the day and minimise your reaction to stressful events.
TYPES OF SELF-CARE
Emotional self-care – self-talk, weekly bubble baths, saying “No” to things that cause unnecessary stress, giving yourself permission to take a break, or weekly coffee date with a friend.
Physical self-care – prioritizing sleep, adopting an exercise routine, choosing healthy and nourishing foods over highly processed ones, regular massage or facial.
Spiritual self-care – attending a religious service, spending time in nature, meditating, incorporating regular acts of kindness into your day, keeping a gratitude journal or volunteer work.
Temporary – e.g. going out to dinner with a friend. You’ll benefit from the social connection, but it won’t last for very long after you part ways.
Enduring – has more long term effects. e.g. practising mindfulness regularly can lead to positive changes within the brain such as improvement in memory processes and regulations of emotions.
Self-care activities can be anything that floats your boat, puts a smile on your face or brings you joy.
I have listed below some examples of self-care activities:
• Write in a journal and reflect on what you’re grateful for each night before you go to sleep.
• Start each day by paying attention to your breath for five minutes.
• Set positive intentions for the day.
• Eat breakfast.
• Put your phone on airplane mode for an half hour each night and release yourself from the flurry of notifications.
• Call a friend just to say hello.
• Take up a relaxing hobby.
• Pick a bedtime and stick to it.
• Exercise daily even if it is only 15-20 minutes – you will feel good for doing it.
• Read a book in a peaceful spot in the garden.
• Make a cup of tea and drink it quietly with no distractions from technology or other people.
• Take up a new hobby or art and craft activity.
TIPS ON HOW TO START A SELF-CARE ROUTINE
1. Determine which activities bring you joy, rejuvenate your energy, and restore your inner balance.
2. Start small by choosing one activity you would like to incorporate into your daily routine in the next week.
3. Build up to practising that activity every day for one week.
4. Reflect on how you feel – journal your thoughts, feelings.
5. Add additional activities when you feel ready.
6. Get support from professionals such as a life coach, counsellor, dietitian, therapist, exercise professional, etc, if you are trying a new activity such as meditation, changing meal plan, or starting exercise.