Self care, for those who don’t know, is the practice of looking after yourself. A few years ago, you might be forgiven for having never heard of self care, but now, it’s everywhere. You’ll find it casually thrown into Instagram captions, or more officially on the NHS website.
Despite its popularity, so many people are still struggling to prioritise self care in their everyday lives. In fact, when I wrote a post about self care earlier this year, lots of people said they simply didn’t have time for it.
I completely understand where those people are coming from. Up until August, I was very much one of those people who thought self care wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until I overworked myself to the point of burning out that I decided to reassess my situation and realised that my initial observation may not have been completely correct.
After taking a week away from freelancing to recover, I realised that self care was the last thing on my priority list. There were so many things that came higher, and I knew that needed to change. How am I any use to anyone, or myself, if I’m not looking after myself?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not perfect. I’m autistic, and suffer from two mental illnesses, so mustering the energy to engage in self care isn’t always possible.
In saying that, I am so much better at self care than I used to be now I’ve made it a priority in my life. Here are some ways that I readjusted my priorities that I think will be helpful for you, too.
Find Out What You Enjoy
I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of self care used to end at the pretty pictures I’d see on Instagram. They’re completely valid, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of the things I saw I could never imagine myself doing. I’m sure you’ve probably found yourself in a similar boat, too.
While feeling pressured into following the crowd is completely normal, where self care is concerned, this can be highly counterproductive. At the end of the day, self care is something that makes you feel good about yourself. How good can you really feel if you’re doing something you’d rather not be?
Instead, take a few moments to think about what interests you. What makes you excited when you think about devoting a certain amount of time towards it?
I have a list of 10 inexpensive self care ideas if you need a starting place, but if they don’t appeal to you, there are many others on the internet. Equally, if you start something and aren’t enjoying it? Stop. Nobody will judge you for it.
Additional Tip: Self care isn’t just about making time for the things you enjoy. Make sure you’re making time to fulfil your basic needs, too.
The easiest way to become overwhelmed when starting something now is to try and do everything at once. It can be tempting to do, but it’s a lot harder to start something after failing the first time around.
Instead, try starting small and building up your self care routine slowly. Like with anything self care related, this means different things to different people.
You may decide to spend longer on an activity you’re already doing, like reading. It may involve taking up something new and only spending twenty minutes on it to begin with. It could even mean starting with one activity, and introducing more as time goes on.
Regardless of what self care means to you, make sure you’re listening to yourself. This isn’t a race; you’re welcome to take things at your own pace.
Schedule Specific Self Care Time
When I first started taking self care seriously, I decided I’d engage in self care whenever I felt like I needed to. Spoiler alert? I failed. Miserably.
The main reason for this is because I didn’t have to take time out when I was feeling exhausted and run down. Instead I was pushing through it, and I felt myself falling back into old patterns again. Was taking care of myself really more important than working on a client’s deadline? Did I really have to reply to 10 emails right that minute?
No. I didn’t. But I did anyway.
I don’t know about you, but I find things so much easier to stick to once I’ve scheduled it into my week. Introducing self care into my life, and prioritising it, has been no different.
By inserting self care into my calendar, I was creating a period of time where I could spend time on myself, completely guilt free. I hate double booking myself, so this method has worked quite well for me. There have been moments where I’ve had to remind myself that I’m as important as my other commitments, but those occasions have lessened as time has gone on.
For me, a few hours on a Sunday work best. I might spend the morning working on freelancing or other admin tasks, but in the afternoon, I stop myself. Then, I’ll take time to engage in self care in whatever way I see fit, and it does differ. Sometimes it’ll mean spending the afternoon reading, whereas other times I’ll have a Netflix binge. Sometimes, I even make an effort to spend more time around other human beings.
Remember: Self care is an individualised practice, and it will take trial and error to schedule it into your life at a time that works for you.
Assess your schedule, find out when you can fit it in, and book the time slot. Whether it’s ten minutes, an hour, or an entire day, don’t let anyone or anything convince you that they’re more important than self care. You cannot be your best self unless you’re taking care of yourself, after all.
Stop Making Excuses
This is something I’d probably roll my eyes at if I had been reading an advice post, but hear me out. I know it’s difficult. Stop making excuses is an incredibly easy thing to say, but executing it involves changing your entire mindset.
With that being said, taking the time to change your mindset regarding excuses can be extremely empowering. Not only has changing my mindset helped with prioritising self care, but I’ve also found myself thinking twice about other things in my life, too.
As I’m sure you’re aware, however, excuses are a part of life. We’re going to try and talk ourselves out of everything given half the chance. I’m definitely guilty of it.
One thing I’ve done to help with this is to consciously look out for excuses I’m making, and then challenge them. One of the common ones I tell myself is that I don’t deserve self care, but why not? Have I really done something that awful that I don’t deserve to do something I enjoy?
I also think about what I’ll gain from engaging in acts of self care. This differs for everyone, but for me, the benefits include increased productivity, higher creativity levels, and a general feeling of refreshment.
Have you done anything to make self care more of a priority in your own life? Are there tips here that you’re going to use going forwards? Let me know what you thought down in the comments below.
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