Self-care is a concept I peddle more than any other mental health manager. I find myself saying, typing and Tweeting, “don;t forget self care, possibly dozens of times a week. There is an important reason for this. Firstly, taking responsibility for your own wellbeing is probably the most empowering thing you can do, and secondly; because people, in general still aren’t very good at it!
What is self-care?
Self-care means looking after yourself and ensuring your emotional, physical and mental needs are being met. If you’re not sure what they might be, then it might be handy to take an emotional needs audit. Self-care rituals are going to vary from person to person but for virtually everyone it means eating well (regular, nutritious food), sleeping well, having adequate alone time (what you do in that time is up to you), regular exercise and some time for quality relaxation. On top of that you might have specific needs that you know make up your self-care, especially if you have a particular medical or mental health need; so self-care for you might include making sure you see your therapist regularly, that you keep a health condition well managed, or that you have a strategy in place for if you get overwhelmed (important if you have learning differences). When working with clients, finding out their self-care needs and that they are doing them, is on the top of my list of priorities.
Although it sounds obvious you would be surprised to find that many people don’t really understand the importance of self-care or apply it. Terms that contains the prefix of ‘self’ can evoke negative connotations – selfishness, being self-centred, being ‘self-absorbed’. But caring for the ‘self’, self-enquiry, having self-esteem, and of course self-care, far from being “selfish” are actually the most important things we can be doing; it’s actually the selfless thing to do, and here’s why…
Putting your own oxygen mask on first
Have you ever been on an aeroplane? If so, you’ve probably caught the safety demonstration at least once. They always tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, even your children. This is essentially the concept of self-care. You are no good to anyone unless you are able to breathe first. You children are not going to fair well getting their own oxygen masks on in a plane dive if Mummy has passed out with hypoxia, and can’t give them a hand. I’m being glib, but you get the point. If we do not attend our own needs first then we are not going to have the resources left to help and care for others. Children, and other dependants and loved-ones are not going to get the best care from you if you are run ragged, ill, over-tired or stressed out and snappy. Therefore ensuring that you get your own needs met first, you have more resources left for others, therefore you are being selfless, you are making sure everyone gets their oxygen mask on.
The messages we send to our self
So you want to be empowered, so you want confidence and self-esteem? Well how are you going to manage that if you don’t treat yourself like the damn Goddess or God that you are? Okay maybe you don’t need to treat yourself like an actual goddess (in fact mythology often treats them pretty badly), but treat yourself at least like you like yourself for a start. If you believe you deserve care – treating yourself to a bit of time out and pampering, a therapy session, or even a new haircut, you are sending messages to yourself that you are worthy. This is a huge step towards raising self-esteem. By seeing self-care as vital as food, water and oxygen you are telling every cell in your body that you are precious and need looking after. And self-care is good for your mental health, lowering stress and encouraging feel-good hormones, which helps keep you in the positive, rational part of your brain, which encourages positive self-belief and esteem.
The messages we send to others
Treat others as you would like to be treated, but treat yourself as you would want others to treat you too. If you look after yourself, the side effect of your bubbling self-esteem will ooze out into your relationships with others, and will encourage others to treat you better. You will also inspire others to see self-care as important as well. This is especially important if you’re raising children. If a child sees their mother taking care of herself, then they will grow up knowing the importance of self-care too. They will also grow up with a valuable life skill that will ensure them good mental health and well being; so do not feel guilty for that one night a week you go to yoga, or hire a babysitter once in a while so you can have a date night, you’re actually showing your darlings good ‘adulting skills.’
Avoiding burn out
Going back to the hypoxia situation. You need to put that damn oxygen mask on and keep it on. Whether a parent, a student, a business owner, a doctor or a marathon runner (or a combination of the above), if you don’t have quality downtime YOU WILL BURN OUT. Therapists learn about burn out as part of training, and we are told how important self-care is to avoid it happening, but few other professions do. When studying for finals or getting a business off the ground there is a feeling that unless we are working all the time, we are not going to succeed. Downtime can bring feelings of guilt and that we are being lazy. It doesn’t help that there are a million memes on Facebook telling us that if we want something we ‘really have to work for it!’. These feelings of guilt are actually very toxic to the mind, and not getting adequate self-care when working towards a goal is completely detrimental, because once you’ve burnt out then you’re going to have to take a forced period of rest away from study or work, which will leave you feeling even worse.
So avoid burn out by factoring in self-care as part of your work or study schedule. Plan it in before you set a working week (salaried jobs provide lunch hours and holiday time so you need to as well). Factoring in good self-care also helps guard against more destructive habits that may feel like they are de-stressing you but actually add stress to your body, such as heavy drinking/recreational drug sessions, overindulgence of junk food and even sleep binging, which will make you more vulnerable to burn out in the long run.
Because you’re worth it!
Yes, you human! Listen to the flicky hair woman on the television; just this once, (you don’t have to buy the shampoo if you don’t want to).
You are amazing; you spend every day navigating this crazy world, interacting with people, not all of whom are nice, looking after other people, caring about the world, working hard, coping with modern stresses, dealing with a world that tries to make you part with money you spent ages earning, to buy things you don’t need to solve problems you don’t have. You deserve to be looked after, you deserve to be wrapped up in a duvet and smoothed and soothed and made to feel good, and if you haven’t got anyone who will do that for you (as few of us do once we stop being children) then you need to do it for your self. You need to take yourself on a date once in a while or even treat yourself to an ice cream, with sprinkles and a flake. Because you deserve it, and once you realise you deserve it then you’ll start attracting more of the good stuff into your life because you’ll feel that you’re worth it.
If you want to learn more about self-care or build some hypnotherapy into your self-care plan then call me to arrange a free consultation, via the contact form.