Did you know that Self Care Week happens every year in mid-November? From 14 to 20 November this year, we are all encouraged to spend some time thinking about what we need to feel happy, confident and fulfilled in ourselves. Those who have dedicated themselves to working in the care sector automatically think about the welfare of others before their own, but this isn’t always the healthiest thing to do in the longer term.
After all, as the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. In other words, you must look after your own physical and mental needs before you can effectively help others with theirs.
Self-care techniques and approaches will not look the same for everyone. We all have different interests, preferences, needs and emotional responses. What is common to all of this, however, is the fact that setting aside quality time for ourselves is extremely important. It helps us reset, cope better with difficult experiences or emotions and boosts our own feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. All of this will the n reflect in the quality of care we can provide to others, including the care residents and patients with whom we work.
Five key self-care areas
When thinking about how to look after ourselves better, it can be useful to go back to basics. Here are five key areas of wellbeing that we need to nurture and protect if we are going to feel at our best.
The mind and body are intrinsically linked., When you feel physically low, you cannot think as clearly, or cope with harder emotions. Physical care is about more than making sure you eat well and exercise. It is about getting enough sleep, dressing appropriately for the weather so you don’t feel too hot or too cold and steering clear of things that could harm you, such as excess drinking or drugs. Book and keep appointments for things like the dentist, doctor etc. and give yourself permission to enjoy pampering yourself in the best way for you.
Looking after our mental health is incredibly important. Topics around mental self-care and the dangers of neglecting are regularly in the news. The pandemic also shone a spotlight on the dangers of isolation and mental concerns going unnoticed and untreated. The way we talk to ourselves matters, as ours is the voice we hear in our heads most often. So, practising self- acceptance and speaking kindly and compassionately to ourselves is very important. As is actively choosing to think kind and positive thoughts.
You don’t have to practise a religion to work on your spiritual self-care. This is all about developing a deeper sense of what lifer ids all about, and what your place in the world really stands for.
Closely linked to mental self-care, this category is more about how we deal with difficult emotions and how they make us feel, react and behave. It can be tempting to ignore or push harder emotions away, but this can lead to us bottling feelings up. They then have a habit of exploding at the wrong time. So, by establishing health emotional habits such as talking to friends, keeping a diary or practising meditation , we can teach ourselves how to accept and work through emotions, both positive and negative. Setting boundaries is very important too, especially in the care sector, where caring work tends to come with a large helping of emotional involvement.
Another truism that seems apt here is that ‘no man is an island’. We all do better when interacting with others – even the most introverted of us need human company from time to time. It can be difficult to make time for friends and family get-togethers if we lead busy working lives. However, it is important to maintain these connections and take time away from work to relax and have fun. So, be inspired by Self-Care Week to call your parents, arrange lunch with your sibling or book a film night with your friends. You could even look into joining a new hobby group, voluntary scheme or club to help you widen your social circle and strengthen your ‘social health’.