Practicising Self-Care: Where Do You Start?

Self care is a concept that I have been trying my hardest to incorporate into my life on a daily basis for about two months (nearly three) now. And it’s something that we tend to conveniently “forget” to do. We have so many other things to get done in a day, that this basic and health-giving concept is left behind. It’s at the bottom of our To Do List: if I complete my essay, then I’ll watch a DVD and have an early night. If I finish the cleaning then I’ll let myself sit down with a book. If I complete X number of reps at the gym, then I can chill out this afternoon. If I manage to answer all of my emails, then I can put a face pack on and have a bubble bath. For me, it went beyond even this: I don’t have time to use the hand dryer- I’ll just dry my hands on my jeans. I know I’m tired, but I need to get up at 6:30 am to do yoga. If it means more washing up, then I’d rather cook my porridge in the microwave instead of the hob, even though I prefer the latter. I won’t wash my hair tonight because I’m going to the gym tomorrow and will have to wash it anyway, I’ll just dry shampoo it. Self-care was something that sounded flimsy, and like it was for wimps. Or so I told myself, because since implementing it in my day to day life, I feel both physically, emotionally, and mentally stronger.

We neglect ourselves on such basic levels, don’t act as if we have time to look after ourselves. We’re an after thought. An inconvenience to look after when we have so much to do. To be honest, this was how I was brought up. Or rather, how I learnt. My mum does exactly this: she wasn’t a bad role model in any other sense. She didn’t talk about diets in front of me when I was five, she has a career, puts amazing food on the table, taught me to cook, work out finances, spell etc. But the one way she was (and still is) a bad role model, is this: she neglects to care for herself (and if you’re reading this mum, it isn’t like I haven’t told you this to your face either. Now go get a cup of tea and sit down for a bit). It’s a habit that so many of us pick up at some point in our lives, and it can be hard to get rid of.

Which is why, down below, I have some of the very simplest ways to practice self-care, things you probably neglect to do everyday, but just send the message to yourself that you actually matter, and then some bigger acts of self-care as we move down the list. Remember, these are just starting points: your self-care is something specific to you, and so to really feel the benefit you need to figure out what relaxes and makes you feel cared for.

