How to Save Yourself with Self-care

31 May 2022 | General

Self-care is often seen as self-indulgent or a luxury. I want to dispel these beliefs. Last month we spoke about the importance of taking responsibility for the things in your life that are in your control or influence. The next step is to attend to the unmet needs in these areas. This is not being selfish. The more we prioritise our needs, the less we rely on others to do so. Think of it as saving your loved ones from trying to help you and feeling like they are failing. Even more importantly, when our needs are met we show up better in all other areas of our lives.

Unfortunately, many of us only think about self-care when we are completely burnt out, sick or in crisis. Once we reach this point, we look for a quick fix, such as a holiday, spa treatment or day off watching Netflix. These activities can all form part of a self-care strategy, but they are not enough. Self-care needs to be embedded in our daily and weekly routines. We are creatures of habit. The small habits you build into your every day have the greatest impact on your overall wellbeing. So rather than thinking about the quick fix, consider what actions you can do every day which will have a long term impact.

Don’t know where to start? I recommend attending to physical health first. Improved physical health will inevitably feed into your emotional health. Your physical health includes specific issues and also the overarching essentials- nutrition, exercise, hydration and sleep. Take a minute now to do a body audit for health concerns and a self-assessment on these four areas. Chances are, there is something that needs attending to or improving on. Next, consider where you need professional help and what you can work on yourself. Now pick the first new habit you are going to introduce.

When trying to form a new healthy habit, prompts are key. My Achilles heel of the big 4 is hydration. I’m very aware of its importance, I just don’t get very thirsty. This means I need to make an effort to drink rather than my body prompting me to. I have found ways to link hydration to tasks that I already do in a day. My most successful one has been drinking herbal tea in every therapy session. This has now become so much part of my routine that I’d be lost without it.

The bookends of our days are also excellent times to work on self-care routines. Think about how you start your day. Too many of us, wake up with just enough time to squeeze in all the required tasks and run out the door. If this is you, I challenge you to allocate 15 minutes of your morning (or whenever your day starts) to do something for you. Yes, this might mean getting up a little earlier but if it is to do something you enjoy, it’s worth it. Stuck for ideas? How about doing some exercise or stretching, meditation, sitting and enjoying your morning cuppa and breakfast, writing a gratitude journal, listening to music or reading a book.

At the other end of the day, the wind-down to sleep routine is just as important. Trouble sleeping is one of the most common complaints I hear from clients. Many factors can impact the quality of our sleep. One common theme I’ve observed with clients is that bedtime is the first chance their brain has to get their full attention. We often keep ourselves so busy and distracted throughout the day, that bed is the only place we have time out to process our thoughts. Finding time before bed allocated to self-reflection is therefore key.

So how do I self-reflect, you ask? Utilising journals or some form of documentation can be useful for a self-reflective routine. There are many different ways to journal- it can be as structured or unstructured as you like. The most important thing is you take time out, with no distractions to think about the good, bad and ugly of your day. If your brain is throwing up things you have to do tomorrow or next week- write those down too. This will help you celebrate your wins, externalise your feelings, identify areas you can improve on and prepare a to-do list. Then close it up and pack it away to signal to your brain you are not taking these thoughts to bed.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you now to look into your self-care habits. There are thousands of resources about self-care, habits and health for you to get further ideas. I’m not going to single any out, however, I will give a tip of a useful app. As part of my self-care routine, I make my coffee, go back to bed and read a book summary on the Headway app every morning. Headway provides 15-minute summaries for you to read or listen to on a broad range of self-improvement topics. As always, if you would prefer to talk it through, book an appointment, I’d love to help with your self-care strategy.

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