Why can self-care be difficult?
What do you think when you hear self-care? When I hear self-care, the immediate picture it paints in my mind is to be sat in a hot bath with cucumber slices on my eyes and scented candles glowing in the background. As lovely as that may be and as beneficial as it is to have down and relaxation time, self-care is not limited to just pampering yourself. We may think of it as a vague concept and don’t really have a sense of clarity about what it is. Self-care is a holistic endeavour to take actions which develop, protect, maintain and improve ‘me, myself and I’ in physical, emotional, spiritual and mental realms. Self-care is about being compassionate to yourself, realising when you need to be replenished and using healthy positive actions to achieve this.
So why is it that we can find it difficult to tend to our own needs?
Many things affect why we find it difficult to self-care. It could be a lack of self-esteem or shame, where we believe we aren’t worthy of self-care or that others are more in need off it. It could be that we don’t recognise we are in need of it and other times it could be that we don’t know how to self-care and we think it is easier to just do nothing. We may feel that incorporating self-care, be it time to pamper ourselves or to just relax, to going to speak to someone about how we are feeling, adds more things onto our never-ending to-do list. On the other hand, we may be confusing indulgence with self-care, where over-indulging becomes negative and stops being self-care, so it is this fine boundary is something we may not understand. Self-care can be really difficult because it is about doing what is truly good for you, and sometimes we find it hard to put ourselves first and to identify healthy behaviours.
Sometimes we may find that we are drawn to actions that feel good, but in actuality are not good for our self-care. This can include but is not limited to risk-taking behaviour, taking drugs, or using alcohol as a coping mechanism. If we are falling into self-destructive tendencies, though they may help us to regulate challenging emotions, the relief we receive from them in temporary. We need to be confident in identifying when we aren’t being healthy or positive with our self-care.
You may think, well what are the benefits of self-care? The list is extensive, but the few things I want to address are that it improves our mood, energy levels and productivity, it enhances our self-esteem and our capacity to help others. Some may think it is selfish to be good to themselves, but self-care gives you the resources you need to be caring and compassionate towards others. Think of it like this; you can’t give someone something that you don’t have yourself. If you don’t have self-care and compassion, how can you give it to others? Self-care isn’t something you should do, it is something you have to do for yourself. We need to be confident with identifying when we need self-care, how we are going to go about achieving it and then prioritising it for our own well-being.
What are some of the ways we can self-care?
Sensory self-care allows us to calm the mind and be aware of our surroundings and be in the present moment. It is very similar to mindfulness and considering all your senses like smell, sound, taste, touch and sight. You may find watching a candle flame, hearing the rain fall, eating chocolate, feeling the grass under your feet or looking through photos calming. Find which sensory self-care you think would work for you.
To self-care in regard to our emotions, we may find that crying helps to alleviate the pain, anger, sadness, we are feeling. Or you may want to write it out as a release, or even talk to someone and discuss your feelings, venting them and/or getting advice. You may be feeling low and worthless, in which case you remind yourself how amazing you are by writing positive affirmations like ‘I am strong, I am confident, I am beautiful, I am loveable, I am unique’ and repeating them to yourself so that you can recall positivity when you are feeling down.
- Spiritual self-care doesn’t have be just for those of faith. Spirituality is about getting in touch with your values and what matters most to you. You could use mindfulness or meditation to do so, reflecting in nature, surrounding yourself with others of similar values, attending a place of worship. It is doing something which makes you feel connected with a sense of purpose.
- Physical self-care encompasses things like exercise, dancing away your troubles, going for a walk, having a bath to relieve aches and pains, getting some sleep if you’re tired, not pushing yourself to do things you don’t feel you have the energy to do e.g. refusing an invite if you feel exhausted.
- Self-care is a whole range of things. For you it could be cutting out or challenging the negative people and energy in your life – the type that drag you down, makes you question your worth, that makes you feel something you don’t like. It could be creating boundaries to protect your energy and your self-worth. Self-care could be meeting new people, reconnecting with those you’ve lost ties with.
What does self-care mean for you?
How do you currently take care of yourself? If you find that you aren’t, why not? What self-care practice can you begin to incorporate into your life every day? The key to self-care is accepting you need to incorporate it into your life. Start small. It can be as simple as taking 5 minutes in the morning to have breakfast, to get some fresh air, to give yourself a lie in, to look in the mirror and say some positive affirmations, to sending a message to a friend whose company you miss. Whatever you think you can make time for every day for a few minutes.
Self-care is a very personal journey and each day, our responsibilities and schedules can change, but it is important to ensure that despite all the changes, the one thing that you continue to maintain is looking after yourself. Self-care should not be a one-off, it should become a lifestyle. A lifestyle that gives you sparks of joy every day.
Written by: Iman, Volunteer Mentor