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Self-Care: Fad or Fact

When did self-care become unfashionable?

I think self-care became lost when the lines became blurred. Do we really know what self-care is? I think we have become confused with the difference between self-care and self-pampering/indulgence. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a little self-indulgence…we all enjoy a couple of glasses of wine after a long day at work, a manicure, or that top we didn’t really need. Although these things give us temporary satisfaction, they must not be confused with self-care.

So what is self-care?

A recent working group organised by the WHO on World Health Day 2013 gave the definition of ‘Self-Care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider. I think this is a solid description. For me, self-care is whatever feeds your soul, things that make you happy and content.

Can self-care exist in our modern world?

It’s true that we live in a chaotic, often toxic world. The media is constantly showing us negativity; the war on terrorism, politics, what we should look like, what we should/shouldn’t be eating.

No wonder so many of us suffer with anxiety, we can’t even turn on the TV or open the newspaper without being told of all the bad stuff happening around us. I’m not saying we should ignore such things, far from it. I do however feel it is important to step back from it at times and make a conscious effort to notice the positive things in life…the stuff that rarely makes the news. We are often rushing to work, the gym or our next appointment, so it seems there is little time to stop and observe. Make time!

We are encouraged to strive for the next thing. Work hard at school so you can go to college, work hard at college so you can go to University, work hard at University to get a good job, get the job, work hard to impress at your appraisals, get that promotion, work hard to save for your retirement …and on and on it goes. But wait. You’ve focused so hard on the next step, what the future holds, that you’ve forgotten to live. This in my opinion is the key to self-care and happiness. Stop chasing the future. Yes it is good to have goals but those goals shouldn’t own you, shouldn’t consume you.

How to begin self-care

Self-care is highly personal and will look different for each of us. The first step in my opinion is to identify what makes you happy. What makes you feel lighter, less stressed and content? It could be an activity, certain people, certain places. Whatever it may be, notice it, and spend more time with it.

Practicing self-care

So you’ve established some of the things that make you feel good! For some people it may be going to the gym. That release and sense of accomplishment you feel, followed by those yummy endorphins. If this is what makes you feel good then make time for it but don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session. It doesn’t matter if you miss a few days, that doesn’t mean you should quit – maybe explore why you haven’t had the time to do it. Have you been too busy? Have you made excuses and put up your own obstacles? Contemplate these things, but don’t judge yourself on the answers.

Perhaps like me, you enjoy a nice relaxing bath. Sounds simple right? Guess what, it is! Now I know this isn’t the easiest thing for everyone…especially if you have children around! So ensure you do it when you can actually relax or it could become stressful. Firstly, don’t have the bath too hot as this can cause ‘heat stress’, which according to Harvard Medical School can actually cause stress on your heart. So opt for a slightly cooler bath instead. So what are the benefits of having a relaxing bath? Well psychologically it’s been scientifically proven that laying horizontal makes us feel relaxed and gives us a sense of security. Physically, it can help skin conditions, steam can reduce cold symptoms, helps with muscle pain and a bath before bed can produce better sleep. Why not throw in some oils, light some candles and put on some music to create some special time for yourself.

Getting out into nature. This is a great activity for escaping the pressures of our daily lives. Enjoying nature and the world we live in is something many of us are guilty of neglecting. Go for a leisurely stroll, listen to the sounds nature has to offer, the smells and instead of staring at your feet, look around and above you – noticing things you normally overlook and seeing things from a different perspective will automatically bring a sense of fulfilment.

Yoga, reading a book, listening to music, journaling, meditation, getting an early night, art – whatever it may be, make time for it. It can be hard to stick to it and may seem difficult to find the time but the benefits are great and truly work if you persevere.

So why not give it a go? Why not try breaking a cycle which doesn’t serve you well? Remember, you have to nourish in order to flourish.

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