Today, 24 July, is International Self-Care day. Self-care is something that is talked about but what is self-care?
According to the dictionary self-care is “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health, in particular during periods of stress”.
Self-care, for most people, is something they think about when they are tired, exhausted from coping with a busy and stressful life, at a point where they have nothing left to give and decide it’s time to do something for themselves. They will then do something to help themselves recover/replenish such as spa trip, yoga, massage or time out with friends. Beginning to feel better they go back to their life to continue as before until they feel a need to replenish/recover again and so the circle continues.
Is this truly self-care? Self-care should be an essential part of your daily routine to take care of yourself. If you don’t put your own care first you will have nothing left to support others, do all the other things that you need, or want, to do
My journey to self-care
I know how important self-care is for my own mental, spiritual and physical health and well-being. I have routines in place for my own self-care. However, this was a hard lesson that I have had to learn. There was a time when I became overwhelmed by a busy life and taking on more and more. I am sharing my experience to help you understand why self-care is so important.
How it started
As the parent of an autistic child I have, and continue to, deal with a lot of stressful situations on top of normal daily life. A few years ago I had a corporate job working in London, had a young child with autism who was struggling to settle into primary school and dealing with normal life including socialising with friends and nurturing my relationship. I thought I was coping well with the demands of my job, the daily hour travel to and from work, dealing with calls and meetings with the school along with helping my son to cope and putting strategies in place for my son as well as working on my relationship and keeping up with my social life.
As my life became more and more hectic and my days became full of unexpected tasks I stopped doing things for myself – such as exercising and going out with friends – as I put everyone and everything else first. I also stopped eating healthily instead grabbing quick and easy meals to save time. I worried constantly about all sorts of things and my sleep pattern changed with sleep becoming less restful.
The Tipping Point
Over time I became more and more tired, frustrated and stressed. The more I tried to deal with everything the less time I perceived to have for myself for my own self-care. All this didn’t stop me taking on more for other people and moving my own needs and well-being to the bottom of the list.
Eventually I fell ill with influenza. I was advised by my doctor to go home to bed and get complete rest to allow myself to recover. I believed that I could carry on and didn’t need to rest. After all who would do everything if I didn’t do it? Instead I didn’t acknowledge my body’s message that I needed to take time for me to replenish. I carried on as normal but eventually everything took its toll and I had to spend three weeks in bed taking the time I needed to recover.
This was a very hard lesson for me to learn. It made me realise that if anything happened to me it would have a huge impact on my son. I learnt the hard way why self-care is so important and essential to build into your daily routine. Self-care ensures that you give yourself – mind, body and spirit – the ability to replenish ready for a new day.
How do you incorporate self-care into your routine? What kinds of things do you do? Everyone is different so do different things. Self-care items are things you do for you which produce positive feelings, improve self-confidence and self-esteem. Items to consider are:
- Watch a movie
- Bath with bubbles or Epsom salts and essential oils
- Something creative such as painting, knitting, sewing or drawing
- Enough sleep
- Walk in nature
My Self-care Routine
I now follow a morning routine which incorporates 20 minutes exercise to set me up for the day and 10 minutes of meditation or yoga to balance myself at the start of each day. In the evening I switch off from all electronics an hour before bed and do my evening routine which includes a relaxing 20 – 30 minute bath with either bubbles or Epsom salts and essential oils. I also journal and mediate.
It took me a while to find the routine that worked for me but it was well worth the time. I also ensure that one day of the weekend is spent with the family doing various activities, such as walking, painting, music and reading, as a family.
Putting these in place made me realise that the fun had left my life and that I need to put myself first as I am the most important person in my life. I need to look after me – self-care – to be able to support others.
What’s your self-care routine?
Everybody’s approach to self-care is different for each person. What does it mean to you? How often do you engage in self-care?