What is self-care?

Self-care refers to activities that help you tend to your physical, emotional and mental health. Through nourishing habits and routines, you can take better care of yourself when times get tough and consistently show up as your best self. Contrary to what some might think, self-care is not about indulgence or selfishness. After all, you cannot pour from an empty cup. By filling your cup with self-care, you are able to minimise the risk of burnout as well as be a more invigorating presence in your loved ones’ lives.

Self-care is holistic

Self-care, while a buzzword, is a practice that we all deserve. It’s not about self-medicating with alcohol, food or impulse shopping. Instead, it’s about making a commitment to your wellbeing, each and every day. Without self-care, we risk burning out and hitting a wall. Once we reach this stage, it’s much harder to pick ourselves up than if we had consistently been integrating self-care into our days.

Leaving self-care on the back-burner can also contribute to health issues triggered by stress like heart disease, high blood pressure or depression. By practising self-care, you can promote positive health outcomes and remain resilient in the face of adversity.

While self-care routines are a completely individual thing, here are some ideas to kickstart your self-care journey.

1. Take time 

Perhaps the biggest challenge people face when it comes to self-care is simply being able to take some time out for themselves. With work deadlines, screaming children and packed social calendars, it can feel impossible to get a moment alone with your own thoughts.When figuring out how to take some time out for yourself, think about what’s realistic according to your schedule and obligations. Maybe it’s going out for a meal once a month, going for a hike once a week, or simply vegging out on the couch for 30 minutes a day. By setting a realistic objective, you can better commit to this much-needed time alone.

One way to ensure you’re taking time out for yourself is to literally pencil it into your calendar. This means that you’ll be reminded of your obligations to yourself every time you go to schedule another meeting or appointment.

2. Set boundaries 

You’ll often hear people talk about setting boundaries. But what does this really mean, and how do you enforce said boundaries?

Boundaries help to create much-needed separation, whether that’s mental, emotional or physical, with others in order to guard your peace of mind. By setting boundaries, you’re communicating what you are or aren’t comfortable with, whether that’s in the workplace, in your relationships or any other facet of your life.

Some examples of healthy boundaries include:

  • Going home from a party when you’re tired
  • Clocking off work at the time you’re supposed to
  • Taking your lunch break away from your desk 
  • Respectfully ending conversations that feel overwhelming or triggering
  • Alerting your friends when you feel they are “emotionally dumping” on you. 

Learning to say no by setting boundaries can be a powerful form of self-care, especially for people-pleasers! If you need more help with identifying and expressing your boundaries, consider speaking to a mental health professional.

3. Practice journaling

Journaling is a powerful form of self-care, no matter how you choose to go about it. From a lengthy journal entry after a difficult day to a quick bullet list, all forms of journaling have been shown to promote good mental health. By taking some time to write, you pause everything going on around you and reflect on your feelings instead, clearing out your head and identifying room for improvement.

From stream of consciousness in the morning to a deep dive in the evening, journaling can take any form you like. Some ways you can practice self-care through journaling include:

  • List what was good about your day – gratitude goes a long way
  • List what was bad about your day – venting is a powerful tool
  • Explore the why – why are you feeling the way you are? 
  • Reflect on positive memories
  • Manifest an inspiring future.

4. Get moving

One of the best things we can do for our minds and bodies is simply to get moving. Regular exercise boosts endorphins, which helps to lower stress levels. Exercise also decreases your risk of serious health conditions in the future and improves your long-term resilience to stress.

Unfortunately, when life gets hard, exercise is usually one of the first things to slip. This creates a negative cycle that can quickly derail our mental health.

The key to integrating movement into your daily self-care routine is to take it easy. The aim is simply to move, not to sweat bucketloads. Even gentle stretching, a slow walk or some simple gardening can be incredibly beneficial, giving you the chance to be mindful while also producing endorphins. Schedule some movement into your calendar to ensure it doesn’t fall by the wayside. Partnering with an accountability buddy is another great way to stay on track – book some workout classes together or simply commit to going on a lunchtime walk a few days a week.

5. Meditate

Meditation is an ancient practice that is strikingly applicable to our busy, modern lives. Meditation refers to the process of training your mind to focus, which can help you manage negative thoughts, lower your stress levels, sleep better and improve mental resilience.

Some ways to begin meditating include:

  • Develop a personal mantra to repeat as you meditate
  • Focus on keeping your mind empty, dismissing intrusive thoughts as they appear
  • Follow along with a guided meditation – you can find tailored meditations online for stress, self-love, sleep and a myriad of other concerns!
  • Count down from 10 while focusing on your breathing when your mind starts to spiral. 

6. Eat well

Practising self-care through food is more than just treating yourself to a doughnut when you’re feeling down (although this can be a great move as well!) Eating nutritious food actually promotes good mental health and boosts your energy. The act of preparing a nice meal for yourself is also a form of self-care, encouraging mindfulness as you garnish your smoothie bowl or whisk up a matcha latte.

When it comes to revamping your diet, consider prioritising gut health. Serotonin is produced in the gut, so it’s well worth keeping your gut healthy and happy! Opt for probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and natural yoghurt, as well as fibre-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, to promote good gut health.

7. Sleep tight 

Between work, family and your social life, it can be hard to get enough sleep, which then takes a toll on your energy levels and mental health. Poor sleep can be correlated with higher rates of anxiety, depression and even physical health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

Try creating a solid sleep routine that focuses on self-care. You can do this by:

  • Minimising screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime 
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol later in the day
  • Getting some movement and sunshine every day 
  • Performing relaxing rituals like an evening bath or skincare routine
  • Meditating in bed, with an aim to quiet your mind and drift off to sleep sooner
  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends and holidays! 

8. Seek out the spa 

Turns out there’s actually a good reason why spa days feel so good! Getting a treatment at the spa, whether it’s a facial, massage or any other service, can be incredible for our mental health.

Spa treatments that involve massage help to reduce inflammation in the body, boost the immune system and lower cortisol levels. Touch also works to promote the production of serotonin and dopamine, some of our feel-good neurotransmitters.

Treatments that focus on beauty, such as facials and manicures, help us feel better about ourselves. This can be a powerful form of self-care, providing us with a spring in our step as we tackle the rest of our busy weeks.

Waterlily Spa Partners provide tantalising treatments that nourish the mind, body and soul. The cornerstone of the Waterlily formulations is Aromatherapy, offering endless wellbeing benefits for anyone having a beautiful spa ritual.

Perhaps most importantly, going for a spa treatment can simply about having a quiet moment to yourself. Commit to self-care by scheduling a spa treatment as often as you can, whether that’s once every few months, once a fortnight or even just an at-home spa ritual.

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