This post is inspired by a few articles I read online recently. I can’t seem to find them at the moment, but will be happy to link to them once I find them again – I’m always keen to share original sources!
The online world is abuzz with self-care advice. Look after yourself, they say. Do something nice. Have a cup of tea, read a book, have an early night, do some colouring, go for a walk. Do something fun and lovely. And that’s great advice. In the modern world we need to be reminded to slow down and take a break.
But that’s not all self-care is about. It’s such a narrow view that it loses sight of what caring for yourself actually means.
It means making sure you’re fed and watered and healthy and not too tired. Making sure your home is clean and airy, your car runs well, your bills are paid. Making sure your life can run as smoothly as is realistic, that important things are done and not avoided. And often it’s neither fun nor glamorous, but it needs to be done. And in the end you feel better for it.
Going to bed at a reasonable hour may not be as fun as staying up to watch ‘just one more episode’, but you will feel better tomorrow if you fulfill your sleep quota. Leaving the house to go for a walk may seem less fun that playing video games in your dark living room, but the fresh air and the birds and the trees can brighten your day. Having a shower and getting changed out of your pyjamas into ‘proper clothes’ may be too much effort, but you might feel more human if you try. (See more ideas here.)
Same goes for bills and home maintenance and other boring grown-up tasks. I hate cleaning and tidying, but I know that a tidy house feels fresher while mess gets me down without my noticing. Perhaps bills are a pain, but they’ll be less of a pain if they’re paid and no longer hanging over your head. Meal planning is a hassle, but eating healthily can dramatically improve your well-being.
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It’s an obvious fact that your self-care is meant to be about you. And yet much of the advice out there is extremely generic. Of course this is partly because much of it is fundamental to the human race (and the animal world as well – after all, everybody needs sleep and food and shelter), but often people do the generic things without taking a moment to think of themselves.
I believe that it’s hugely important to be sufficiently self-aware to learn what strategies work for you personally. Adapting self-care to suit you is essential – otherwise you’re not looking after yourself, but rather some abstract person.
For example, I know that if I don’t drink enough water (or tea/coffee etc), I’m more likely to get a headache and my brain feels foggy. I know that when I’m craving a snack, a protein-rich item will be more satisfying than a biscuit. I know that I need more sleep than an average person, even if it means sacrificing my leisure time. I know that social situations exhaust me and I always need alone time afterwards to recharge. I know that I’m a visual learner, that I will forget things if I don’t write them down, and that animals will usually cheer me up.
Take a few minutes to have a think about yourself. What do you need for self-care? What has worked well in the past and what hasn’t? What can you do differently?