“If you don’t put yourself first, you are letting the world know you can wait—and you will wait, because each time you put someone else’s happiness before your own, you drop yourself down a place until you are last.” – Oliver Myers
Self-care is something that many of us forget about all too often. Sure, if you are like me, you will often say this is because there are quite literally not enough hours in the day to fit looking after yourself in (especially if, like myself, you have kids and several jobs!).
But that being said, if and when I do neglect caring for myself over an extended period, I find that the parts of my life that I do spend time on suffer. If you don’t care for yourself, it is not unlikely, and I can attest to this, that you will find it easier to procrastinate, harder to concentrate and be productive, have less energy for your loved ones, be less able to find joy, and be worse equipped to handle stressful situations when they inevitably come along.
Self-care is many-faceted. This is a good and a bad thing. It is maybe bad because it demonstrates that looking after yourself is maybe more complex than you feel you have time for. The good thing is that it means there are many more options than maybe you realised when it comes to meeting your own needs.
So, self-care. The seven elements. Here they are…
1. Emotional Care
This requires knowing yourself and being conscious of what triggers emotional reactions in you such as panic, depression, anxiety and general stress. Once you know what the signals are, and what sets you off, then you can go about finding coping mechanisms. This might include turning off your phone, taking a walk, listening to music or simply changing the activity you are working on for a short while.
2. Environmental Care
This is a bit one for me. I find mess very stressful to work in. Indeed, if your surroundings are often chaotic or unpleasant, you are unlikely to find yourself relaxed very often. Try and prioritise a little time to make your surroundings pleasant to be in. In this case, a small effort can often make a huge impact.
3. Physical Care
Being active does two big things. Focusing on exercise or another physical activity takes your head away from the many swirling thoughts for a period of time and helps to stop one spiralling. Also, as many people know, exercise is good for you. It makes you able to take things on, makes you more resilient, gives you more energy and improves both physical and mental agility.
4. Mental Care
Keeping your mental health in a good place is something many of us struggle with a lot. It is spoken about much more now than it used to be, but there is still a way to go when it comes to widespread care for mental care. On a low level, your mental state can be kept in a good place through meditation, hobbies, exercise and properly (that means no screens) doing nothing! It is also helpful to find a person to unpack onto, whether it be a trusted loved one or a licenced therapist.
5. Recreational Care
This means scheduling leisure time. It can be easy to see leisure time as a luxury, but a lack of it just makes everything else harder to do. Our batteries need recharging. We need things to keep us passionate and positive. Hobbies, board games, adventures, holidays, taking time to cook meals from scratch… these are all things that help to keep your mood up throughout the more boring parts of life!
6. Social Care
Similarly, we need to see other people. Having a number of strong relationships of all kinds (romantic, platonic, familial) is a super important way to care for yourself. Feeling a part of a friendship or community gives us both an outlet and a sense of place in the world, as well as fending off potential loneliness. See a friend for a drink, have lunch with your dad, call your sister, or even just pop a message on one of your WhatsApp groups to get some interaction going!
7. Spiritual Care
Spiritual care does not necessarily connect with ‘religion’. Spiritual self-care is about feeling connected to the world and finding a way to give back to it. Being in nature, volunteering or spending time in service to values that are important to you are good ways to do this.
By Chris Thomson
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