  1. Dry your hands properly when you wash them. On a towel, with a dryer- just not hurriedly on your jeans.
  2. Pay attention to your body: if you need to pee, go pee. If you have a headache, take paracetamol. If you’re tired, then get an early night. Simple things, but things we all (admit it) ignore.
  3. Don’t let your phone be the first thing you reach for in the morning. Get up and out of bed, brush your teeth, get dressed, get your head into the zone for the day (coffee and breakfast usually required for this), then turn the phone on.
  4. Dress Up. I don’t care if your favourite outfit is a pair of jeans and comfy t-shirt, or a dress with cool heels-give yourself permission to wear it more often.
  5. Take time preparing your food, eat well, eat slowly- but also eat what you like. I find making my porridge in a pan so much more relaxing than whacking it in the microwave. And for ages I felt like getting this made faster and having “extra time” would help me feel less stressed. Right? Wrong. Taking time to prepare my food is a sign that I am worth spending time on, and it calms me first thing. Taking the time to actually taste the food too, experience each and every flavour I  haphazardly threw in there, really calms me down. As to eating what you like: we should all try and eat foods that are good for us. But we also have choices. Hate blueberries, but love strawberries? Then don’t force yourself to eat the former, just because you may have read they’re better for you. They are both healthy choices, but if you get more enjoyment from strawberries, stick with them.
  6. Don’t force yourself to do something that deep down you know isn’t beneficial. Like me and yoga at 6:30am. Deep down, I knew that half an hour more in bed would have been better for me.
  7. When you take time to relax, do something you actually want to do. Time enjoyed is never time wasted. If you’d feel more relaxed after sitting and watching a funny film, or reading, than if you did an “extra” workout, then do the former instead of the latter.
  8. Take time each day to relax, every day. Say ‘Right, from 6pm (or whatever your chosen time is) I will not do any more work; I will do things I enjoy’. Even if you can’t spend the whole evening in this state, at least take an hour.
  9. Meditate. Even for just two minutes. You don’t even need a video, or an app. Simply sit comfortably, and drawn your attention you your breathing. Take a deep breath in, then slowly let it out. And repeat. Bring your attention to the top of your head, and then move down your body in a wave, imagining that you are breathing in to any areas where there is tension, and then moving on. When you reach your toes, focus on breathing again, and then bring your attention back to the room, feeling (hopefully) a bit more refreshed.
  10. Give yourself a foot massage. I have to admit, I have recently come to adore doing this. I can’t go more than a few days without giving myself a foot massage now. Our feet are areas we neglect so much- especially if, like me, you walk everywhere at uni, gym it, and rarely cut your toenails.
  11. Make yourself a meal you really fancy. Make something you really enjoy eating. Sweet potato wedges, ketchup, salmon, and some kind of veg or hot salad is up my street, or something spicy, I know spinach and ricotta pancakes/pasta is up my mum’s, and cheese and biscuits is right up my flatmate’s. Whatever it is, take your time preparing it, put care and attention into it. Then savour and enjoy every mouthful.
  12. Take yourself for coffee. Pick your favourite coffee shop, and go lose yourself there with a of cup of something for an hour or so.
  13. Buy yourself a treat, that is food. Do a solo brunch/lunch trip. Buy a slice of cake when you go for that coffee. Whatever floats your boat. When I head home at Easter I shall be treating myself to fish and chips- because no where makes it like the village chippy.
  14. Buy yourself a treat that isn’t food: head to your favourite shop and pick something out. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. I head to Paperchase for a few postcards to put on my wall, or LUSH for a bath bomb, a bright lipstick if you like getting creative with makeup, or somewhere I can get a facepack/new porridge bowl/mug.
  15. Take a bubble bath. Get as many bubbles in there as you can- go buy a new bubble bath. Or a bath bomb. Push the boat out. Light candles if you want- and your landlord doesn’t suspect you might try to burn the house down (I think ours does; our contract specifies no candles…)
  16. Take a whole day out. Set aside a day, and spend it on you. And you alone. That isn’t to say don’t meet up with friends on this day, but choose to do that- don’t do things you feel obliged to. Anyone who works: you would book a day off to attend a wedding/funeral/christening, and show those attending that you care about them. Show yourself you give a shit, and either plan this for a day like a Sunday, or use one day’s holiday.
  17. Step away from things that make you feel inferior. It could be accounts you follow on IG that have you constantly comparing yourself to things you can never have (yes, you can tone up- but can you grow 6 inches and change your bone structure so that you hips are narrower and get you still have a thigh gap? No.), or that Pinterest board that’s filled with uninspiring “inspiration”. Or maybe that YouTuber who makes you feel like you should be in the gym every.single.day- and although you aren’t a PT and they are, that doesn’t make you feel any better.
  18. Be honest, with yourself and others. This can be hard at first. But if something isn’t working out, then you need to say so. It’s better for the people involved, and for yourself.
  19. Learn how to say no. If someone asks you out, to some kind of social event you would rather watch paint dry than go to, then say no. If someone wants you to do something you really don’t have time to do, say no. There’s a lot to be said for saying yes: it can open up new doors, and lead to exciting opportunities. But saying no sometimes will also ensure you’re still sane enough to enjoy those things you say yes to, and extend help to others when they really need it.
  20. Get rid of people you hate. I make it sound simple I know, but sometimes we have people hanging around in our lives who have been there way too long (I did not mean that to sound as sinister as it does). If there are people around you that feel as though they’re draining your energy, and every time you speak respond with something negative, then you don’t need them in your life.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and it gives you some ideas- but there are plenty of things you might do that I’ve missed out. If you have any particularly great ones, then stick them in the comments below…

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