Updated: Jan 29
Self care is NOT selfish.
We are talking about your figurative oxygen mask here before you care for others.
In order to be our best selves we must make time for self-care. Far too often we sacrifice self-care for other things on our to-do list, this might feel like the right thing to do at the time but long-term this can impact our health and wellbeing.
Maybe this sounds familiar? Your emails at work are never ending, you have Teams calls constantly booked in your diary, your paperwork is piling up, as well as your to do list getting longer and longer and you are trying to prepare for an important meeting.
So, you cancel your gym class, you reschedule that walk with your friend and you grab something quick and easy to eat and continue working through your lunch break and after hours. You put your self-care to the back of the pile of things that need doing and you keep plugging away at work. Sound familiar? This way of living is likely to catch up on you and could lead to burnout and poor physical and mental wellbeing.
Self-care is essential for good overall health and wellbeing. We are constantly being reminded to exercise and eat a healthy diet, these are a form of self-care, but self-care as in relaxation, having a pamper or meeting a friend for a coffee is often forgotten. Like exercise and eating well, self-care also plays a role in improving both our physical and mental health.
There is extensive research to show that self-care can be beneficial at improving our wellbeing and lowering mortality.
Self-care can improve our performance at work, and should be encouraged in the workplace. Leaders should be promoting it and practicing it themselves to set a good example to employees.
With more and more employees experiencing work related stress and poor mental wellbeing, self-care should be promoted and imperative in the workplace.
Organisations can build self-care initiatives into their company culture. Introducing wellness days for teams, lunch time yoga sessions, or as simple as encouraging employees to take their breaks away from their desks and protecting that work/life balance.
Many people experience barriers when trying to perform self-care. These barriers might include, financial difficulty, time restraints or health issues. Some people might have an attachment to unhealthy habits which are hard to break.
Whilst others might have knowledge gaps around what to change or just low motivation to make a change. With regards to time restraints if you can manage your time as best as you can, you will probably find you have more time for self-care.
One way to better manage your time is to get better at saying no. This is something I have always struggled with, and so, I try to remind myself it’s ok to say no, remember saying no to the things you don’t want to do means you can say yes to the things you do want to do. This can really help when it comes to self-care.
Say no to commitments that don’t serve you in anyway.
Say yes to the things you want to do. This is easier said than done, I know! But give it a go and see the benefits.
How can we implement self-care?
Self-care will look different for everyone. With time being one of the biggest barriers it does not have to be time-consuming or excessive. Some self-care ideas:
• Simple activities like practising mindfulness, walking in nature, eating well or exercising.
• Be kind to yourself. Feel good about yourself, valuing yourself is a great way to perform self-care. Show yourself some gratitude.
• Writing a journal.
• Art and crafts.
• Celebrate successes
• Allow time to rest and recharge. Ensure you are prioritising your sleep, aim for 7-9 hours a night.
• Try to create a nice space to work in, whether that’s at home or in the office. Freshen it up, keep it clean, get a little plant or some favourite photos in a frame.
• Remember it’s ok to say no.
• Plan your annual leave in advance and stick to it!
Try not to wait until you’re stressed or burned out to plan time away from the office.
The other really important thing to remember is to perform self-care even when you feel good.
Don’t wait until you’re feeling burned-out and frazzled.
Plan things on a regular basis. It can be useful to actually pencil your self-care in to your diary/ calendar. That way you have prioritised that time for self-care.
Some people might feel like they should be taking care of others instead, but if you don’t take care of yourself it can be more difficult to care for others. It’s that idea that you need your cup filled before you give it to others.
If you are running on an empty cup, you will likely feel tired, run down and irritated, which means you will not be able to support yourself or others. Remember self-care leads to better care for others.
There are many benefits of cultivating self-care. It takes commitment and time but the benefits can be huge. In fact, performing self-care might take a little bit of time out of your day but can actually help you to be more productive, therefore saving time elsewhere.
Another benefit of self-care is that it allows that alone time, which can be really important for appropriate functioning. It allows time for self-reflection, meditation or to work through your thoughts and feelings.
Self-care is vital for your overall wellbeing. So, know your worth and try not to neglect your self-care. Improve that work/life balance, set boundaries and take some time for yourself. If you are finding it hard to perform self-care, it may be useful to talk to a therapist. This would be the first step in performing self-care and they can help you address the barriers you are facing.