Why self-care is so important.
We've all lived through a strange time, and each of our experiences has been unique. Everything from feeling overwhelmed and overworked due to homeschooling or working extra shifts to feeling lethargic due to a lack of stimulation and everything in between! Everyone has had to learn new ways of living, coping and adapting. Now more than ever, looking after ourselves is critical to help to keep in good mental health and avoid burnout.
Clinical studies have shown that self-care can reduce anxiety, depression and stress, improve focus, reduce frustration and anger, and increase happiness and energy. Basically everything we're all striving for, right?!
Why is self-care so hard?
Most of us probably have a list of things we'd like to be doing every day and have an idea of how we'd like our life to be, whether it's getting more exercise, eating healthier or continuing on that sporadic meditation journey. But we don't, and the more we don't, the more we kick ourselves about not doing these things. And then more is added to the list. These habits and activities are supposed to be so good for us, but why are they so hard to keep up with?
1 Not enough time
This, I think, is the most common reason people don't keep up with their self-care practices. There's just not enough hours in the day. Well, what if I told you there was? Making time to care for yourself can help you be more productive and energetic and avoid total burnout or worsening mental health issues. Take five minutes here for restorative breathing or 10 minutes there for a quick workout. If you like to relax in the evening with an hour of Netflix, try spending half an hour on you and watching Netflix after.
2 Lack of energy
You might have the time, but after an eight hour day, all you're capable of doing is shoving something in the oven and collapsing on the sofa. This might be a warning sign that you're already struggling with burnout or some kind of clinical issue. If this is you, take baby steps into your self-care journey. Look at specific areas where you may be falling behind particularly hard. See if you can gently ease short, low impact activities into your day to support yourself. If your day is loud or busy, maybe a short meditation or restorative breathing session would help. If you're sedentary and work indoors, a gentle walk in nature could do wonders. If your work involves lots of manual labour, how about a candlelit bath to ease your muscles?
3 External demands
This is slightly different from lack of time because it may be you are not giving yourself enough of your own spare time. Does your partner put pressure on you if you have 'me time'? Or are you always saying yes to people and wondering how you'll fit it all in? Do you steadfastly refuse to ask for help? If you've packed your life with things for other people, then it's no wonder you have no time for yourself! Well, the hard truth is you may not be able to continue helping everyone else out if you continue down that road. Learn to say no, explain how you feel to your partner. Know it's okay to ask for help and remember, self-care isn't selfish!
4 Over complication or perfection
Do you make resolutions to overhaul your life? Have you decided to cut out sugar, eat healthily, join the gym and meditate every morning? Well, that's a lot to change and keep up with. But what happens when you don't keep up with your shiny new lifestyle? Shame is a huge part of our psyche and plays a significant role in our ability to get stuff done! If you've not come across Brene Brown, I highly recommend checking her out. She talks a lot about shame. Instead of trying to change your life overnight, take it slowly, simplify your routine and you are much more likely to build lifelong habits.
Above all, be gentle with yourself. It's not about perfection or even doing something every single day. It will most likely take some trial and error. But the more you make choices for your wellbeing rather than maybe choosing the easier option at that moment, the more you will rewire your brain for positive habits. Try adding one form of self-care into your day, and I can't stress it enough. Don't worry if you miss a day!
Self-care looks different for everyone, and what might work for someone else may not be right for you, or you might need other options for different days. So, find your favourite self-care strategies and work with them.
Here are some simple ideas for self-care:
- say no
- healthy eating
- 'you time'
- restorative breathing
- time in nature
- personal environment
- personal care
- sleep pattern
- gratitude practice