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  • Julie Jenner

What actually is self-care?

When you think of self-care, what pops into your mind?

Hot baths, scented candles, weekend retreats, chocolate? All of this can be true, but it is so much more than adding lovely things to your day.

Self-care means truly looking after yourself. Life can wear us down, make us tired, and zap the joy out of joyful moments.

Self-care needs to be an ongoing part of your process, and not just something you do now and then. Just as your body needs food and water to survive, your heart and mind need nourishment too.

When you don’t look after every part of yourself, life becomes harder than it needs to be, and this ripples out to every area of your life. Your work is harder than it needs to be, and that includes just getting yourself out of bed in the morning to go to work.

Your relationships suffer as your social battery depletes, and being in connection with others becomes a chore rather than a pleasure. Looking after your home can feel a little pointless and you can’t relax when you are there, in your self-care.

I could go on listing so many ways that things become more difficult than they need

to be, and I am sure you could add a few to the list yourself.

So, what does self-care actually look like?

Sometimes it starts with saying no. No to doing for others when you need a little help yourself. No to that party invitation because all you want to do is enjoy a quiet night at home. No to anything that you know if going to drain you more than it will nourish you.

That doesn’t mean you never do for others, or you never go to that social event, or that you never make the choice that might feel difficult in the moment. It is about making a conscious choice to put yourself first and to not do more than you want or can manage. Too often, we don’t give these things a moment’s thought and just go with what we think brings the least resistance. The build-up of all these little experiences becomes a heavy burden, so work on not adding to the pile, and to reducing the pile you already have.

Good food, which sometimes includes the naughty stuff. We know a good, balanced diet is what we need to aim for to keep our bodies healthy. However, food can be such an easy way to comfort ourselves, add to social situations, give us a bit of a lift, and is a great way to feel good in the moment. So eat the cake, order that pizza, and indulge in your favourite food. As with everything, do it in moderation. Not just because too much of a good thing is bad for you, but also because what makes something a treat is that we don’t have it all the time.

Indulge in those things that soothe you. What pastimes or occasions make you feel happy? Are there things in your life that you can’t do without? For example, a crucial, daily pleasure of mine is reading. Since I was little, reading has been a way for me to escape for a little while and relax into something else. If combined with a decent cup of tea, this becomes even better. Each day deserves to have a bit of time that is just for you. This is where your hot bath and scented candles might come into play. Or it could be a walkout in nature, getting out for a ride or a drive, or talking to your favourite person. The list is endless and should be things that are easy to achieve and give you a bit of peace and energy, rather than taking it away.

Maybe write a list of your simple pleasures so you have something to refer back to on those

days when you need a bit of a reminder.

Happy moments versus happy all the time. Nobody is happy all the time, so those moments when you feel happy are worth holding onto and creating. This might feel like a pointless task on the harder days, but this is when those moments become even more vital. It is far better to have a little bit of happiness than to have none at all. Those happy moments recharge you a little, remind you of why you put one foot in front of the other, and bring you a bit of energy to carry on with what is needed.

Laughter, especially when shared, is one of life’s joys and it does us so much good. So find what makes you laugh, indulge in these moments, and hold onto them.

Social media and your availability. Do you ever let yourself take a break from the outside world, both that which is and that which is perceived? Social media is often a place that encourages comparison and feelings of others having it so much better than you. Is your phone always close by and switched on? Does this create an expectation or urgency to respond every time your phone makes a noise? You are allowed to be unavailable, to create some peace for yourself. You do not always need to be the one to reply, or the one to put others first. The world we live in creates an illusion that we need to be available 24/7, everything is urgent, and we’re not allowed to claim our own space. This does not need to be your life. Now and then I remember what life was like before mobile phones, and I grab a day, or even an hour, to embrace that again.

Plans to look forward to. Having something to look forward to helps two-fold, at least. First, you’ve got the actual thing when you get there. Before that comes the excitement, the planning, sharing with others, and the knowledge that something good is coming. It gives you something to hold out for and can bring just a little spark of light in those darker moments. So go ahead, decide on something you would like to do, make a plan, and get it on the calendar. Don’t wait for the right moment to do it, NOW is that moment.

Personal care. When we are feeling tired or run down, basic needs such as having a bath or a shower, brushing our teeth, eating properly, ensuring we have clean clothes to wear, and many other little daily bits become hard to do. Finding the motivation to do any, let alone all, of these things can feel near impossible, and likely pointless. So on these days, do the bits you can do. You know that any of these things are going to help you feel a little better. Being clean allows you to feel more able to tackle the outside world. You will feel more able to call that special friend that you know is always there for you. Don’t beat yourself up for the bits you can’t bring yourself to do, but choose just one that you know is going to help. If others follow, that’s great, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself that these personal care tasks become harder.

Check in on your feelings – what do you need? How often do we take a moment to check in with what we are feeling? We just go through our day, doing what’s needed, and forget to make sure we are ok. Just a small moment of reflection now and then can help us to prevent a build-up of burden or ignored feelings. When you feel some emotion slowing you down, take a breath and pay attention to what is making you feel that way. Has someone upset you and you couldn’t share how you felt? Did you break a special cup and haven’t allowed yourself to feel sad about it? Are you hungry and this is driving some of the more difficult feelings? There are so many things we ignore to just keep going, and if left without being acknowledged, it will become heavy. So now and then, every day, just take a moment to see how you feel, and what you need in that moment.

These are just a few things you can do for yourself that can build into a healthy daily practice for you. By paying attention to all of the little things, the big things don’t need to get so big. As a human, you are a complex creature, with many needs, and they all deserve some time and consideration. By doing these little things for yourself, you are helping to keep yourself at a better level, giving yourself a much better chance of surviving this thing called life in one piece, and you are reminding yourself that you are worth it.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on any of this, and any other self-care ideas you have. Take care of yourself and keep being the amazing human you are.


Heal from the comfort of your home with Julie Jenner. Get in touch to find out more.

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