What is self-care – REALLY? The term self-care gets thrown around a lot.

“You should do some self-care!” – when you feel stressed, or burnt out.
“Maybe you aren’t getting enough self-care” – when you feel like you never have time for yourself, or spend all of your energy looking after other people.

But what IS self-care? And how do you ‘get’ more of it? Especially if you aren’t even sure what it is.

Lady dancing with headphones on, smiling whilst looking toward light coming in from a window. Title reads "What is Self-care, Really?" 

Text on green banner at the bottom that reads "Exploring the importance and practice of self-care in our daily lives"

Is Self-care a bath bomb and a facemask?

Self-care is often spoken about, and depicted with lovely photos of overflowing bathtubs, sparkly bath bombs and luscious facemasks. But, as a counsellor, I’d like to debunk that myth. It’s not all facial treatments and spa days.

I’m not saying that looking after yourself can’t contain those things, by any means at all. If you enjoy those things – bathe away!

What I am saying, is that looking after yourself, or ‘self-care’ can look like all manner of things. If we break it down to actually being a form of care but for yourself, let’s look at some of the ways you might look after other people. Other people can include your children, spouse, friends or work colleagues.

It might include things like:

You can probably think of lots of other ways in which you care about the people (or pets!) in your life. It’s the little things that go into looking after them that all add up.

What about you?

It’s these things that you can do for yourself that are all acts of care.

Perhaps you don’t often get time to read in the evenings because you are cooking dinner – maybe batch cooking on a Sunday would free up some time for you in the week. Do you often find yourself running late in the mornings because you can’t find your gym kit for your class after work? Setting a reminder to organise your kit the day before would mean you feel less stressed. Are you noticing that you get frustrated because you’ve eaten nothing but ‘junk’ whilst watching TV when you are trying to eat more healthily – picking up alternative snacks and making yourself a special treat box could be another way of showing yourself that you’re listening to what you want and need. You might feel that nobody is listening or there for you – seeing a counsellor can be an act of self-care.

There are millions of ways in which you can show yourself that you are worth caring for – and you don’t have to wait for someone else to take action on these things. If you’d like to talk this through, you can book a session in person or online. Just click here to get in touch.

Why is caring for yourself important?

There are many, many reasons why looking after yourself is important – too many to go into in a short blog post most likely. But, there are lots of benefits to be had from implementing regular self-care – it can help you to manage your stress levels, reduce anxiety and help improve your sense of self-worth. The latter is one of the most noticeable effects that I see when working with clients who are taking steps to increase their self-care efforts. And as a counsellor, this is also possibly why I am so passionate about self-care being important. And more than just a bath bomb! You can do all sorts of things. You get to decide what feels right for you.

When I teach groups about first aid for mental health, we look at the five pillars of wellbeing, as taught by the NHS:

If you can include elements of these things within your acts of self-care; you’re on your way to improving your wellbeing. They can increase feelings of social belonging, and give you a sense of purpose and reward. New challenges whether they are mental or physical can provide an uplifting sense of achievement – get outside of your comfort zone or attain something you previously didn’t think was possible. Start small. Connecting with others also gives you opportunities to share positive experiences and build memories, along with emotional support for yourself and others. All fabulous positives.