While it’s true that you may hear and read about self-care more than ever these days, it isn’t a new concept. In fact, the term ‘self-care’ was widely used in the medical community back in the 1950s. However, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to understand what self-care should look like or know how to put it into practice. In this article, we’ll explain what self-care is, what its benefits are and how you can practice both physical and emotional self-care.
Whilst the intricacies of self-care may look different to everyone, ultimately, self-care is exactly that – looking after yourself. Practising self-care is about dedicating time and energy to looking after your own physical and mental health in order to take care of your overall wellbeing.
There are multiple benefits to practising good self-care. Self-care can improve your physical health as it often includes actions that promote a healthier lifestyle, such as being mindful of what you eat and taking the time to get outdoors and enjoy physical exercise and movement.
Self-care is also good for your mental health as it allows you the headspace to reflect on what’s going well in your life and identify areas for change or improvement. For many people, self-care will involve spending some time alone, with their own thoughts, which can improve relationships and help you be a better friend, partner or parent by giving you some space and time to yourself and reducing the demands on your attention and energy. Self-care can also reduce stress levels, which can improve your mood, reduce anxiety and help you sleep better.
Emotional self-care isn’t all about bubble baths and candles, although those things can be helpful if you find them soothing and relaxing. For the most part, however, practising emotional self-care is about checking in with yourself and acknowledging how you’re feeling and what you need in that moment. This sounds easy but can be tricky to incorporate into everyday life and routines, especially when you lead a busy lifestyle with multiple demands on your attention. Taking a moment to think about how you’re feeling can seem pointless, especially if you haven’t the time or energy to address any issues that come up. Ignoring how you feel or going about your day on autopilot, however, can lead to bigger issues in the long run, which can cause problems in our relationships, at work and with our own mental health and wellbeing.
To include emotional self-care in your day, you could start keeping a journal or using a meditation app. Keep in touch with others, be open about how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Set goals, whether they’re personal or work-related and take time to celebrate when you meet them by treating yourself to something nice that you’d normally consider a luxury – such as some sexy lingerie or a beautiful bunch of fresh flowers to brighten your day.
A lot of the ways in which you can practice physical self-care sound very basic, for example – staying hydrated and getting enough sleep. Unfortunately, for many of us, they can be easier said than done as our physical needs can be overlooked in favour of work priorities or the demands of parenthood. How many of us have sat at our desks for too long and felt the effects the following day or wondered why we have a headache after only drinking coffee all morning?
Effective self-care means caring for our physical bodies. This will look different for each person but in general, it needs to include some exercise or movement, a balanced diet and establishing a healthy sleep pattern. You should also make sure you’re drinking enough water and avoid things you know will make you feel worse, such as high-sugar foods or too much alcohol or caffeine.
People often joke about self-care and bubble baths but personal hygiene is another area that people can end up neglecting, particularly if they’re struggling with their mental health. Taking ten minutes out of your day to have a shower, wash your hair and brush your teeth might not seem much but can feel like an uphill battle for someone in the depths of depression. However, these small steps can make all the difference to your mood and overall wellbeing.
If you have facial hair, it’s especially important to maintain beard care. Beards can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, which can have adverse health effects. For many people with facial, their majestic beards are a source of pride, and caring for it properly with the right tools and supplies, like old-school straight razors, shampoos, brushes, and oils, can spark so much joy. Sometimes, doing something that may seem insignificant can be the first step to moving forward.