Is it time to ditch the bubble bath and scented candle? Here’s why reinventing your idea of me-time could leave you feeling more fulfilled then ever
What does self-care mean to you? Is it staying in with a boxset, or having dinner with friends? Eating healthily, or enjoying comfort foods? Going to an early morning Hatha yoga class, or sleeping without setting an alarm? While its origins are ambiguous, self-care has medical roots. The term was coined in the 1950s as a way to encourage patients to care for themselves, which included the simplest of self-grooming tasks, such as brushing their teeth. Later, in the 60s, selfcare was recommended for people in physically or mentally demanding jobs to address their physical and psychological needs. Fast-forward to 2020 and the concept has become entangled with pampering, consumption and quickfixes. But are we actually taking care of ourselves anymore? H&W investigates…
Back to basics
“There is a glamorisation of self-care – bubble baths, expensive organic candles, brunch dates, exclusive retreats,” says Kimberley Wilson, an NHS mental health trust governor. “Much of what is fundamental about self-care is actually quite boring – making your bed, taking your medication, going to your therapy sessions, asking for help when you start to feel overwhelmed.” Self-care is found in the choices you make every day. It shouldn’t feel like a burden, indulgence, or another thing to add to your to-do list, but a way of living. When you reframe your outlook, the cookiecutter idea of self-care becomes a catalyst to help you transform your life.
Score fulfilment points
“A helpful self-care routine should be specific to you and have a net benefit,” says Kimberley. “It’s about identifying the areas in your life which need attention and addressing them directly. If your problem is that you struggle to manage money so you incur late fees, which adds to debt, then, frankly, a bath isn’t going to help.”
However, seeking financial advice, or planning a monthly budget could. It’s also important to remember that self-care is a preventative measure, not a plaster to fix a problem. Kimberley uses the analogy of brushing your teeth: “We understand that brushing your teeth is dental ‘self-care’, but we don’t do it because something is wrong, we do it preventively, to help prevent cavities. Good psychological self-care should do the same thing for your mental health. It should reduce the risk of psychological decline, rather than waiting for a mental health crisis before investing in self-care habits.”
The 5 pillars of self-care
How are you feeling emotionally? Are you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, stressed or depressed? Are you having negative thoughts? Are you able to express your feelings healthily?
Saying no when your plate is full, an opportunity doesn’t excite you, you’re too tired or just don’t want to do something.
Asking for support, whether this is in a professional capacity because you’re struggling to cope with workload, or from a friend because you need to chat.
Communicating your needs if you’re feeling unheard in a relationship, or taking a break from social media for as long as you need.
How is your overall health? Do you have recurring or existing health conditions? How is your digestion? Do you have any injuries or health niggles? Are you eating well? How is your sleep quality? Are you maintaining good personal hygiene? Are you remaining active? How are your energy levels?
Nourishing your body with healthy foods. Making time for movement and exercise if you’re able to do so.
Establishing a good nighttime routine for a healthy dose of sleep. Getting some fresh air and taking regular breaks from work. Giving yourself a full body MOT to assess how you feel.
Are you maintaining close connections with loved ones? Do you have supportive friends and/or family? Are you making time for your hobbies? Are you socialising with others, catching up with friends or building your network and meeting new people?
Reaching out to someone you miss and reconnecting with them. Arranging time to spend with family. Making plans with friends and attending events together. Scheduling time to call or meet face to face with a loved one. Picking up a new hobby where there’s plenty of social opportunity. Carving out time for yourself.
Do you feel a sense of purpose? Are you following your values and beliefs? Do you reflect on what motivates you? Can you identify past experiences which may be stopping you from moving forward? Do you engage in spiritual practices that you find fulfilling?
Volunteering, journaling, or writing a gratitude list, practising mindfulness, meditating or saying positive affirmations. Letting go of expectations you hold for yourself. Dedicating time to your personal spiritual or religious practice, whether than means exploring something new, or returning to what you’ve enjoyed before.
Are you being mentally stimulated? Do you feel intellectually overexerted? Are you challenging yourself to learn new things? Are you thinking about your self development? Are you having enjoyable conversations with others? Are you expanding your interests, outlooks or knowledge through film, literature, travel or other pursuits?
Reading a book. Learning a new skill or taking a class and stimulating your mind through creativity and cerebral discovery. Taking the time to switch-off from the world around you. Do things which keep your mind sharp, such as puzzles.