The term “self-care” is thrown around quite a lot nowadays, but what does it actually mean?
In all honesty, self-care can be whatever you want it to be. Essentially it involves being kind to yourself, spending some time actively putting your own needs first, and doing things to make yourself feel good.
I’ve put together an A-Z list of suggestions of self-care suggestions, but it is by no means an exhaustive list. You may find some things on the list that you wouldn’t find enjoyable, but it may spark ideas of your own.
A – Atmosphere
Creating a cosy, inviting atmosphere at home is a great form of self-care. Feeling uncomfortable in your environment can lead to lower mood, whereas if you’ve created a space that suits you, that makes you feel relaxed, this can really help to feel settled and more at peace. For some people, creating that atmosphere may involve having lots of houseplants, soft blankets, and scented candles. For others, it may be a more minimalist feel, lots of open space and clean surfaces. It’s about whatever makes you feel most comfortable.
B – Body Scan
When we’re caught up in “life stuff”, we can often become desensitised to what’s actually going on in our bodies. If we take a minute to sit quietly and mentally “scan” our bodies, we may find that actually, “hmm, my back is quite sore”, or “I’ve got a headache, I think I’m a bit dehydrated” – things that we have tried to ignore in order to push ahead with work or other responsibilities. Recognising these issues and then taking steps to improve them can help to improve our mood. It’s not unusual for these nagging problems to make us irritable, and we might not even realise why. So do a body scan, and if need be, grab that glass of water, or stretch yourself out (those spine clicks thoughhhh… amazing). Your body will thank you for it.
C – Chat
Having a good old chat can be both fun and helpful. If we’re carrying a lot of worries or stresses, having a nice vent with a friend can be super cathartic. Crack open that bottle of wine (or Co-op do a great range of non-alcoholic wines) and put the world to rights.
D – Declutter
I’ve written a post before about decluttering, and its benefits not only for physical comfortability but also in terms of achieving some mental clarity. You can read that post by clicking here.
E – Exercise
Okay, don’t click away just yet. Those of you who know me will know exercise and I don’t exactly get along. However, science shows that exercise can make us feel better (damn you, science). Nevertheless, exercise doesn’t necessarily have to be gruelling boot camps or painful yoga sessions. Exercise can be sitting up straight in your chair and stretching out your arms and legs. It can be doing butt-clenches at your desk. It can be things like taking the stairs instead of the lift or getting off the bus one stop early. Those little things can add up and give you those endorphin boosts the fitness enthusiasts are always on about.
F – Food
A healthy and balanced diet is important… blah blah blah. But having the occasional treat is also important. You don’t have to go overboard (although if you want to, you do you), and treating ourselves to our favourite meal or snack every now and then is a great mood booster, and a way to remind ourselves that we deserve to enjoy ourselves.
G – Goals
Setting goals is a great way to inspire in ourselves some positivity and hopefulness for the future. These goals can be as big or small as you want, but try to make them specific. For example, you might set yourself the goal that in the next six months you’re going to have enrolled yourself on a new course, or maybe within the next two weeks you’re going to arrange to meet up with a friend. Goals, big or small, can give us something to focus on, and something to look forward to.
H – Hobbies
When someone asks you “So, what are your hobbies?“, it can be a bit of a wake-up call that we actually don’t have any – at least none that we do regularly. Allot a certain amount of time (whether it’s per day, per week, or per month) to immerse yourself in hobbies that you enjoy. It could be something as simple as reading a book or adult colouring, right through to discovering something new, like taking part in your local open-mic nights, or getting into an extreme sport. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that’s just for you. If other people don’t like it or see the value in it, that’s perfectly fine, but stay firm. This time is for you and your interests.
I – Inner child
Again, I’ve posted about nurturing your inner child before, and this is a great one for some simple, fun self-care. Spend some time watching cartoons in your pjs, or have chicken nuggets and chips for dinner.
J – Join a group
Similar to hobbies, but this is more linked to your social wellbeing. Joining a group offers a sense of community and support, whether it’s a group specifically for mental health support or just a social group that meets up for a meal once a month, it’s a great feeling to be part of a group.
K – Keep a mood diary
Keeping track of your mood can help you to identify any patterns that may arise, and see if there are any adjustments you can make. It can also help you to identify your average mood level, and if your mood is persistently low, it may beneficial to seek some help and support. On the other hand, if you notice that your mood is consistently good, you can be pretty sure that whatever you’re doing is working! Go you!
