What is self care and why do we need reminders?

Self care seems to be becoming a bit of a trend at the moment & this is one trend i am 100% on board with. One thing i have noticed though is that i see a lot of self care hashtags and promotion, but not a lot of information or detail explaining why self care is so important, or why some people struggle with self care.

Self care is something that has to be learned and is not an ‘automatic instinct’ like one might think. Your self care habits are often learned from adults in your family growing up and this can cause quite a lot of issues. If you are coming from an abusive household, self care will be so far down on your list of priorities that it could even be completely non existent. By abusive i don’t just mean physical abuse, i also refer to neglect, mental abuse, emotional abuse, manipulation, narcissistic abuse and all other types. Some people might not even be aware that they have suffered abuse, it can be so subtle and sneaky that many adult children of abusive families will suffer without ever realising why or without ever realising that what happened to them was wrong. This can also happen as an adult in abusive / codependent relationships. When in an abusive relationship often the abused will be trying so hard to keep the other person happy or to meet their partners needs that they will completely forget about their own self care and eventually end up a broken shell of the person they once where.

But lack of self care doesn’t always come from this. There are many people who come from happy households, have loving families & have never been in an abusive relationship, but they also struggle with self care. Maybe their loving parents were working long hours throughout their childhood to support them, but this left little room for support growing up and little time to observe and learn about SC. Maybe they are motivated and want to do well in work and progress their career, so they think that by focusing all of their time and energy on education and work they will improve their lives and get that job position they have always wanted. Maybe they have low self esteem and so SC is not something they actually care about.

To some people this might come so naturally that when they see ‘self care’ posts, or ‘tips on self care’ articles they might wonder, why would anyone need tips on that? But the truth is that it does not come naturally to us all & there are many different reasons why one might struggle with SC.

I myself struggled a lot with SC up until the age of 22/23 when i ended up in counselling and psychotherapy for other reasons. I genuinely didn’t know that SC was an issue for me until i’m sat in the chair face to face with my therapist and she asks me ‘what have you done for yourself this week?’. Well i didn’t know what to say or how to answer her. I didn’t even really know what she was asking me. We talked and talked and she was asking me a lot of questions like ‘when was the last time you pampered yourself, when was the last time you had a massage, when was the last time you had a hot bath and read a book, when was the last time you had your hair done, when was the last time you had a girls night or a movie night, when was the last time you cooked yourself a really nice meal, what’s your daily routine like?’ Most importantly.. and this is the one that changed my life in a massive way was she asked me ‘when was the last time you said no?’

Try this little exercise –

Step 1 – Fold an A4 piece of paper in half length ways. On the left side, make a list of all of the things you have done for others this week. Such as, giving somebody a lift, helping a colleague with a difficult task, collecting something for your partner on your way home, helping get your younger siblings ready and off to school, a few hours overtime to help out at work. Anything at all that you have done for others, add it to your list.

Step 2 – Now on the right side of the paper, i want you to make a list of all of the things you have done for yourself this week. Such as, a hot bubble bath with candles, saying no to working late because you were tired, asking for help with something if you need it, cooking your favourite meal instead of everyone else’s favourite meals, trying out a face mask and soaking your feet, reading a novel.

Step 3 – Now compare both sides of the paper. Are they even? Remember that although it is important to help others when you can & it feels nice to give and to do things for your loved ones. It is is even more important to help yourself & to ask for help if you need it. Let others do things for you sometimes, but most of all do nice things for yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so ensure that your own cup is full before doing things for others so that your not left running on empty. Find a good balance between giving to others & also letting them return the favour and give/help you.

Self care doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes self care can be ‘treating yourself’ but sometimes self care can be the simple daily things that we sometimes forget to do when we are feeling down, such as washing our hair or drinking water.

See below my go to list of self care options/reminders, let me know if you have any other ideas that i can add to the list –

  • Hot bubble bath with salts & essential oils.
  • Epsom salt foot soak.
  • Clay face mask & skin care routine.
  • Say NO to things you do not want.
  • Switch your phone off and stay off social media.
  • Read a good book (not a self help book – get lost in a novel).
  • Buying fresh socks & pyjamas.
  • Have a hot chocolate with cream.
  • Cook your favourite meal.
  • Meal prep.
  • Ask for help !
  • Put some music on, sing, dance & be playful.
  • A walk in nature.
  • Go to bed early. SLEEP is the best medicine.
  • Meditate.
  • Yoga.
  • Talk to someone. A friend, a colleague, a pet, a therapist.
  • Write / journal. There’s nothing better than getting it all off your chest.
  • Floatation therapy. This one is my absolute favourite.
  • A cup of herbal tea. Drink it mindfully.
  • Watch your favourite childhood movie.
  • Pamper yourself at home.
  • Get a massage.
  • Wash your hair, cut your nails, moisturise your body.
  • Put some music on and do your chores / clean. This sounds like a weird one, but for me personally i always feel great when everything is clean and tidy and the chores are finished. However if you are already worn out and drained, the chores can wait.
  • Reassess your priorities.
  • Throw out that ‘to do list’.
  • Go to the gym or exercise at home.
  • Drink water.
  • Breathe. Take a few mindful deep breathes, practice some pranayama.
  • Get a reiki treatment, or even try taking the reiki level one course so you can give yourself reiki.
  • Watch or listen to something funny (The Ricky Gervais Podcast is my go-to).
  • Take yourself for a nice day out / meal / or weekend trip.

There are so many ways to practice self care and a lot of people won’t need a list or reminders. I need them. I often get caught up in work / my career & doing things for others and forget to take time out for me. So this post is for you, whoever needs it, but also a little reminder for me so i can check back regularly and make sure i am ticking a few things off this list. Now take some time out and celebrate you, you deserve it.

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