What is Self Care?
Something that sounds so obvious and easy, often isn’t. Why do we struggle so much to define self care? Perhaps with our busy, hectic lifestyles and the relentless pace of modern life we have actually not only forgotten to be able to define it, but also forgotten to do it. In order to flourish as an individual and live a full life, we need to be able to care for ourselves to our full capacity. This will also allow us to maintain a sense of wellness as well as enabling us to have the ability to look after others around us.
When you search for the meaning of self-care there are numerous definitions and statements that attempt to sum it up. One example of a definition I found is the following:
“Self-care includes the actions individuals and carers take for themselves, their children, their families and others to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health; meet social and psychological needs; prevent illness or accidents; care for minor ailments and long-term conditions.”
I feel, like many others do, that self care is the act of caring for oneself and all aspects of oneself, the physical, psychological and emotional aspects as well as the spiritual and social aspects of ourselves. We need to prioritise looking after ourselves before anything or anyone else. As you are told during the safety announcement on a flight, make sure you put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. If you are not well and healthy and living life to its full capacity then you can’t even begin to help others follow suit.
Physical Self Care
One aspect of caring for oneself is to maintain good physical self care. This can be anything from eating the right diet and getting enough sleep to making sure we attend GP appointments, take our medicines correctly and ensure we are active enough, especially in today’s sedentary lifestyle that many of us lead. The quantity and quality of sleep we are getting is so important for our bodies to function correctly. Lack of consistent good sleep can cause our bodies and mind to not to be able to heal as efficiently and cause lack of alertness and full functioning. It can exacerbate stress on our bodies and minds and generally hugely take a toll on ourselves and in turn not allow us again to fully lead well and fulfilled lives.
Neglecting any of these basic needs can greatly affect our self care and therefore our lives, which in turn will stop us from being as happy as we can be, being able to achieve what we need to, be contended and be able to function in day to day life to our full capacity. This is shown on Malsow’s hierarchy of needs. The first level is physiological ie food and water. This stage must be achieved before we can move towards the next stages such as self actualisation.
Psychological and Emotional Self Care
We also need to make sure we don’t neglect our psychological and emotional self care, it is vital to make sure we spend time working on our emotional and psychological issues and care. If we feel emotionally secure we can then be confident in our lives, jobs and relationships.
Social Self Care
Our social self care is also vital to allow us to lead a fullfilled lifestyle. We must work on developing well and enjoyable equal friendships and learning to not attract toxic ones that keep us feeling low and insecure. These encourage poor self care as the other’s needs become more important then our own. We must ensure that we attract positive friendships and relationships, which fulfill our lives and encourage our wellness as well as our abilities to self care. Social self care also includes having space to ourselves and the pursuit of the things that interest and challenge us, be that a hobby or creative outlet of passion.
Spiritual Self Care
Spiritual self-care is another important component to allow us to lead a rich life. Spiritual self-care can be anything from meditating, even if for only 5 minutes a day, to following a religion we believe in, to just being curious and questioning our own beliefs and what else could be possible.
We must ensure that we are consistently providing ourselves with all aspeacts of self-care and not allow ourselves to feel guilty in doing so. It seems that the main issue with people not being able to consistently self-care is that we find ourselves feeling selfish when we do so. We feel that we are being self-centered when we concentrate solely on ourselves. This needs to stop. The only person who can truly look after and care for ourselves is ourself. In order to be able to lead an enriching life and provide care and support to the people around us we must realise that we need to put ourselves first. We cannot be of any help to others if we are not helping ourselves first by ensuring we treat our body and mind with respect and provide ourselves with satisfactory self-care.
We must all work together to challenge the feeling that caring for others is more important than caring for ourselves, even if at the detriment to others. We must set an example to the people around us and show that we need to self-care in order to live a fulfilled lifestyle and encourage others to do the same.