What really is “self-care”?

Discussing self-care follows on naturally from my previous blog post around New Year goals, available here.

Many people choose New Year goals related to “wellness”, be that diet or exercise. Others choose to focus on developing more healthy habits, such as increasing their “self-care”. But what is self-care?

Self-care is often sold to us as something we should definitely be doing… but it is a very broad phrase.

Instalife would have us believe that self-care is about cleanses, pampering, 5km walks to benefit our mental health; and although it is true that exercise and being in nature is beneficial to us all, it can feel like a lot of pressure to put on ourselves and our already busy lives that have their set routines for a reason, such as work patterns or childcare needs.

It seems to me that trying to practice self-care can become another way that we can feel like failures, if we don’t manage to keep up with the new regimes that we create for ourselves.

In my counselling work when meeting a new client, we often begin with self-care. It is useful to me to understand what self-care means to my clients. Often if they tell me their self-care is non-existent, we discuss what they would like to change. The answers I receive may surprise you, but they probably won’t.

The big ones are:
• Get more sleep – yes! I say, we can work on that.
• Move more and eat better – yes! We can work on that too!

But the all-time number 1 answer I receive is:
• Learn to say no.

Does that surprise you?

People whose self-care has suffered the most are generally people who put themselves at the bottom of their own list. They will do anything for anyone, even to their own detriment. We can name this as a boundary issue.

There are many reasons why a person may have shaky boundaries, where they feel unable to say no. Sometimes it is due to how they were socialised as children; sometimes it is to do with self-worth.

We are fully capable of learning how to put boundaries in place. Nothing about us is fixed. It can, however, feel challenging to do so.

There is a really helpful post from Psychology Today here that discusses the push back we can receive to our boundaries, especially if they are newly formed. I will talk more about this very important topic in the future.

I will leave you with this – if you started to say “no” to people, how would that make you feel?

If you would like to discuss anything from this post, please feel free to get in touch for an informal chat!


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