Our psychologist, Carly O’Sullivan, writes about what it means to authentically practice self-care, and why it matters to your overall wellbeing.
‘Self-care’ has become quite a buzz word touted by celebrities, influencers, or companies trying to sell you expensive products and treatments. This can understandably bring on feelings of guilt or anxiety if you are one of the many people who struggle to find the time, effort, or money for the activities and products promoted to you.
Fortunately, authentic self-care does not have to cost you all of your time, energy, and wallet.
What is authentic self-care?
Self-care simply means setting up day-to-day practices to look after ourselves. Self-care gives you the energy and confidence to function effectively and meet the daily challenges of your life. Rather than relying on tokenistic or commercialised views of self-care, let’s consider how to make sure your commitment to self-care is genuine, realistic, and tailored to your own needs.
What self-care is not
- Self-care is not an emergency plan to only use when you are already overwhelmed or in crisis. Instead, self-care can be the small actions that are integrated into your daily routines.
- Self-care is not about being ‘selfish’. Rather, it is about being a steward to yourself, giving yourself the nurture and compassion you need. This in turn gives you more energy to care for others. It is also provides an opportunity for you to be a role model to those you care about, creating a wider culture where self-compassion is celebrated and not stigmatised.
- Self-care is not always about doing more. Sustainable self-care often looks like gaining clarity over your priorities and giving yourself permission to let go of some of the tasks on your ‘to-do’ list. You might choose to delegate more responsibilities to others, let go of time-wasting habits, or establish clearer boundaries with the people in your life.
Why does self-care matter?
You are the resource. Self-care empowers you to be an instrument of healing. If you are always putting others’ needs first, this may be (unintentionally) reinforcing a belief that other people matter more than you. Taking actions to look after yourself sends powerful messages to your brain about your own self-worth. Over time, this builds self-confidence and gives you more energy to do more of the things in life you want and need to do.
In this way, smalls steps you take now for self-care will be an important investment in your future self.
How to create a self-care practice
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to authentic self-care. You may need to experiment to find what works for you in the long-term. A few evidence-based techniques you may like to consider incorporating into your own self-care practice include:
- Creating a healthy transition between work and home.
- Eating a healthy balance of foods.
- Minimising drug and alcohol use.
- Finding a physical activity that brings you a sense of joy or achievement.
- Creating a daily mindfulness practice.
- Spending time outside and in nature.
- Prioritising sleep.
- Making space in your life for play – trying activities that foster playfulness and creativity where mistakes are allowed and there is a focus on process rather than outcome.
- Communicating healthy boundaries with friends, family, and colleagues.
- Challenging perfectionism at work and home – remembering that sometimes, near enough is good enough.
Finding a self-care practice that is right for you can be challenging. If you would like support with understanding what authentic self-care might look like for you, our therapists at Sydney City Psychology are here to help.