I think it is fairly safe to say that looking after yourself is pretty important. However much we know this, it can still feel like the furthest thing from a priority for you. Especially in times when you’re, to provide a really short range of examples, busy, experiencing depression, going through illness and a whole host of other reasons. Given the pandemic we are currently experiencing, and the way that many usual situations and routines have been flipped on their heads, it can feel like self-care is a luxury and completely unobtainable for you at the given time.
Why is Self Care Important?
Self care is fairly vital to our overall mental, physical and emotional function as human beings. This can come down to basic needs such as sleep, eating, personal hygiene and grooming. However, it is also about identifying what your individual needs are and how you can make them happen – in other words, working out what you need to do in your life to feel nurtured and fulfilled/relaxed/at ease.This will be completely different for everyone.
Why does that feel pressuring?
The problem is, something that seemingly sounds so simple can become incredibly pressuring when the situation we find ourselves in, whatever that may be, is preventing us from having the agency to actually focus on our self care. In some ways, it can actually work as a feedback loop. We feel bad because of what we are dealing with and our ability to self care slips, so we feel bad about not making self care a priority and then we feel worse.
So, how can we focus on our self care when it feels impossible? Here are my suggestions making sustainable and realistic shifts to help you:
Identify what this could look like
For a moment, forget what you think your self care should look like. Forget these instagrammable notions of bubble baths, journaling and meditation retreats and think about what this could actually be for you. What do you enjoy? What could you fit in? Even if it is just 10 minutes once a week? Chances are, once you identify even one thing that you enjoy for you – even if this is cooking one meal from scratch once a week, you’ll have the starts of a routine which you can build on. Don’t think you have the capacity to even think about it? Start small. Can you think about this on your way to work, for example? Whilst you do the dishes?
If you can’t find your self care focuses, look to your senses
Your senses are incredibly important to your self care especially if you are living with a chronic illness, and even more so if you’re experiencing depression. This can look like getting out into fresh air, feeling the sun on your skin, hearing the sounds around you and is why mindfulness can be a fantastic practice to adopt in unison (and can be incredibly beneficial for your day to day living also). Our senses help our frontal lobal function and can really boost our responses – which can significantly help with recovery. So if you are finding it tough to identify what might work for you in terms of self care, start with your senses and a focus on how that feels. If needed, or if this feels like something you couldn’t do on your own, ask someone to go with you or be with you to help you with this experience.
Start with small changes
If it feels overwhelming, drop the need for it to be this big thing. It doesn’t need to be a whole day comprising a series of things. It doesn’t need to be something that worked for your friend. What is one tiny thing you can do today to shift a millimeter from where you are now? Aim for small goals like getting out of bed, getting dressed etc. If things are feeling really tough, those goals can feel impossible to reach. But focusing on one action and then, if you feel comfortable, building on it, can be incredibly helpful.
It can be really helpful to think about how you could start to make the things that work for your self care a routine. Writing time into your diary can be a good way to do this – chances are if this is in there, you’ll want to make it work, like going to a meeting. It might mean you need to look at prioritsing this over something else. So, if this is the case, is there anything that is in your week that you can drop or make less time for? All of this, however, can seem very difficult if you’re struggling with depression for example. If this is the case, it is important to realise that it may take a while for you to feel like scheduling this and it can almost feel like a force. Being protective and setting boundaries around your self care time is also incredibly important – make sure your friends and family respect your particular self care rituals.