L – List
Specifically, a to-do list. When we try to keep track of everything that we need to do in our heads, we often find that a) things get forgotten, and/or b) we’re constantly stressing about forgetting things. So, grab a notebook and a pen, and write everything down. Empty the contents of your brain into a to-do list, then close the book and relax. Let the thoughts go – the notebook will hold onto them for when you’re ready to tackle the list.
M – Massage or spa treatment
Linked to the Body Scan, this one is great for relaxation and a bit of pampering. Not only is massage excellent for relieving physical pain and tension, but it also provides platonic physical touch which can be very beneficial in making us feel connected to the world. If you’re not comfortable getting a full body massage, you could try a facial, or an Indian head massage. Along the same lines, you could also go to the hairdressers and get a shampoo and restyle. This has all the benefits above, and is also a great opportunity to revamp your style and boost your confidence.
N – Nap
As a society, we tend to associate naps with being a child, or being lazy. However, sometimes a nap can be just what you need in order to recharge and catch up on some missed sleep. This one is particularly nice on a rainy day, with fresh bedsheets, fresh pjs, and no alarm set.
O – Outside
I realise that as an introverted homebody, I’m being slightly hypocritical with this one, but hear me out. Going outside and getting some fresh air feels really good. Even if you just step outside your front door, or simply open a window and lean outside. Take a deep breath and enjoy the fresh air.
P – Pets
Pets are amazingly therapeutic. There have been studies which suggest that spending time with a cat can have positive effects on both your mental and physical health. If anyone is going to be on hold to give you love and affection 24/7, it’s your dog. If you don’t have a pet of your own, you could try signing up a scheme that couples you up with someone else who needs someone to walk their dog for them, such as BorrowMyDoggy. You get to spend time with a lovely dog, then hand them back to their owner!
Q – Quiet Time
Life can be noisy, busy, and unrelenting. Particularly with advances in technology, we very rarely switch off. Try to allocate some time with absolutely no noise – no music, no tv, no phone. Taking just a little time out from the constant buzz can give your brain a short but effective break from taking in an overwhelming amount of sensory information.
R – Relax
This one is pretty simple, and you probably expected to see it. Relaxation is so important – if we’re constantly on the go, it’s likely you’re heading for a burn-out. Schedule some time into your day to relax, even if it’s just ten minutes.
S – Shower
Again, bear with me. I know the whole “have a bath” thing is overdone, but I personally find having a shower more useful, as it makes me feel refreshed, and I try to visualise my worries being literally washed away down the drain. It’s a good one for letting go of stress.
T – Try something new
The drudgery of the same old stuff, day in day out, can take its toll on our mood, and make us feel like we’re stuck in a rut. Mix things up a bit and try something new, even if it’s something small like rejigging your morning routine, or starting to go for a short walk on your lunch break. You could even just try a different type of hot drink each day instead of your usual order.
U – Understand your needs
Take stock of what’s important to you. If you don’t understand your needs, how are you supposed to meet them?
V – Voice your opinions
Feeling unheard or walked-over is a surefire way to inspire self-criticism or generally feeling unworthy. If you have an opinion about something that you want to share – share it. Don’t keep quiet just because you feel like no one will listen. If you don’t speak up, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
W – Wake up slightly earlier
Setting the alarm for five or ten minutes earlier than usual really helps me when I need to get up at a certain time, because it gives me time to slowly open my eyes, have a stretch, and gather the energy to get up. If I set my alarm for the latest possible time that I have to get up, my whole morning starts off as a massive stress, and it sets off my day on the wrong foot.
X – (Be) Xenodochial
Okay, I had to get creative with this one, but it’s still true! Being kind to strangers is a great way to add positive vibes into the world, and even if it’s something as simple as smiling at someone as you walk past them, not only can it boost that person’s mood, but when they smile back, it will boost yours as well. It’s always nice feeling connected to the world, and feeling like you’re spreading good vibes.
Y – Youthful positivity
Remember when you were little and you had hopes and dreams of doing something amazing, like becoming the Prime Minister or being a world-famous singer? Try to incorporate some of that youthful positivity into your grown-up life. Dismiss the “can’ts” and give things a shot.
Z – Zest for life
Finally, having a zest for life can massively impact our quality of life. Remind yourself every morning that each day is a fresh start and holds new opportunities. Take a deep breath of fresh air and seize the day!
I hope you find these self-care tips useful. Let me know in the comments if you try any of them, or if you have your own ideas to add to the list.