Self-care is something I have learnt to embrace over the last year. Having had a little bit of an emotionally challenging year, self-care really helped me feel like I was in control again.
If I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan of labelling things and when I first started hearing the phrase “self-care” a few years ago I was pretty sceptical. It seemed like just another one of those wishy-washy, zeitgeist-y words, like “wellness” or “clean-eating”, which have become sort of buzz words now.
So, without boring you to death, I’m gonna throw in a lil history degree knowledge here (because why ever not?!). Have you heard of Michel Foucault? He was a crazy clever dude, a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic. Foucault claimed that the ancient Greeks saw self-care as integral to democracy: self-care was a necessary part of care for others. It made you a better, more honest citizen.
So without further ado/rambliness, I want to explain what self-care really is and how I have come to realise it’s central to having your sh*t together.
Self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.
The concept of self-care has been around for years, but the last few years have seen an increase in its discussion and practice.
Though, self-care is often over-simplified. The reality is, self-care is not simple at all.
Of course, a warm bubble bath or a face mask can make you feel better – but there is so much more to self-care than that. It’s more than pampering yourself, and it’s more than a movement. I wholeheartedly believe self-care helps us function day to day. When you’re juggling the seemingly impossible task of sleeping enough, being healthy and having a social life too (not to forget the hormones that come with being a woman) – self-care is hard work. It’s an accomplishment.
So what does self-care actually mean?
- Being self-aware – how are you feeling? Why? Our bodies often have subtle, and sometimes less subtle, ways of telling us we’re struggling. Whether it’s being over-emotional, tired or having headaches. Listen to your body.
- It’s making sure you’re on top of the little things. How many times have you gone to bed and lie there thinking about all the things you need to do. Whether it’s a car MOT, cancelling an appointment or checking how your bank is looking. Feeling like you’re on top of everything, taking 30 minutes to get it done, is a form of self-care.
- It’s having a routine – us human beans love a routine, a structure. Getting into a routine affects your mood massively. Of course, sometimes everything goes tits up, but for the most-part the routine is comfortable.
- Eating healthily and preparing food so that this can happen – never underestimate preparation. Eating healthily is proven to boost your mood but sometimes it can take longer to prepare. So be one step ahead of the game, batch cook, make a wholesome pack lunch the night before and stick it in the fridge. Self-care can actually be implemented easily.
- It’s pushing yourself to do that workout because you know you will feel better for it.
- It’s turning down social events to make sure you feel in control and are in a positive mental space. Letting people down can feel like a failure, but if it’s the difference between feeling in control and spiralling into a chaotic headspace… it’s worth it. True friends will understand.
- It’s making a change to anything that isn’t working for you – facing your problems head on. From toxic friendships, jobs or habits – put a stop to them.
Self-care is not all bubble baths and chocolate cake.
Honestly, self-care should not be a ‘trendy topic’, that in itself shows just how out of touch with ourselves we are that we even celebrate a bubble bath. A healthy person builds a life that they do not feel they regularly have to escape from. Sometimes self-care means letting other people down, cancelling plans because you don’t have the money or you need an evening to get on top of your finances, to tidy up, to get rest, to address anything niggling away at you.
Stop trying to fix yourself, you’re not broken, you just need to get back on track. You need to realise you are the protagonist in this story and sometimes that requires putting yourself first. How many people do you know that put you above their own needs? It’s a surprisingly small number.
Choose a life that feels good and stop striving for a life that looks good.
Don’t get me wrong, bubble baths and chocolate cake are a great way to enjoy life, but they don’t solve the underlying problems.