With the conversation around mental health more transparent than ever, the term ‘self-care’ has become increasingly common. Instagram feeds are full of advice, imploring people to do what it takes to be in a good place mentally.

While it sounds straightforward, self-care is a process that requires attention and effort every single day. So, it’s important to understand the value of self-care and how it can be achieved.  

Self-care isn’t selfish

For a variety of reasons, many people don’t do anything just for them on a daily basis. They might be too busy, too tired, or too focused on others. They may even think they don’t deserve it and feel guilty about focusing solely on themselves.

It’s important however to understand that self-care doesn’t constitute selfishness. Being selfish limits your ability to give to others, whereas self-care enhances it. By focusing on your own wellbeing, you put yourself in a far better position to support others.

Unfortunately, putting our own needs first can often fall by the wayside, according to Everymind director Jaelea Skehan.

"It can be so easy for us to take our mental health for granted, to prioritise other things or put it off until next week. It can also seem too big, too hard. But it’s not. There are some things everyone can do."

Basketball

Everyone’s ‘something’ is different

Self-care, me time, doing something for yourself – whatever you want to call it, manifests differently depending on the individual. For one person, exercise might be their therapy.

For another, going for a long run straight after work might be their idea of torture. It doesn’t matter what the ‘something’ is, as long as it contributes positively to your wellbeing and helps you reset and recharge. 

“I try get in some physical exercise everyday, whether it’s going to the gym or shooting hoops. It doesn’t have to be for long, or super intense. I always feel better afterwards, both physically and mentally.”

“I buy a coffee from my local café everyday on my way to work. I sit down and enjoy some time to myself before the day begins.”

“I listen to an episode of my favourite podcast everyday, no matter what time it is. It’s just part of my routine and a good way to decompress.”

“I have to go for a walk at lunchtime and get out of the office, regardless of how busy I am. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes. I need it.”

“Yoga is something I do everyday. I started relatively recently and now I can’t go without it. It keeps me centred.”

Meditation

Keep self-care within reason

It can be easy to get swept up in the self-care movement, so it’s important to be practical when it comes to looking after yourself. For example, cutting ties with ‘toxic people’ who have an adverse effect on your wellbeing?

Makes perfect sense. Ending relationships with family and friends over any form of conflict? Perhaps not.

The same common sense should be applied to the ‘treat yo self’ approach. If you’re regularly engaging in retail therapy to feel better but are suffering financially as a result, the long-term impact on your mental health is likely going to be negative. 

Stick to self-care methods that are genuinely nourishing and relevant to you. Arizona State University’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience executive director Nika Geuci reiterates this view.  

“The ways in which we care for ourselves should be natural and personal. Self-care is not something that you should ‘have’ to do as much as it’s an invitation to give yourself some time to reinvigorate.”

Related reading: Six little things you can do for your wellbeing every day

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