• Reflective Resources

S is for Self-care

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Eleanor Brown


This quote is very well known but how many of us will offer this advice to others yet not actively practice replenishing ourselves? Taking time to nurture yourself is critical for your well-being, and it makes it easier to take care of others if you first care for yourself.


What is self-care?


“Self-care is something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.” Agnes Wainman


Self-care is the key to living a balanced life. There are a number of definitions of self-care produced by different authorities at different times.


“Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc.), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.), socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.


World Health Organization (WHO). Health Education in Self-Care: Possibilities and Limitations. Report of a Scientific Consultation. Geneva, Switzerland. November 21–25, 1983.


Different definitions include or emphasise different aspects of self-care (For further definitions see the isfglobal link below)


Self-care involves making healthy lifestyle choices e.g. being physically active and eating healthily and avoiding unhealthy lifestyle habits e.g. avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption etc. It is a decision-making process using the knowledge and information available to us to look after our own health efficiently with the help of health or social care professionals when needed).


Self-improvement is often mistaken for self-care, but there is a distinct difference. Self-improvement comes from a perfectionist mind-set, where we think there is something we need to fix about ourselves and when we don’t achieve our goals as quickly as we think we ought to, we go into a downward spiral of negative self-talk.


“Self-care is different because it’s about allowing yourself to have a nurturing experience of life right now as opposed to when you work harder in the future,” Gracy Obuchowicz.


When some people think about self-care, they think about how they can feel better quickly and choose ‘numbing behaviours’ like excessive drinking, eating or surfing social media, risk taking etc in order to feel immediate short-term gratification but self-care is about the complete opposite, it is concerned with self-awareness, reflection and processing and facing head on what is causing us to want to become numb or avoid stuff and in so doing we create resilience and a growth mindset.


“Self-care is something that when you do it, you wake up the next morning feeling better, while numbing is something that when you wake up the next day, you think, ‘Maybe I didn’t need that extra glass of wine or dessert.'” Gracy Obuchowicz.


In essence self-care is really anything that we deliberately do (or refrain from doing) with our own well-being in mind. It means giving ourselves the same leeway, compassion and care that we would give others.


Where to start?


I’m not sure why but self-care is often easier in theory than practice. It is easy to have good intentions but bad habits make is easier for us to put off doing things for ourselves, avoid making changes and it is easy to find reasons (excuses) as to why we haven’t the time, or something else is more important etc


Kaizen is a Japanese approach to create continuous improvement based on the idea that small, ongoing positive changes can reap significant improvements. The idea is that by tackling the easiest change we create the quickest feeling of success which will then motivate us to do more.


“Caring for your body, mind, and spirit is your greatest and grandest responsibility. It’s about listening to the needs of your soul and then honouring them.” Kristi Ling


When we are stressed out, self-care, rather than becoming a priority, is often the first thing we let go of. According to Barbara Markway, Phd (Psychology Today) this happens because our brains go into fight-or-flight mode and our perspective narrows. We’re so busy trying to solve problems that we become stuck in “doing” mode and we forget or are unable to change our mindset towards self-care activities.


“With every act of self-care your authentic self gets stronger, and the critical, fearful mind gets weaker. Every act of self-care is a powerful declaration: I am on my side, I am on my side, each day I am more and more on my own side.” Susan Weiss Berry


Self- care activities will vary from person to person according to their individual needs, but the activities you chose should help you relax and via the sensations you experience help you return your focus to the present moment. There is no one size fits all solution and there really isn’t a right or a wrong way to engage in self-care, the key is simply to make sure you are intentionally helping yourself in some way by doing them.


Why practise self-care?


“How we care for ourselves gives our brain messages that shape our self-worth so we must care for ourselves in every way, every day.” Sam Owen


The more we practice deliberately caring for our well-being, the more resilient we become, which ultimately helps strengthen our ability to cope with and manage our daily experiences and everything life throws at us.


“When we self-regulate well, we are better able to control the trajectory of our emotional lives and resulting actions based on our values and sense of purpose” Amy Leigh Mercree


It is important to make self-care a habit, built into our daily routines so it becomes something we do automatically rather than something we try to tack on sporadically when we remember or are reaching a point of exhaustion. Self-care is about knowing when your resources are running low, and consistently stepping back before you need to replenish them rather than letting them all drain away.


“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Audre Lorde


What are examples of self- care?


“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” Jean Shinoda Bolen


Self-care involves care for your body, care for your inner self and care for others and has long-term benefits for the mind, the body, or both. The Law of Attraction Link below gives many good examples of types of self-care and associated benefits.


“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” Etty Hillesum


Some questions to think about/or discuss below:


How do you practice self care for your body?


how do you practice self-care for your mind?


Do you in fact make time for self care or are you happy to help others but don't prioritise your own needs?


What small step can you do today to care for yourself?


What small step can you put in place to care for yourself regularly?

If you want to find out more on this subject, here are a few links to get you started:


https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/self-care-interventions/questions-answers-self-care.pdf?


https://selfcarejournal.com/article/the-self-care-matrix-a-unifying-framework-for-self-care/


https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/skinny-revisited/201805/self-care-101


https://isfglobal.org/what-is-self-care/


https://www.thelawofattraction.com/self-care-tips/


https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2


https://headspace.org.au/headspace-centres/maitland/new-blog-post-3/



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