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Self-care is the ways in which you look after yourself, to nurture your physical and mental health.
Self-care doesn’t fit into a one-size-fits-all box. It’s different for everyone. One person, for example, might find that playing a team sport each week makes them feel great, while another person might feel better after a yoga session.
Self-care isn’t doing things that aren’t good for you in the long-term. Reaching for the credit card while shopping might feel good at the time, but putting yourself at financial risk is likely to have a negative impact on you in the long run.
Practising self-care is about creating healthy habits in your life. This sounds simple, but it’s something we all need to pay more attention to.
Some people worry that self-care is selfish. This is untrue.
Self-care is not selfish. It is an important way to manage your health, which is an essential part of life.
Sometimes it seems hard to find the time to take care of yourself, especially when you are caring for or supporting others. For first responder families, the impact of supporting your partner and taking on extra tasks within your family and household, while also worrying about a loved one who’s responding to demanding call-outs, can mean that self-care isn’t considered a priority.
When you’re a support person or finding that life is demanding a lot of you, or you’re under stress, self-care is more important than ever.
It’s self-care that helps you to be healthy, it helps you find meaning in life and think positively, it boosts your confidence and self-esteem, and it helps you cope with stress. It also enables you to help
others in your life.
Sometimes we put all our effort into looking after others, working, and meeting all our commitments, and we don’t make self-care a priority. Eventually, we might feel burnt out, exhausted, unwell, or like there’s too much stress and pressure on us. It might feel like we have nothing left to give.
This is often called having an empty cup.
The things that are demands on us take from that cup.
Self-care tops the cup back up. It helps to keep us on top of things.
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
The best way to approach self-care is to make it part of your daily routine.
Unfortunately, when we’re feeling stressed or busy, self-care is often the first thing we drop. Sometimes we feel guilty about taking time out for ourselves, or like we don’t deserve it or that others need our care more than we need it ourselves.
Having a list of self-care activities, or a self-care plan, can help to break that cycle and remind us that we have to look after ourselves. Instead of being an ‘extra’, self-care works best when it forms part of your standard routine.
Self-care doesn’t have to mean aiming for big things all the time. In fact, it’s a practice that’s built on doing small things each day. It can be as small as taking a little time out to read a chapter of the book you’re enjoying, having an early night, or dancing around the house to a song you love.
It can take some practise to get used to doing things
for yourself. Over time it will feel normal and become a
Making a plan to look after yourself is different for everyone, so it’s great to consider the things that will help you. Here are some things to think about:
UNDERSTAND YOUR EXISTING COPING MECHANISMS
List the helpful coping skills you have (such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or going to the gym). On the other side of the page, list your unhelpful coping skills (such as angry outbursts, drinking alcohol more than usual, over or under eating, sleeping late, or ignoring friends and family).
WHAT ARE YOUR NEEDS?
Identify your physical, emotional, spiritual, social, financial and workplace wellbeing needs. The self-care plan you come up with should address these.
THINK ABOUT YOUR VALUES
The closer you live by your values, the better you feel.
DECIDE WHICH HABITS YOU WANT TO CHANGE
There may be some areas on your list of unhelpful coping skills that you’d like to shift. Challenge or replace these with positive coping strategies, one small step at a time.
TAKE ACTION ON YOUR SELF-CARE PLAN
You can write it down, draw a table or create your plan in a way that makes sense to you.
REFLECT ON YOUR PLAN AND MAKE CHANGES
Self-care is constantly changing. Sometimes things will work and other times they won’t. It is okay to modify your plan as you go.