On Wellbeing

15th November 2023

National Self Care week

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Did you know this week is National Self Care week? It’s a well-established public health initiative. The purpose is to promote self-care in families, communities and generations. Why do we, particularly in British culture, struggle so much with self-care and why do so many of us consider this as indulgent or luxurious?

Looking after yourself is a fundamental and integral part of functioning. Or at least of functioning well. When we neglect our own needs and assume that our own suffering is beneficial to our colleagues, children or partner we are ignoring the detrimental impact of placing our own care at the bottom of the list. That ironically, ignoring our needs makes us ‘less’ able to care for others.

Self-care is embedded in self-esteem and self-worth. It is intrinsically linked to psychological wellbeing. How you view yourself impacts what you do with your life, the choices you make, how you spend your time and your ambitions. How you view yourself directly impacts how you treat yourself. When you do not treat yourself well the cyclical pattern emerges that you don’t believe you are worth looking after. This impacts your mental and physical self-perception, it also impacts the way you communicate and how you value yourself in relationships and in the workplace.

But what does self-care look like? As we have said before, we are all a ‘laboratory of one’ and so self-care will look different to different people. Self-care will also look different to the same people on different days or at different stages of the life course.

Self-care is better viewed as being in tune with your needs at any given moment. That might mean eating some vegetables, it might mean having a relaxing bath, it might mean walking outside, it might mean calling a friend. The secret to self-care is becoming self-aware. What do you need in this moment and why? What has worked for you in the past? What methods of self-care would you like to try?

Importantly, for most of us...where does self-care fit into your day? Trying to ‘do’ self-care can feel overwhelming. Micro moments of self-care might be more manageable than trying to implement full days or hours. Stopping every so often in the day and asking yourself what you really need in that moment. Is it to go outside in the fresh air and stretch? Is it to make a hot drink and actually stop while you drink it? Is it to put on some music and dance? Is it to call a friend?

When we start to insert micro moments of self-care this becomes habitual. We begin to recognise the benefits of asking ourselves what we need. It goes from feeling awkward and alien to feeling a normal and regular part of the day.

If you are still not sure about whether investing in yourself is really necessary, then remind yourself how it directly supports your mental health and the scientific evidence around lower mortality. If nothing else, it makes your day a lot more pleasant!