I’m going to talk to you about the benefits of self-care. Everyone is talking about it lately and undoubtedly saying that you should be doing it.
Yet, if you are anything like me you are probably massively over complicating things. When people spoke to me about self-care, my brain immediately added a level of complexity to the proceedings. Surely it couldn’t just be a word that covers how to take care of yourself? There had to be more to it, right?
Wrong. So what is self-care? Simply, it is when you take time for yourself. Not even that really. If you consider all the ways to take care of yourself, these all come under the banner of self-care. Basic self-care would cover sleeping, eating well, drinking water and exercises. These big things are often overlooked, both by busy individuals and people when they talk about types of self-care.
It can be looked at as a way to take care of your health if you think about it, both physical self-care and emotional self-care. The basic self-care skills cover the physical side, but how do you take care of yourself emotionally? This is where other self-care practices come in, like learning, hobbies, unplugging and giving yourself a break from your never-ending to-do list to do something that will make you feel good.
So why is self-care important?
It sounds simple, but if you are anything like me, you find it hard to treat yourself better. I find taking care of myself harder than it should be. This is why in large part, self-care techniques have begun to pop up. It is very easy to put other peoples needs much higher than your own. So easy, that we don’t realise that we are running on empty until we hit rock bottom.
You must know that feeling. Where one minute you are fine and the next suddenly you are a giant ball of emotion.
It happened to me the other day. I said “Yes” to one request too many at work. Even as I was saying “Yes” I felt resentful about it. I still said yes though. The minute I hung up the phone though, I burst into angry tears. Even knowing it wasn’t something I wanted to do or could effectively take on, I still said yes.
Still, I’m sure I am not alone, even if the situation that causes the overwhelm to come may be different. At some point, I’m pretty sure everyone has had a similar experience though. It’s often a clear sign that we have been neglecting self-care. Burnout and lack of self-care go hand in hand a lot of the time.
I have begun to think good self-care a little bit like a plane that drops cabin pressure. They tell you to put your own mask on first, before any dependants. If you pass out, then you will all be in trouble. If you get your mask on, then you can help everyone else with no feinting. Personal Self-care is a bit like that. You need to sort yourself out before you can be at your best for others.
Is Self-Care Selfish?
I think we can all recognise the importance of taking care of yourself from a high and distant vantage point. When you are in the weeds though, there can be a very insidious creep. There may be a little voice whispering that really you are just being selfish. It will most likely come in a “How can I!?” sort of question. “How can I go for a run, when the washing up isn’t done?” or “How can I have a bath, when the kids haven’t had one yet?”
I’m a really passionate advocate for taking the time, especially when it feels like you can’t. I also totally suck at it! Maybe that is why I am such a huge advocate for it, as I know how easy it is to push your own needs to the bottom of every list you write. Actually you don’t even bother to put this stuff on the list, as you’ll get to it eventually, right?
At its core self-care is allowing yourself to stop focusing on others and allowing yourself to completely focus on what you need in that moment.
Benefits of self-care
Here is my list of top benefits that come when you practice self-care:
It improves your general health
It isn’t rocket science and doctors have been telling us for years that we need to prioritise the basics of health. If you include sleep, water, eating well and movement in your self-care list then you can’t go wrong.
It improves confidence and self-esteem
I for one like to include taking time on my appearance in my self-care strategies. It is much easier to feel good about yourself when you make an effort. Even without this though, when you regularly take time for yourself you are giving your subconscious the message that you matter and have value. If you think about what you are telling yourself now, with presumably a lot of barriers to self-care, it is probably a more negative message? Who needs more negative self-talk in their life? No one.
It helps you manage stress
When you take care of your body, by sleeping enough, eating well and moving you do wonders for your resilience and ability to manage your stress. Add to that some activities that you find pleasant and enjoyable and you begin to tell your brain that it can relax too. This helps to lower stress hormones and make you feel much less frazzled. Stress Hormones have been linked to fatigue, pessimism and weight gain, in case you were wondering why you don’t want them hanging around.
It can help with anxiety and depression
I don’t know about you, but when I’m struggling with my mental health, self-care is one of the first things that goes out of the window.
If this is the case, then how can it help you might ask? I find that one of two things happen when I start to decline and both start with noticing that my daily self-care activities aren’t being done. Either I notice and put some effort in to claw my way back. Or I notice and realise that I need help.
I find self-care adds to my awareness which in itself is helpful. Self-awareness is huge in mental self-care as these issues have a way of creeping up on you until you are completely overwhelmed and even asking for help seems impossible. Please reach out for help if you need it! I know it is hard, having been there myself, but there is help available.
You learn about yourself
When considering your self-care needs, you are stopping to ask yourself what you truly need in that moment. One day it might be a bubble bath and relaxing music, the next a raucous night out involving friends, wine and shimmying on a dance floor. If you take good care of yourself, you then also experience the benefits of self-awareness. These benefits of self-reflection are better personal development, healthy relationships and leadership qualities. Essentially, if you know who you are, what you want and your own strengths and weaknesses then you become more proactive, know how to improve yourself and can really kick ass.
You can be more productive
When you start saying yes to yourself, you kind of have to say no to others, or it doesn’t work. So, in turn, you get better at prioritising and putting things that matter to you to the front of the queue. Suddenly it might feel like you are really making inroads on some long term goals that have been on the back burner for a while.
It improves your resilience
If you feel good in yourself, you are much less likely to see molehill problems and mountains. Solutions come more easily and even if there isn’t a fix, then you are much more able to shrug your shoulders and continue on. Basically it’s easier not to take things personally when you know how to care for yourself. You can step back a bit and see things how they really are rather than immediately feeling anxiety.
It makes you kinder
While you might worry it is selfish, having self-care skills actually means you have more resources, patience and compassion for others. If you think about it, it’s very hard to have empathy for others when you are struggling yourself. By being kind and bettering yourself, you have more to give.
You don’t need me to tell you how easy it is to forget how to practise self-care when life gets busy. Yet, self-care is important.
If you needed any further evidence of the importance of self-care, then hopefully this post has provided you with all the encouragement you need to create a self-care plan. If you need any help doing so, then check out this post which has lots of self-care ideas and tips, as well as a daily self-care checklist. This is essentially a printable self-care plan for you if you need a little help getting started.