• Emily Duffy

What does self-care mean for you?

I have been thinking a lot lately about how we interact with each other and ourselves, and one theme I keep seeing or thinking about is the notion of self care and being kind to yourself.

You are the only one who is going to live your life, experience your experiences and feelings; prioritise yourself!

Most of my career paths, roles and even my personality have been based around trying to get people to reflect, consider and explore what choices they have. Part of this is about compassion for others and for themselves, learning to be kind to yourself and noticing what it is you need, not just in the moment, but in the long-term. Like I have said to many people I have worked with - you are the only one who is going to live your life, experience your experiences and feelings; prioritise yourself!

Self-care is a term that has been thrown around a lot lately in counselling settings, social media, news articles, TV shows etc. but do the people 'preaching' about and spreading the message of self-care, know what that is for themselves? Is there a definitive thing that is "self-care"? In other words, what do we mean when we say self care?

A lot of the time, when I've talked through self care goals, they relate to small, manageable things that are easily done and can make a difference in that moment. This is something that, I feel, everyone can do at least one small thing for themselves each day to care for themselves and have a positive effect - we all know life can be intense, difficult, testing and down right awful at times. For me these small things can be as simple as:

 • taking a bath

 • listening to new music or my favourite artists/genres

 • Going for a walk with the dog alone and without distraction so my thoughts can ruminate and allow for reflection.

 • Exercise, even 10 minutes, can make me feel like I've achieved something.

 • Cleaning and tidying the house.

After doing one of these in my day it allows me to wind down, I've actively chosen to do something I enjoy and appreciate that can make me feel better in some way; feeling better about myself because I've been productive, feeling better because I'm relaxed and have had a moment of quiet and reflection or better because my surroundings feel more manageable and calm. These little things all make a difference in that moment on that day.

However, what if these small things each day aren't enough? Or you're doing so much that you can't possibly carve out any time for anything like this? Or what if life and responsibilities are just too much that even something to do for you feels like a chore?

In an ideal world we should be working to live not living to work.

Possibly taking a day or two just hasn't done the trick like normal either, in which case, maybe it's time for something more drastic and pertinent, why should there be so much to do for everyone else that you can't have a fraction of time for you; In an ideal world we should be working to live not living to work.

Self care can also be about the long-term and the decisions that impact on your well being in the upcoming months and years, not just in the moment. Look around you at what is going on in your life right now and imagine where you would like to be, what you would like to be doing (or not doing!) - are there any achievable changes that could be made, that would have an impact on your mental or physical well-being - this for me is long-term self care.

  • Is that job really worth it? Could a job be available closer to home for less money but makes you feel like you have more time for you.

  • Could you change your route, allowing your to explore different scenery or even change the mode of transport?

  • Are you able to start cutting back on spending and save a little more each month to allow for a financial buffer? Or even start spending more on yourself and your environment so that you feel comfortable in your environment.

  • How do your feel about your physical appearance? Is there anything you've been wanting to do to help give confidence in how you feel? Change up your style? your haircut? Swap sugary snacks for fruit/veg/nuts? Get up 30 mins earlier and go for a jog?

  • Notice that you're unsure of anything to change but aren't feeling comfortable, content, happy, confident - can you only think in negative sentences? Try speaking to someone (a GP or counsellor) to help gain understanding on what that negativity derives from to look to implement tools to overcome and cope with it. You are worth that effort, investment and support!

  • Saying 'no' to opportunities or events when you're starting to feel overwhelmed with activity.

My recent example is a mixture of all of the above, having people to speak to is self care for my emotional well being, looking to exercise and make healthier choices is long term self care for my physical well being, and I have recently left my job which included a 3 hour round trip daily which is self-care for the long-term of my overall well being - whilst I loved my job and the people I worked with, after 16 months of the travel following a location move, it was beginning to take it's toll and my health was having a hit too - this step was necessary for me to take so I could focus on myself and what was most important to me.

Whatever you do, do it for you!

A lot of time the long term self care is forgotten about as we get into such a routine that it feels difficult to imagine life any other way. Both short term and long term self care is important to practise to maintain and keep our well-being (of all aspects) in a positive frame. If long term change for self care feels like too much right now then starting off small with manageable chunks of care and being kind to yourself is still worthwhile to get you through the hour, day, week.....but whatever you do, do it for you!

Mind - every day care for your well being

NHS - tips for well being

Another article on what is self-care?

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