By Lorraine Lindsay MSc, Cognitive Behavioral Therapist from Zevo Health
For many, the idea of self-care evokes images of incense, bubbly baths and scented candles. If this is self-care for you, then brilliant, but for many of us - it is way off. Your definition of self-care is whatever you make it. Nobody should tell you precisely how to prioritise you.
But let's first get you thinking about what it could be for you.
We can break down self-care into three categories: physical, mental, and social. It is essential to look at self-care holistically, as we can often have certain biases, and often the categories we neglect are the ones we need to direct the most resources towards.
Step 1: Identification
Practical: Take out a pen and paper or the notes section on your phone and see if you can connect at least one self-care activity into each one of these domains; Physical, Mental and Social.
If that comes easy, then great, you can start considering how you might apply these activities into your daily life.
If you found connecting activities to these domains more difficult, then your first step might be a deeper exploration into what rejuvenates these domains for you.
For example, it might be that your shift patterns are making it hard for you to connect with loved ones; your shifts might not support regular social occasions. Your self-care activity here might be to consider new opportunities for connection. Potentially, you could plan on meeting friends for breakfast or brunch instead of going for dinner and drinks.
Step 2: Application
When it comes to self-care, identification without application is not very useful.
Consider the self-care activities you have identified in ‘Step 1’. If you are not implementing these currently, try introducing them in a minimal viable dose - an amount you know you can commit to.
To start, this might be a 15-minute phone call once a week with a friend. Or a 30-minute walk at lunch three times a week.
From here, you can add more over time. However, if you overcommit, you risk not achieving your self-care goals and potentially getting discouraged and ultimately giving up.
Step 3: Review
To see if your new self-care strategies are working, you will need to review them regularly, check your uptake level and see if they truly are helping. If your uptake is low, or you are finding them ineffective, the solution is not to give up; you just need to return to 'Step 1' and truly discover what works for you. This process is your new self-care feedback loop.
If you find your life demands too intense, consider simplifying and paring back your self-care strategies. Something is infinitely better than nothing.
You deserve it.