I Have A Confession To Make
Self care is something I’ve always struggled with. My biggest issue lies in looking at other people and deciding that I should be able to do what they can do without taking into account my own limitations. I have not been kind to myself, always expecting more of myself than I would ever expect of anyone else. I feel as though this is a fairly common trait for most people, which is a bit of a problem, because no one should care about your well-being more than you do.
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How Can You Help Anyone Else On Your Worst Day?
You know those times in your life where you become overwhelmed? You say yes to too many things, like baking for some event, and signing up for every extra-curricular activity, and taking care of your house, while still working too many hours because you need the money so that you can donate to some charity or other. The overwhelm is real, and it’s all too common.
And then what happens? You get sick. You catch a cold, and you can’t seem to shift it, or you injure yourself and you can’t seem to recover.
Well, guess what! Your body is trying to tell you something. You need to slow down and listen to that little voice at the back of your head that’s been begging you to take some time off from all those stressors in your life.
You are no good to anyone else if you can barely function. If you’re sick, you can’t bake for someone else. When you’re injured, you can’t help your friends move house.
If you can’t look after yourself, then you can’t look after anyone else, either.
The Benefits Of Self Care
Once I realised that being kind to myself was no longer a choice, but a necessity, I began to look after myself. The change in my life was immense, and nothing short of miraculous. I learnt to say no to a whole lot of extraneous activities, and as a result I became more and more healthy, happy and in touch with myself.
That’s not to say that I never suffer from self-doubt, and the nasty habit of thinking nasty thoughts about myself. I do still have those issues, but they’re nowhere near as influential in my decision making as they used to be.
I also became much more aware of my body, so that now when I get sick, I let myself rest until I’m better. No apologies necessary. I recover much more swiftly than ever before, and I refuse to feel guilty about the few days I spend in bed.
A surprising benefit I encountered was that I no longer spend much time worrying about what other people think about me. I don’t need someone else to approve of my lifestyle in order for me to be happy with it, and I don’t feel the need to buy the latest, greatest gadget. I can have nice things, but they’re nice things I chose for myself, not things I own to impress my friends.
There are so many benefits that come from looking after yourself. You begin to feel calmer, get fitter, healthier, happier in yourself, wealthier and you end up spending more of your time working towards things that you actually want in your life instead of riding the wave of advertising and insecurity that seems to swamp our society these days. Who doesn’t want that?
9 Self Care Tips To Start Looking After Yourself Right Now
Well, it’s all good and well to tell you to look after yourself, but what about some pointers on the “how”?
Here are some ways you can start a self care lifestyle right now:
- Have a cup of tea. Or coffee, if you prefer. Or hot chocolate if you really want. Then leave your phone on silent in another room and sit down and drink that beverage without any technology demanding your attention.
- Go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be long. You don’t need the latest activewear from Lorna Jane. Just go for a stroll around the block in whatever you’re wearing right now (unless you’re naked, in which case, put on some clothes).
- Do a 5-10 minute guided meditation. I have an app on my phone for this. It’s free and it’s called Stop, Breathe & Think and it can recommend guided meditations based on how you’re feeling right now. It’s pretty good.
- Clear off your desk, dining table or kitchen bench. Wherever it is you like to hang out. Clear off the surface. It’ll make you feel better, I promise.
- Read a chapter of a novel. Nonfiction books are great, but fiction is better for when you need less stuff going on in your brain. Imagination is a great thing, and reading fiction lets your imagination flourish. Just roll with it.
- Go and pat a dog, cat, bunny, chicken, whatever. Watch a goldfish if that’s all you’ve got. It’s good for your noggin to connect with another living creature, even better if you don’t even have to hold a conversation.
- Sit down and listen to some music. Even better, sing along (loudly, badly, in the shower, it doesn’t matter, just sing!) to the music. It’s good for your lungs and your brain.
- Colouring-in books. Do I really need to explain this?
- Go outside and watch the clouds (or the stars if it’s nighttime). Do you remember doing this as a child? I encourage you to give it a go as an adult. You’ll still find just as many images in the sky as you used to.
You could do any one of these, or any combination of these you like, right now, for 10 minutes, and your whole day will get just a tiny bit better. Give it a go.
Sometimes Doing Less = Doing More
Looking after yourself is the best way to look after the people around you. Don’t believe me? Think about this for a moment. If you don’t look after yourself, you get sick, and when you get sick, what impact does that have on the people you care about? Maybe it means that they miss out on the things they want. It means they spend time and energy looking after you. They spend money on health care and presents to make you feel better. They spend their lives caring for you instead of getting on with their lives as they’d be able to do if you were well.
The next time you have the thought that it’s selfish to take 30 minutes to yourself to go for a walk, think about what it costs to NOT go for that walk. Next time you wish you had 10 minutes to drink a cup of tea, take it, and leave the guilt behind. Not taking time for yourself is weirdly more selfish than taking the time to look after yourself. Don’t be a martyr.
It’s important to learn to say “no”. Say no to all of those extra things in your life that you’re only doing out of a sense of duty.
Instead, say “yes” to the things that are actually important to you. Say yes ONLY to the things that are important to you. And say yes to self care. It’s the only way you’ll be able to help anyone else.