Work, family, friends, romance, socialising, eating, sleeping, drinking, exercising, cleaning, shopping, etc etc etc. We cram a lot onto our plates. We expect ourselves to function at superstar level 24/7. Reality on the other hand states that we need a bit of down time now and then. It states that we need to take care of ourselves, which is actually a really good thing. We’re worth being cared about after all.

Why does self-care matter?

Simply, self-care matters because it improves emotional wellbeing. Altruism and taking time to serve others both improve emotional well-being too, but saintly behaviours lean more towards being a detriment to the self when the place we’re at doesn’t feel great. In order to be in a place that feels good psychologically, it’s really important to care for ourselves.

What does self-care involve?

Self-care involves regularly doing the things which make you feel good. Think of it as looking after yourself in the way you might look after a close friend or loved one. It involves prioritising yourself and responding to your needs.

Self-care is really simple for some. Sufficient sleep and a nutritious diet might suffice. For others self-care might look like dinner at a favourite restaurant and talking feelings through with a friend. Whatever self-care looks like for you it’s worthwhile to make a commitment to practicing it. A starting point might be to think about, maybe make a list of, the things which nourish you as an individual. What do you need to feel good? Some self-care inspiration follows:

Give yourself permission to take time out and relax. This might look like simply sitting on the sofa for five minutes peace, or it might be some meditation. There’s an abundance of research out there which highlights the ways in which slowing down and becoming more mindful can benefit well-being. There are also some amazing mindfulness and meditation apps available including Insight Timer and Headspace. Introducing silence, quiet time, relaxation, meditation, whatever you’d like to call it into your routine is really likely to assist you in finding peace of mind. And who doesn’t want peace of mind?

Move your body. Get some blood pumping. Research highlighting the benefits of exercise for emotional health has been widely publicised. Giving yourself a shot of those feel good hormones might be the perfect little gift. If the gym isn’t for you there are so many other options when it comes to getting active: walking, swimming, running, yoga, dancing, hopping, skipping, jumping. There’s no right or wrong. Whatever being active looks like for you give it a go consistently for a week and see how you feel. I’m aware this point contradicts the previous, but the human body requires periods of both rest and activity to function optimally. Giving yourself that essential balance is a great way to start a self-care journey.

Treat yourself (because you really do deserve it). This is going to be very different for everybody. There’s no point saying a Chanel handbag will nourish your soul if a Primark special is all the bank balance will currently permit. Those less impressed with fancy brands might be equally satisfied with a nice face-mask from Boots or a second-hand novel off Amazon. Bargain treats might include a cup of tea and a piece of cake at a cafe, your favourite chocolate bar, a duvet day watching your favourite films or simply a nice hot bath and an early night. It’s so important to be realistic. Those of us with babies and small children may need to set the bar fairly low. What’s realistic at this point in time? A bath? Giving yourself a pedicure? Simply taking the time to moisturise with a favourite lotion? Cooking yourself a favourite meal? Whatever makes you feel just that little bit special: do it!

Have a think about what’s lovable about you. Bring to mind compliments you’ve received and nice things others have said about you. It might feel strange at first but making a list of your positive qualities can be a really effective yet simple way of giving yourself a boost. The list doesn’t necessarily have to be long. Start with five and gradually increase. You could be showering yourself with compliments in no time.

Similar to the previous suggestion, become aware of the type of language you use during self-talk. Do you speak kindly towards yourself, do you praise your own efforts the way you might praise another’s? Do you accept yourself the way you accept others? Often, we’re much more judgmental of ourselves than we are of those around us. The saying suggests we ought to treat others how we’d like to be treated but learning to be as nice to ourselves as we are to other people might really benefit us emotionally. For the next few days try to listen to how you speak to yourself throughout the day. Do you criticise yourself if things don’t happen how you planned? Do you put yourself under unnecessary pressure? Breaking the habit of negative self-talk might be one of the kindest things you can do for yourself.

Affirmations have been proven to have a positive effect on mood when used regularly. Pick an affirmation which resonates with you. Some examples might be ‘I am good enough’, ‘I’m worthy’, ‘I’m intelligent’, ‘I’m beautiful’, ‘I can do this’. Whatever it is you need to hear look in the mirror and say it to yourself.

Focus on your achievements and progress. It’s healthy to have goals and passions, but at the same time it’s really important to celebrate existing achievements and progress. Goals can often feel like they’re miles away from the present, which can actually be daunting and disheartening. Focusing on the things we’ve already achieved reminds us that we’re capable, and reminding ourselves that we’re capable and already doing a good job is the type of loving inner dialogue we deserve.

Assess your social media usage and the way it makes you feel. Do you often spend mindless minutes browsing through other peoples photos, comparing yourself to heavily filtered versions of other people? If so, it’s time to stop. Even for a little while. Just try it. These obsessions we have with the lives and appearances of others are so unhealthy and often detrimental to the way we feel about ourselves. For a few days only just try not to look at your Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or whatever. Maybe just delete the app off your phone and see how you feel (after the initial desperation to check). The less time we spend comparing ourselves to others the more time we can spend accepting ourselves for who we are. And self-acceptance is a very close friend of self-love’s.

Finally, have a think about your diet. Would it benefit from some adjustments? If so, start with just one thing you regularly consume that’s unhealthy and replace it with one thing that’s healthy. Starting with just one thing is a gentle way of making a positive change to the things you put into your body. And looking after your body is looking after you.

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