Self-care is a fundamental piece of the emotional health pie. Over the past few its been thrown around like it’s going out of fashion. A buzzword of sorts, it’s meaning lost, it’s often seen as a nice to have. A let’s take it seriously if I have a quiet night in or a stressful day. We’re plagued by green juice and yoga and missing the point. Self-care doesn’t cost. It’s not about doing it for everyone else, it’s about doing it for self. We get that it means taking better care of ourselves but why? And how? And what if we don’t? What then? 

Really it’s nothing more than taking care of yourself. It’s intentionally taking time out to do simple things that keep you healthy and bring you joy. Self-care comes in many shapes and forms. The surface level stuff includes things like listening to music, taking a bath or nourishing your body. On a deeper level it involves figuring out your freaky little wants and needs and establishing boundaries that allow you to build a protective bubble around yourself. Being aware of your internal resources helps you spot when your tank is running low so that you can take the steps needed to fill it right back up. That way not only you, but everyone else too get the best of you. 

The difficult part in practice is slowing down

Self-care is about slowing down enough to comprehend what’s going on in your inner world. How are you feeling today? How is the stress barometer? What are you grateful for? In the fast pace of it all, it’s easy to jam-pack your schedule and bypass the downtime but I cannot stress the importance of this enough. It’s in the slowing down that we get to check-in, to look at the bigger picture and to see if we’re on the right path. If we’re caught up in a flurry of transport and tequila we’re surviving. We’re too tired to even begin to consider an alternative reality because we’re just trying to stay awake long enough for the meeting to end. And then you wake up, five years have passed and you’ve sleepwalked it all. And if we can do anything to avoid that, lets. 

Our busy lifestyles mean that we’re dealing with more and more stress than ever before. The pressure is high and the stakes are too. Fuelled by the influencer epidemic expectations are high and in this modern world world patience is thin on the ground. Stress is an imbalance between your current coping abilities and the expectations or demands on you. This includes those you place on yourself — both real and perceived. Stress can wreak havoc with your mind, body and soul. Some of the physical effects include high blood pressure, muscular tension, a weakened immune system and fertility problems. Not to mention the psychological effects such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. In short, the effects are widespread, self-care central to prevention and relief. 

In addition to stress, self-care can massively affect self esteem

Scrapping the stuff that makes you feel mentally and physically well depletes you of your self-worth. Self-care over time allows you to cultivate and nourish the most important relationship in your life – the one you have with you. Something as simple as a hot bath can produce the feel-good feels that build self-love, self-confidence and self-esteem. Self-care helps you build self-awareness helping you better understand your feelings, your needs, your failings and your habits all of which are the key to making any kind of lasting changes in your beliefs and behaviours. 

If you don’t already know this then do take note because taking care of yourself – getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating healthy food and scheduling play time boosts focus and productivity. This isn’t a new idea by a long shot but nowadays it’s often railroaded in the pursuit of quicker results. Increased workload and tighter deadlines don’t support the notion of self-care so it falls by the wayside. But this couldn’t be more counterproductive if it tried. Priming yourself for peak performance requires taking care of yourself physically and emotionally. 

So we know we need to take care but how exactly do we?

In establishing a routine there are five areas to consider – emotional, physical, social, spiritual and sensory self-care all of which go some way towards topping up your tank. Emotional care refers to anything related to your emotions. Feelings mainly, and your propensity to actually feel them. Most of us avoid feelings of discomfort but this doesn’t quite cut the self-care mustard. A great way of exploring your feelings is by journaling. First thing in the morning is best but anytime is better than no time so grab a pen and get writing. Pen to paper and let those emotions flow. It’s completely cathartic in practice and the perfect way to release negative emotions. You might be surprised with what falls out. Bye-bye anger. 

Next up is the physical part which involves, as you might have guessed the body. This involves getting active and moving that bod. Busting a groove is great way to let off steam. As well as exercise it includes food, and choosing what’s actually going into your body. The better you fuel your body, the better you feel. Examples of good physical self care include eating healthy food, taking supplements, exercising regularly and establishing a pre-bed routine. 

As humans, we are hardwired for connection

It’s a necessity for happiness on so many levels. It gives you a sense of belonging, a sense that you’re not alone. There is comfort in being fully seen by others, a reassurance of sorts which can help fend off feelings of loneliness and isolation. Happiness requires connection and connection requires people so reach out to a friend and schedule in some social time. Set up a lunch date, call a friend or sign up for a new class – all go some ways to keeping you connected. It’s also time to assess those you’re spending time with. Ditch the toxic Tina’s, those who drag you down or belittle you. Nobody needs that sh*t in their life, least not you. 

Spiritual self-care plays another hefty part in overall wellbeing with meditation assuming the leading role. This is about getting in touch with who you are – identifying your core values and the things that really matter to you. It’s nurturing your intuition in a bid to live more consciously. Spiritual self care includes meditation, using positive affirmations, spending time in nature and engaging in any kind of creative activity. Creativity is an unrated act in connected with spirituality. 

The last piece to work into your routine is sensory self care. That being all the stuff that keeps the mind calm, the key focus being on your surrounding for the purpose of keeping you in the present moment. When you tune into the minute details of that around you, it’s easier to stay there. Stuff like petting a dog, walking barefoot outdoors, getting a massage with essential oils or something as simple as noticing the water on your skin as you shower. That right there is sensory care. 

Self-care is important, that much is clear and working it into our daily lives can dramatically improve the quality of our relationships, work and overall joy. So next time you find yourself scrolling mindlessly through Instagram consider the alternative – I’ll have a time out and some James Blake instead, please.