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Self-care involves getting the right amount of sleep and eating well, but it certainly is not only about that. Actually, it is less about physical care than it is about nurturing a healthy mindset. This type of mindset practices kindness and gratitude and gives individuals the reasons why they should practice physical self-care. A self-care mindset gives one a feeling of worthiness and assists in developing a desire to flourish or prosper; a wanting to be and do better. It appears then that looking after your mental health is highly likely to be beneficial to your physical health.
There are several reasons why self-care is difficult, and they include:
- it requires emotional and mental effort that a lot of people do not want to give
- feelings of guilt and shame are bound to come up in the process; feeling guilty about treating yourself and/or feeling selfish for putting self before others
- shocking truths about yourself that were being avoided may be revealed; introspection may reveal what is really happening beneath the surface of all that physical care yet no lasting feeling of satisfaction.
The biggest problem with practicing self-care, I believe, is not that it is hard, but some individuals do not think they are deserving of it. Self-care does not require completely ignoring the needs or feelings of others. Some persons really do not understand this, while others act as if they don’t know that this is not what self-care means; they will find any excuse to avoid self-care practices. They say that a partner, a child, a parent, or work has to be placed as a top priority. This does not have to be so, because what self-care does is also give you the necessary tools to adequately take care of others. Solange Knowles said: “When you take care of yourself, you’re a better person for others. When you feel good about yourself, you treat others better.” This makes complete sense because how can you adequately care for someone if you are not doing what is necessary to administer self-care?
What does self-care entail?
- Listening to what your feelings, mind, and body are saying to you
Put yourself before others, because as was previously mentioned, in the long run, your loved ones will benefit from your self-care. One of the safety rules on an airplane during an emergency is to cover your face with an oxygen mask before you even attempt to help anybody else with their mask. Otherwise, you will not only put your life in danger but that of others, because you cannot save someone from losing oxygen if you are gasping for breath.
- Discovering personal, basic needs and fulfilling them
It is sometimes difficult to discover what your basic needs are. These may be in the form of rest, healthy foods, bonding with family members, and/or having time with only yourself as company. It could also involve starting a new hobby, doing something spontaneous, being hardworking, or start to organize yourself better to clear any mind clutter that may exist.
- The creation of boundaries
You should make every effort to protect your self-worth, time, and energy. This involves removing yourself from relationships that are harmful to your mental and physical health. Also, efforts should be made to move away from environments that are no longer serving you; they are no longer contributing to your personal, emotional, and/or spiritual growth. This may mean you have to create a healthy boundary or eliminate people, things, or beliefs from your life.
- Experiencing joy
We need to give ourselves permission to seek more joy. A simple soaking of the feet or a lesson in art or music can help you to gain reassurance and self-confidence. These are important for reducing stress and improving health.
- Expressing your best self
You have to first discover the self-care you need to be your best self and practice it. We may remain who we are at the core; deep within, but how we express what we value may change over time based on our various experiences. For instance, you value consistency and as a young person that was expressed in your good grades throughout school and college. When you become an adult, this consistency will be manifested in your work or career setting through great and productive results; or always trying to achieve these results. Self-care helps in ensuring that your core values are positively expressed (with kindness and consideration for others) even if there are obstacles.
- Using treatments or taking medication, if necessary
Usually, psychiatric drugs are not for curing a mental health issue, but in a lot of cases, they serve to assist in reducing the symptoms or assist the individual in being better able to cope with them. The doctor may offer medication based on what you are diagnosed with, the symptoms of the condition, or how severely you are affected by the symptoms. There are treatments that can also help with mental health issues such as psychotherapy or talk therapy. This involves talking to a professional in the mental health field about your specific condition and any issues that may be related to it. The professional is able to assist you in learning about your behaviour, thoughts, feelings, and moods. This knowledge and insight can help you to learn stress management and coping skills.
Just the simple fact that self-care requires focusing on what is good for you can make it difficult. Some persons have not yet learned how to take care of themselves first and this is also true for persons who are actively practicing self-care. This is because even with your best effort, it is difficult to put yourself first. However, it is not impossible and the best results are generally seen after days, months, and even years of conscious self-care practices. And even then we may not acknowledge or notice the positive results unless we deeply look for them.
Nutritious food, exercise, adequate rest, mental breaks, experiencing joy, scented baths, foot scrubs, and spending quality time in nature can help to produce positive feelings and elevate moods, but we should understand why self-care is necessary. It is necessary for mental and physical health and overall wellbeing. Without self-care, you will not be able to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself; to experience self-love. It is also important for long-term and overall self-development and to help others in their quest for growth. Self-care requires looking to the inner man, connecting with self, and being aware of what is happening on the inside emotionally, mentally, and wholistically.