Returning to self-care
Self-care is a loaded phrase. Critics ask whether it is just another passing trend or a genuine movement that will have staying power. They question whether the self-care movement is just another way to disguise privileged excess and narcissism or if it’s a legitimate response to the pressures of our time.
Self-care is an individualistic approach to looking after one’s mental and physical health. It prioritizes taking time for yourself to remain happy, healthy, and balanced. At its core, it is a matter of taking personal responsibility, making informed decisions and taking care of yourself.
The self-care movement has been criticized for being selfish and indulgent. But I argue that it is a necessary response to the increasing demands of modern life. We exist in a time of great stress and pressure, political division, and financial upheaval, and if we cannot steward our well-being, we will quickly become overwhelmed.
Be kind to yourself
Research has shown that people who engage in self-compassion are less likely to suffer anxiety, depression, and stress. Self-compassion is being kind to yourself and forgiving yourself when you inevitably make mistakes. It is also being aware of your feelings when struggling with mental health problems and knowing when it’s appropriate to ask for help. In a society that promotes perfectionism, having high expectations of yourself is normal. But this can be detrimental to your mental health if you don’t let go of perfectionism and self-criticism. If you have high expectations, you’re more likely to feel dissatisfied with your achievements.
If you don’t set your boundaries, others will do it for you. In an age where we are encouraged to be constantly connected, it can be challenging to separate yourself from the flow of information. Take some time out: spend time with yourself and think about who you are and want to be. Set boundaries also refer to how you manage relationships with other people. A healthy relationship is one where both parties are comfortable with the level of closeness and intimacy. Setting boundaries with friends and family will protect you from becoming too entangled with other people. It’s important to remember that boundaries are fluid. What might be too much for one person might be perfect for another. Boundaries are not always set in stone — they can change depending on your relationships and the people in them.
Don’t overextend yourself.
Know your limits. Know when to say no and when you are at breaking point. You should never be afraid of disappointing people or hurting their feelings. If you are constantly giving more than you have to, you are most likely building up a level of stress that will be difficult to come back from. There are times when you need to put yourself first. You might not have time to see your friends, be unable to help at a local charity, and be unable to pick up that extra shift at work. Understand that it’s okay to say no sometimes. This isn't a matter of weakness; every great General of the ancient world knew when to keep their troops in reserve and when to commit their full strength.
Take care of your mental health.
Too many people ignore the importance of caring for their mental health. They mock therapy and vulnerability and expect people to just “deal” with their mental health problems. This is wrong. Mental health is just as important as physical health; if you are struggling, you should seek professional help. Taking care of your mental health includes maintaining healthy relationships, having a robust social life, and committing time to your hobbies and passions.
Engaging in self-care is a way of making space for activities you want but don’t always have the time or energy for — like going to the cinema, reading books, or taking a walk in the park. Many people struggle with feelings of isolation, especially if they live alone or work from home. The best way to combat feelings of isolation is to make time for social activities. Mental health issues affect many people — as many as one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. Do not make excuses - but be kind to yourself when struggling with mental health issues.
Make time each day for yourself, even if it's just 10-15 minutes. Use this time to do something calming, such as reading, meditating, or listening to music.
Identify your stressors and find ways to reduce or eliminate them. Whether saying no to extra commitments or rearranging your schedule to allow for more downtime, find what works for you.
Reach out to friends or family members for support when you need it. Talking about your feelings can often help them feel more manageable and less overwhelming.