Self-care is probably the most talked about and popular “life hack” to ensuring mental wellbeing.
But while everyone talks about self-care, there seems to be a thousand different versions of it!
One minute it’s about taking solo time out from your daily role… of being a swamped parent, workaholic, or study nut.
Next minute it’s about doing something nice for yourself… like getting your nails done, going for a massage or having a facial.
And then sometimes, it’s about creating healthy work-life boundaries that separate the yin and yang.
With so much confusion surrounding what self-care is, how can you possibly succeed at it??
And to top it off, for many of us, these versions of self-care can be pretty hard to manage if you’re busy and under the pump with other life demands.
I know for myself, being a mum and running a practice, it’s an anomaly if I get to escape for a whole hour to get my nails done! Similarly, I find I often need to do work at night (after work) rather than chill on the couch with Netflix and a cup of tea.
So what the heck is self-care? And how do you manage it in our busy lives?
And most importantly, why is it so good for mental health?
Fortunately, for most of us who live busy and often pressured lives, self-care is quite a simple and basic activity that is achievable.
It actually has nothing to do with taking solo time out, nor does it have anything to do with creating healthy boundaries or doing something nice for yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, these things are LOVELY (yes please, give me a massage any day!) and are good for mental health, but these concepts are more of an extension or “bonus” on top of necessary and basic self-care. They’re more like “mood boosters” to lift your mood instantly.
Whereas, self-care is more of a foundation to general wellbeing.
So, what is self-care?
- Getting adequate sleep, ball park of 6-8 hours, depending on your personal needs.
- Eating regularly and adequately with a decent variety of foods and nutrition. And, drinking enough water.
- Keeping on top of your personal hygiene, including showering once per day, brushing your teeth twice per day, washing your hair when it starts to get greasy, and shaving regularly.
- More here on self-care in blog post “The Most Practical and First Step to Depression Recovery“.
Despite these daily activities seeming obvious, they can be surprisingly hard to keep on top of if you’re stressed or struggling in some way with your mental health.
Even if you’re not under pressure, parts of self-care can easily slip, such as eating properly or staying on top of washing your hair.
So, how do you manage self-care in your busy life?
It’s best to break self-care up into small blocks, and look to lay down each block as a building block to the next block. That is, it’s not about doing self-care all at once “perfectly”. Rather it’s about laying down (one by one, block by block) decent habits and routines surrounding your sleep, diet and personal hygiene.
To improve your self-care, FIRST acknowledge what you’re doing well at – perhaps you eat fairly well or have a fairly decent sleep routine – acknowledge the work you’ve already done towards self-care. This will help motivate you for your next building block.
Then, look to add your next block. For example, perhaps you struggle to clean your teeth twice daily – plan this into your routine and set some sort of reminder. Once this becomes a habit, perhaps after a fortnight, look to add another building block.
Why is self-care so important to mental wellbeing?
Broadly speaking, self-care helps you function and fit within our society…. Life is hardly going to be easy for you if you don’t shower and walk around smelly. Similarly, you’ve got an uphill battle in your day if you’re not getting enough sleep.
But on a personal level, self-care is of the upmost importance to psychological health, because it shows self-respect. And self-respect translates to self-love.
The opposite of self-love is self-neglect, which is psychologically harmful. Take a child, for example, who is neglected by their parents – not fed enough food, not given warm clothing or put to bed for sleep – what does this child learn about themselves?
That they’re unlovable.
Neglect translates to feeling unloved.
Whereas, self-care says to yourself “I’m worth the care, I’m loveable”.
In this way, self-care is a foundation to good self-esteem. And good self-esteem promotes robust mental health.
How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help with your self-care?
We are a team of Melbourne-based psychologists who are familiar with the impact of poor self-care on mental health. We understand that good self-care habits can be hard to establish. Therefore, we provide you with various strategies and techniques to help motivate you and implement positive change. If you would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.