When was the last time you took some time for yourself? If you are struggling to remember when then I’d urge you to keep reading. If you can remember and it was ages ago then I’d urge you to continue reading. If you can remember and it was recently but you felt guilty for doing so then I’d urge you to continue reading. You get where I’m going with this…..
Self-care is something I’ve come to value enormously over the last few years and it’s something I’m a huge advocate of. As a private counsellor and mental health practitioner working in GP surgeries I meet a lot of people who are struggling with their mental health and the general stresses and strains of everyday life. Something that a lot of these people have in common is that they don’t practice self-care. Many have forgotten in the midst of their unhappiness how good it can feel to take some time for yourself and do something that you enjoy.
My own self-care journey began when I felt like I wasn’t the sort of parent I wanted to be. I recognised that I’d become snappy, irritable and impatient with my daughters over the smallest things and I wanted to change that. When I started to consider why I was like that I realised that I felt overwhelmed. I felt like I had too many demands on me, parenting, work, housework, studies the list went on (I can imagine some of you reading this nodding in agreement). I also started to identify as an introvert and recognise that because of this I really value time on my own. This initially caused a conflict for me because I have a natural tendency to want to be everything to everyone and be able to ‘do it all’ so I saw my difficulty with this as a failure. I had the wonderful advantage of being in training to be a counsellor at the time and being surrounded by people who validated my experience for me and taught me that how I was feeling was ok.
Once I’d accepted my limits I was able to recognise that in order to be the parent I want to be, I need to have time away from that role and all the others in my life and just be me. It’s easy to become our roles and lose the sense of who we truly are as people.
So for me self-care comes in various forms each very different from the other. I have a passion for sewing, so much so that I turned it in to a business! Sewing or being creative in general is a great form of self-care because it allows us to tune out thoughts and anxieties and be really present in the moment. When I sew for self-care I make something for me or for my house and the sense of achievement when I have something tangible to show for my efforts is huge. The only problem comes when I make a mistake and have to get the un-picker out!
My main source of self-care is football (see I told you they’re different). Football has been a part of my life since I left the womb, from growing up on a touchline watching my dad play to now having a season ticket for my team. Football gives me that regular opportunity to practice self-care, going to games every other week. I travel to and attend games on my own and despite being in a stadium with thousands of other fans it still gives me that sense of alone time because there are no demands on me while I am there. No one asking for yet another snack, no nagging ironing pile staring at me and no dusty shelves that need polishing!
I guess what I’m trying to show by telling you this is that self-care can be whatever you want it to be but for it to serve its purpose it needs to resonate with you and be your personal choice. For me football is self-care however, for others it may be a form of torture!!
So what are the benefits?
There are so many and the benefits are influenced by what you do for self-care but these are a few of the ones I feel are the most significant.
If you don’t believe me the research speaks for itself….
Why aren’t more people doing it?
So with all these benefits why don’t we do it more? Why do I still meet people every week that tell me they don’t practice self-care? I even meet people who don’t really know what I mean when I ask them about self-care. When I do ask the question the main reasons I hear are lack of time and guilt.
Just do it!
Consider the example of the Spanish culture of the siesta. They have a siesta because the climate is so hot in the middle of the day that working becomes so challenging and potentially dangerous to their health. I can’t imagine many people saying that it is selfish so what’s the difference when it comes to your emotional health? I personally don’t feel there is a difference, we all need a siesta from everyday life.
So whether it’s going for a walk, having a massage, treating yourself to your favourite food, reading a book, going swimming or shouting at a referee on a football pitch, what makes self-care so positive is the act of taking the time to do something for yourself. Value yourself enough to take this time and recognise that this isn’t a selfish act it is a necessary and important one.
If this is a difficult step to take then I give you permission to do so until you are comfortable enough to give it to yourself.