Self-care is the big thing to do these days. And everyone is searching for better ways to care for ourselves, from eating avocadoes to getting pedicures. Sure, if that makes you feel better since we are all unique and have different needs. One thing to ask yourself about your self-care activities is ‘Does it help you change those nasty moods and cope better with life’? Self-care that suites you should help you to develop better MEW’s, that is mental and emotional wellness, and resilience to handle the stresses in life.
So how does it all fit in to have better self-care?
WHAT IS SELF CARE?
What really is self-care and are we doing it right? Some of us think that self-care is about doing our fav thing like watching Netflix and binging on junk food till we feel better. Others think that running half a marathon every day is caring for ourselves. Then we get confused by what other people say is the right self-care thing to do because doing it doesn’t make us feel better. Well…
Self-care is about self-awareness and self-management so that we can live each day flourishing in what we do.
To know how to take care of ourselves we must know what we need and what we are like. This includes:
- How are we different from other people.
- What is our dominant emotional pattern or in other words, how do we feel and respond emotionally in different situations.
- What restores us and helps us to bounce back after a rough situation.
Self-awareness is knowing how you behave in a certain situation, what motivates you, what can trigger certain feelings and why you feel those emotions. It’s understanding about how and why we react to things that happen and the actions of people around us.
What’s good about self-awareness
Self-awareness helps with self-regulation. Knowing how we feel and what can trigger a negative emotion will help us to better control our emotions. So that we will not do anything that will cause us to regret or feel embarrassed. It helps to build:
Knowing our personal strength and what we are good at in every situation will help to build self-esteem as we will probably perform better at these tasks. Knowing our weakness helps us to work around those weakness and change habits that don’t work for us.
When we can love and accept ourselves for who we are, often we will also be more accepting of other people. Self-love doesn’t always mean pampering ourselves with the best that life can bring. Actually, self-love can happen even if we don’t have all the trappings of a comfortable life. Self-love is about knowing your value as a person, the goodness that is in you and not relying on what the world says about you to feel good about yourself. Everyone has goodness and virtues in them. If you are not sure what these are, look at character strength and realize how awesome you really are.
(3) Social interaction
When we understand that our thoughts and needs are different from other people, we learn to be more assertive in situations that do not fit in with our believes and goals. We also learn to understand and accept other people better.
How do we have better self-awareness
Self-reflection is the way of thinking deeply about our inner thoughts, values and belief which will help us to understand ourselves better. There are two approaches
- Solution focused reflection – which is reflecting on what we want and how best to achieve those goals
- Self-focused approach – which is trying to understand and diffuse negative emotions, thinking and reactions.
Here’s what you can do to understand yourself better.
- Set aside time each day to do some self-reflection. Most of us go from one activity to another without stopping to think about how we spent the day and why we behaved in a particular way. Set aside some time, on your way home from school or work or even in the shower. Make it a point to do some self-reflection everyday.
- Understand our emotions. Think about a situation that got you emotional or one where you reacted in a way that you didn’t like. Ask yourself what emotion you felt then name and label that emotion. Here’s more information about naming emotions.
- Understand why you behave in a certain way. Think about what came into your mind before you acted in a certain way. Ask yourself why do you think this way.
- Understand your Character strength, and realise what virtues and goodness is in you.
- Ask yourself what do you really want and what’s important to you. What motivates you and how do you go about achieving those goals.
- If you can’t figure out yourself in any area, ask a trusted friend for feedback about yourself. Often we have blinds-spot about our self and no amount of introspection is going to help. Getting a trusted friend who loves us and only wants the best for us can give us a better picture of who we are.
When we understand ourselves, we can manage our emotions better and behave in a way that is true to who we are. Self-awareness also means knowing what really makes us happy and what we really want and need in life. When we know what are our strengths and limitations are, we are more able to achieve realistic goals in life.
What do you do when you are stressed and when things are not going as planned? Many of us don’t really think about how we cope in difficult circumstances as our coping approaches become automatic thoughts and habits over time. Changing a habit will take time and patience. So take some time to think about this and try changing negative coping approaches one at a time.
What do you do when you are stressed or having a bad day? Here are some things people do. What about you?
- Angry outburst
- Binge eat or miss meals
- Binge shop
- Binge Netflix, movies, etc
- Binge painkillers and medication
- Down caffeinated drinks
- Cheat and lie in our work
- Work harder, faster and collapse in exhaustion
- Withdraw from people
- Hate the world
- Hurt yourself or hang out with people who hurt you
- Pretend nothing is wrong.
- Get Me-time
- Get adequate physical activity
- Sleep 8 hours a day
- Eat balanced and nutritional food
- Have a sense of humor about the situation
- Think about what can go right
- Spend time with people who truly cares about you
- Get help to fix the problem in a right way.
- Look beyond the immediate pain and struggle
- Reward yourself for your accomplishment no matter how small.
HOW TO HAVE A SELF-CARE PLAN
Self-care is the umbrella that can shield you from the storm. Start getting one in place before the storm hits.
There are 6 areas of self-care that you can look into. Go through the list and take note of which area you practice more self-care and which area needs more attention. Remember, everyone has different needs so find one that works for you. Try to have some activity in each of the six areas so that you can have a more balanced and complete self-care practice.
- Do self-reflection to understand my own thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and feelings
- Reframe negative experiences
- Learn something new and different besides school and work.
- Read books and watch shows that make me feel good.
- Praise and reward myself for small achievements.
- Know and appreciate my character strengths
- Prioritize the demands that others have of me
- Say no to things that do not benefit my well-being
- Have daily me-time.
