We’re not very good at self-care and that’s why many of us may never even have heard of it before. If this is your first time it’s probably worth mentioning that there’s nothing risqué about it, nor is it complicated. In fact as a concept self-care is extraordinarily simple but putting it into practice takes well, practice. But the regular application of this necessary notion to our daily lives can make for a much more fulfilled existence.
What is Self-Care?
Self -care is about recognizing that in order to feel good and keep well we need to learn to nurture our body, mind and soul. It’s also about acknowledging that we matter and showing respect for the life we are living. Learning this is important because without first giving ourselves the gift of self-care we will never truly be able to be there for those we care about the most. Nor will we be able to be our best or give our best. Self-care replenishes what we so freely give away, our energy. If you happened to read my last post ‘Uncomplicating Healthy Living’ (thank you if you did, I hope you enjoyed it!) you may remember a ‘house’ analogy which I used to help explain what really matters when it comes to living. One of the four ‘walls’ of the ‘house’ is the relationship we have with ourselves and it is this relationship which is the root of self-care.
Why Does it Matter?
Some people may find self-care an egotistical concept and meet it with great resistance and I can understand this. But genuine self-care is actually not about the ‘me’, it’s about the ‘you’ i.e. to really help you I first have to help myself. Like oxygen masks on an airplane; there’s a reason why we should put our own on first. And although many feel we have become a selfish society, caring mainly about our own comfort, our own prosperity and our own enjoyment, I can’t help but feel we’ve actually become self-less. We put everyone and everything above ourselves and we deprioritize our body and our mind. Work, family and socialising take precedence and our basic human needs have fallen by the wayside.
Self-care needs to be unconditional. This means that no matter what is going on in our lives or in the lives of those around us, we must always make the time to listen to what we need and replenish what has been lost or given away. Identifying how to best self-care starts with a basic daily question – what do I need to feel good today? If we can just find 2 minutes a day, every day to ask ourselves this question, we’d be half way there. Often just identifying what it is we need, is enough to give us the motivation to make a change.
What we need often varies. One day it might be something as simple as a bath but another day it might be more challenging, like deep understanding from a partner. Creating deep understanding requires more energy than running a bath and this brings me to a critical aspect of self–care; to regain energy, often we first have to use energy. This may sound counterproductive but the energy gained is so much more than the energy expended in the process.
Sometimes we prefer to just ignore what we know we really need and not bother spending the time, energy or effort. But when doubting whether to self-care or not, it is essential to always remember the impact a positive action can have on not just our own wellbeing but on those we care about more than we do ourselves. Changing our attitude and reprogramming our mindset to accept that genuine self-care is self-less and never selfish, is a crucial part of strengthening our relationship with ourselves as well as our relationships with others.
Dr Yasmin Ohlsson MBChB MRCGP is a UK trained family doctor with a specialist interest in Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine, an accredited coach and a nutrition advisor. She is a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners and the International Coach Federation and is a country representative for the European Society of Lifestyle Medicine. Yasmin splits her time between the UK and the sunny island of Cyprus where she is also involved in medical education.
You can follow her on Twitter @NEAMEDICA or drop by http://www.neamedica.com/ for ideas, information and inspiration (or just to say hello!)