Self care; what is it and how do we do it?
Self care is defined as the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. Self care can include everything related to staying physically and mentally healthy, including hygiene, nutrition, physical fitness, sleep, stress, relationships and seeking medical care when needed. The type of care that is right for one person may be vastly different from that of another’s. Seeking self care must therefore be an individual pursuit. For one person self care may look like taking a bath and doing an indulgent face mask. For another it might be carving out the time to go for a morning run. For others it’s prioritising going to bed on time. And for me it looks like taking a well deserved holiday (sans kids!), but more on that later…
If you think you’ve been hearing the term self-care thrown around a lot lately, you’re right. According to Google Trends, the number of searches for “self care” has quadrupled since 2018. And for good reason. A study published in 2021 in the International Journal of Nursing Sciences (1) states “the beneficial effects of self-care include improved well-being and lower morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs”. Engaging in a self-care routine has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, reduce stress, increase happiness, and build stronger relationships (1). Personally, I have always been passionate about self care in the field of allied health and as a result it is a big part of what we do here at Canberra Allied Health. We focus on self care because we know that long term sustainable improvements to your lifestyle can only come from a place of self esteem and self worth. People who truly care about themselves and their health and feel great in themselves tend to naturally steer toward healthier choices. This is why I commonly encourage people to focus on improving their exercise habits BEFORE we focus on their diet. Because more often than not once you begin exercising regularly and you’re feeling fitter and stronger you begin to feel better about yourself and want to look after yourself and the diet more easily falls into place. Most of us know how to eat well at a basic level and we start to do that once we develop the self esteem that tells us we are worthy. And quite often that comes from the little self care rituals we put in place each day. It’s a cyclic approach in that way. And it’s amazing the response we get from people and the results they see when we stop fussing about the nitty-gritty of diet culture and instead turn our intention inward. How can you look after yourself today? How would you look after yourself if you were a friend or a loved one? What would you tell them to do to look after themselves on a holistic level? Often the answer is VERY different from what we have been telling ourselves. My hunch that self care is a great way to improve self esteem and self confidence was shown in an American survey national survey (2). In this survey Americans cited benefits of self-care as: enhanced self-confidence (64%), increased productivity (67%), and happiness (71%).
So back to this holiday of mine. I have been under pressure this year so far, raising little kids, running a business, not prioritising time for myself and working too hard. A familiar story for many, I’m sure. Well lucky for me this less than ideal start to the year has been halted in its tracks with a much needed trip away to one of my favourite places on Earth- Gaia Retreat and Spa in the Byron Bay Hinterland. This was my third time at Gaia and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of its appeal. With daily yoga, exercise and meditation classes, incredible award winning food and the fanciest day spa, it was exactly what the doctor ordered. Literally! It’s hard to describe the level of zen I feel when I’m being cared for at a place like this, so I’ll share my experience through some photos instead. Food, yoga, views, relaxation – now that is my form of self-care!
Now I realise not everyone can just book a trip to Gaia when they’re feeling stressed out, and I won’t be doing the same for many many years. But for me the lessons learnt at Gaia can translate into my daily life if I allow them to. I will be prioritising just a few things each week that will make me feel calmer, healthier and more like the best version of myself. Perhaps a few more healthy meals, yoga classes, early nights or putting the screen down at night time in favour of reading. All these little habits add up. And while I understand the barrier of time and competing priorities, we do need to find a way to prioritise our own needs without feeling selfish or guilty or slack at work. I am currently on the plane on my way back to Canberra as I type this out, and the advice the airline gives about putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others rings true back on land. Without caring for yourself, you won’t be able help others. Similarly, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t be the best version of yourself, especially when others need you. With a self-care routine that brings you joy, you’ll reap the benefits of a healthier mind and body. And that includes being there for the people who need you. If you need help finding what self care looks like for you reach out, we’d love to help.
- Matthew Glowiak. What is self care and why is it important? Southern New Hampshire University. April 14, 2020. Online: https://www.snhu.edu/about-us/newsroom/health/what-is-self-care
- Vagaro Survey Finds three quarters of Americans believe self-care activities provide stress relief. Vagaro. January 14, 2021. Online: http://www.vagaro.com/en-au/news/press-release/survey-finds-three-quarters-of-americans-believe-self-care-activities-provide-stress-relief