- Understand my emotions
- Learn healthy ways to release emotions
- Allow myself to cry
- Find things that make me laugh
- Express my displeasure and disappointment in a constructive way.
- Do activities that I find comforting and soothing
- Spend time with people who are positive and affirming
- Share my fears, hopes and struggles with a trusted and sensible person.
- Eat regular and nutritional food
- Get a workout
- Get medical care when needed
- Sleep 8 hours
- Take care of physical appearance
- Drink enough water
Social and Relationships
- Spend time with people who are important
- Spend time with friends doing recreational activities
- Ask for help and allow people to do things for me
- Do the things that really matter for those I love
- Stay away from toxic people who hurt me
- Make new friends
- Build a circle of support for mental and emotional needs.
School and work
- Understand my strengths and use it in my work.
- Understand my weakness and get help.
- Know the difference between what really brings results and what is nice to do.
- Choose to do the things that you enjoy and where you have natural strength in
- Be realistic about goals and accept your limitations.
- Find creative and new ways to learn and do things.
- Find a spiritual connection
- Find inspiration in good role models
- Contribute to a good cause
- Help others in need
- Find joy in non-material and small things
- Choose to see the positive side
- Find out what gives life meaning and purpose
- Choose to do what gives life meaning and purpose
- Appreciate nature
- Be grateful for what we have no matter how little.
Now think about what gets in the way of you achieving a balanced self-care plan. For some of us, it’s because we don’t make self-care a priority, or we get distracted or disorganized with our time. Plan in your self-care goals with all your other responsibilities and do it regularly so that it becomes a good habit.
Self-care activities to try
Self-care isn’t a one-off activity that we do and hope for lasting effects. To really be caring for self, we need to make it a life-style. Here are some things you can do to make it an everyday thing
(1) Daily Self-talk
Our biggest bully is often ourselves. Be compassionate and kind to yourself on a daily basis. At the end of each day, think about your actions, how you behaved and what went through your mind. Appreciate yourself for all the positive thoughts and behavior. If there were situations where you reacted negatively or had some nasty thoughts, forgive yourself and say ‘tomorrow will be a better day’.
If you find this difficult to do and every thought you have about the day is negative then you’ll need to change this critical self-talk.
How to change critical self-talk:
- First step is to notice what you think about yourself when you’re feeling bad about a situation. This may need quite a bit of practice because once we become used to that negative self-talk, it’s hard to notice it.
E.g, During a ballgame you missed a shot that could help your team win. You get a sinking feeling and the whole day gets messed up. The thought in your head when you missed that shot could be
- Once you’ve noticed that negative voice in your head, make a deliberate effort to soften the voice and reframe the situation. You could say to yourself.
- If you find it hard to be positive with yourself, then think of how you would show understanding to a friend and what you would say to that friend in a similar situation. Read more about how to manage Bad Thoughts.
(2) Self-care board
- Instead of taking selfie’s, wefie’s and posting everything mindlessly on your Instagram board, try this instead.
- When you take those photo’s, think about what you are thinking and saying to yourself. If it’s a positive thought, write it down as a comment in that post. If it’s a negative thought, reframe that thought and write down the more positive thought. Or if it’s a group pix, think about how those moments felt like and write something to appreciate those moments.
(3) Self-care promise
- Make self-care your goal for a season.
- Write it down in your to-do list in your daily or weekly plan.
- It can be just a simple 15 minute plan.
- Share this promise with a friend so that you can commit to your goals
Emergency Self-care plan
If we work on our self-care plan on a daily basis, it’ll store up some good habits that would help us through bad times. However, sometimes unforeseen things can happen. So here’s how you can make some plans for emotionally difficult situations so that we can face the unexpected storms in life. Go through these points and work out what you can do if you are faced with an emotionally difficult time.
(1) What to avoid
When you are in a low mood, certain situations and activities can cause a vicious cycle that can cause you to spiral even further down. Being aware of what can drag you down will act as brakes to prevent an endless spiral of negative emotions.
- Staying in a place, group of people or situation that reinforces the bad feelings.
- Sad, negative or depressive music, videos or books
- Any substance that can get you addicted or intoxicated
- Items or activity that can trigger or get you hooked onto bad feelings and thoughts.
(2) What to do.
Make a list of positive things that will sooth or distract you from the bad thoughts and feelings.
- Activities that help me to relax
- Things that can lift my mood
- Happy thoughts that can help me through the day
(3) What to say to myself.
When faced with a bad or feared situation, have a ready list of things you can say to yourself. Make these your daily mantra so that it’s at the tip of your mind.
Say to yourself:
- For every door that closes, a new one will open.
- Failure is a way of learning what doesn’t work for me.
- I’m not the only one who is struggling with this.
- My friends are not rejecting me, they are having a bad time too.
(4) Who to contact.
Be selective about who to contact. Not everyone can be helpful when you are feeling down.
- Avoid toxic people who are always negative and make caustic remarks
- Stay away from self-centered people who care more about how you affect them than about how you are feeling.
- Don’t pour out your feelings to someone who will add on to your fears and anxiety
Write down who you can call or text in these situations. It can be a friend, a caring adult or a religious person.
- When I’m feeling very emotional, anxious and depressed
- When I’m confused about directions and decisions.
- When I need motivation to do a task or my self-help plan
You can also call a Helpline to chat with counsellor.
If you have very negative thoughts especially thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life, please read this and seek help immediately.
Self-care is work in progress and we all need to discover what works for us so that we can manage our inner world and flourish in life. When we discover the self-care practices that really works for us, we find better ways of coping in difficult situations and more joy in living. Daily practice of self-care will eventually become good habits that can help us build lasting mental and emotional resilience.
Start your self-care plan with a buddy today!