When asked the question: “Do you take care of yourself?” most of us will answer yes — we’d even think, “What kind of question is this? Of course I care about myself.”
When asked, “In what ways do you take care of yourself?” — well, that’s where the tricky part begins.
What is self-care?
Self-care is any activity that we deliberately do in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. Although it’s a simple idea in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also keep to a good relationship with oneself and others.
What isn’t self-care?
Knowing what self-care is not might be even more important. It is not something that we force ourselves to do, or something we don’t enjoy doing. As Agnes Wainman defined, self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”
Self-care isn’t a selfish act either. It is not only about considering our needs; it is rather about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, being subsequently, able to take care of others as well. That is, if I don’t take enough care of myself, I won’t be in the place to give to my loved ones either.
In a few words, self-care is the key to living a balanced life.
Where do you start? Well, there are 3 golden rules:
- Stick to the basics. Over time you will find your own rhythm and routine. You will be able to implement more and identify more particular forms of self-care that work for you.
- Self-care needs to be something you actively plan on, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice and you must treat it as such. Add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others in order to increase your commitment and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care.
- What I often emphasize to my clients is that keeping a conscious mind is what counts. In other words if you don’t see something as self-care or don’t do something in order to take care of yourself, it won’t work as such. Be aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels and what the outcomes are.
Although self-care means different things to different people, there’s a basic checklist which can be followed by all of us:
- Create a “no” list, with things you know you don’t like or you no longer want to do. E.g. Not checking emails at night, not attending gatherings you don’t like, not answering your phone during lunch/dinner.
- Promote a nutritious, healthy diet.
- Get enough sleep. Adults usually need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Exercise. In contrast to what many people think, exercise is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health. It increases serotonin levels, leading to improved mood and energy. In line with the self-care conditions, what’s important is that you choose a form of exercise that you like!
- Follow-up with medical care. It is not unusual to put off checkups or visits to the doctor.
- Use relaxation exercises and/or practice meditation. You can do these exercises at any time of the day; in the morning, when anxious, before going to sleep.
- Spend enough time with your loved ones.
- Do at least one relaxing activity every day, whether this is taking a walk or spending 30 minutes unwinding yourself.
- Do at least one pleasurable activity every day; from going to the cinema, to cooking or meeting with friends.
- Look for opportunities to laugh!
Set up a 15-day self-care routine and see how you feel before and after. And never forget: As with everything, self-care takes practice!
By Raphailia Michael, MA
About Raphailia Michael, MA
Raphailia Michael is a licensed Counselling Psychologist, qualified in Cyprus, Slovenia and the Netherlands. She runs an online practice working with people from all over the world, as well as a practice in Cyprus where she offers face-to-face sessions, workshops, skills groups and group therapy. Raphailia works with a variety of symptoms in a humanistic and integrative way, drawing on the perspectives of Person-centered approach, Narrative therapy, CBT, DBT, and Mindfulness. Her goal is to help her clients through their journey towards self-empowerment, self-acceptance and a more fulfilling life. More information can be obtained through www.raphailiamichael.com.