This topic is one which I constantly battle with everyday, and rightly so as we humans are warped in our own cocoons as the demands of everyday life dominate the one thing which is paramount to our mental health.
Funnily enough, I recently had a conversation about this with a dear relative of mine, and during the conversation, she pointed out that she has never till this day witnessed me looking after myself, or giving myself any attention. As I write this, it may seem hypocritical of me to provide a description of how I look after myself especially as it is infrequent. However, for the times that I do, it is nothing fancy nor expensive. My ‘pampering’ sessions are in threefold: a nice bath, a healthy meal (mostly chicken with brown rice and a huge side of salad) and most importantly spending time with family. My sessions satisfy each aspect which is necessary to keep me balanced and regulated; I take care of my body, health and mind. If I had to list them in terms of importance, number one will have to be spending time with family as this nourishes my mind, fills me with happiness and contentment and keeps me emotionally upbeat. Acknowledging that I always have someone to speak to back at home is what has kept me sane and optimistic at the worst of times.
I understand for some, family is a grey area as they may not be as fortunate to have such a huge support base, but as we are social beings there is always someone within our social groups whom we consider as family, whether that be a friend, neighbour, colleague, prayer buddy or a partner. I emphasise this point massively because it is the number one factor that has kept me going through times of stress, struggles and hardship, and what has gotten me to where I currently stand. Never underestimate the power of familial/close relational support!
I will admit, however, my perception of self-care is a daily conflict. I often perceive it to be a form of selfishness, I feel as though giving myself the time and attention it deserves to be selfish and self-serving as it strays away from possibly helping others who deserve a greater level of care than I do (I currently work personally with clients who have endured a lifetime of stress and abuse resulting in mental health issues such as schizophrenia (psychosis), depression, anxiety and substance abuse behaviours). Yet, the interesting thing is, whilst they have endured a life filled with physical, emotional and mental abuse the emphasis they put on looking after yourself is phenomenal. The number of times that topic has embedded into our conversations is endless. They realise at this point that being happy, free and healthy is what matters most because it gives them the ability to reach their potential, reduce the negative effects of stress and create a better version of themselves, a version which their families are more willing to accept and enjoy because they finally are giving themselves some importance!!
Further, looking after oneself shouldn’t have to be done after months of hard work and stress, but incrementally. As a postgraduate student, my timetable may be relatively ’empty’ but the work expected from me is extremely demanding, therefore many times I find myself sat in the same place staring at the same screen for hours on end. How I tend to incorporate self-care during these times is simply by taking breaks, and during them, I tend to just get out of my room or the room I’m studying in and immerse myself within a social and busy environment and just evoke some form of interaction as a way to deplete my stress. I am also a huge gym fanatic, I absolutely love the gym and make frequent visits (some may argue that it is my second home 🙂 ). Through exercising, I can release any angst, stress or even anger in a more cathartic manner. I find that I am able to work more effectively, communicate with people better and acknowledge the wonders I am doing for my body and mind physiologically, physically and psychologically. Again, I understand that some may not have the time nor the financial means to go to the gym as often, but as always there are substitutes to this problem. Home workouts and making small routine changes to your travel! Encouraging yourself to walk I find is THE best self-care. Whilst walking I gather my thoughts, inhale the fresh air and just invest in myself whether that be for 15, 30 minutes or an hour. Not only is it good for me physically, but it also enlightens my mind and prepares me for what lies ahead.
I think the one thing both me and my fellow readers can take from this is that is it OKAY to indulge in a little ‘me’ time. Looking after ourselves unlocks our potential to also help others, to offer the best aspects of ourselves to the world. I think we all need to be a little more forgiving of ourselves when it comes to spoiling oneself from time-to-time because it is remarkable how very few actually take time to just concentrate on the self – there are models that have theorised the importance of the self, and there are many sublevels to this concept, I encourage you guys to look it up :). ‘Maslow’s hierarchical model of needs’ is a good starting point!
This introspective piece is a reminder for me first and foremost.
I hope this was an enjoyable piece to ponder upon, and most importantly a HELPFUL piece.
Take care (excuse the pun 😉 )