Content Warning: Brief mention of self-harm.
The other week I was walking on the treadmill, measuring my heartbeat, while a personal trainer asked me questions for a healthy life assessment. The questions were standard—how many times a week do you eat fast food? (Maybe once a week?) How often do you drink soft drinks? (Too often!) Then she asked about my mental health. She inquired whether I’d ever felt really down in life. I paused. And then told her I had considered self-harm a couple of times in the past few months, but I hadn’t gone through with it. Without skipping a beat she asked what stopped me and I responded, I’d just found ways to distract and cheer myself up. The trainer was ecstatic because I was doing something very important: I had strategies in place to take care of myself.
When we suffer a physical injury, there’s a protocol to follow. Tend to the wound, clean and bandage it. Go to the doctor if necessary. But for some reason we don’t prioritise taking care of ourselves when it comes to psychological or emotional pain. And this is where having a self-care plan can come in handy.
Self-care means the deliberate act of attending to your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Sounds simple enough. Doing basic human things to make sure your mental and emotional levels are all good. Treat yourself with the same kindness you’d hope a good friend would! In a society with such a strong focus on worker productivity and pushing yourself to the limit, it can be difficult to step back and recognise you need a little TLC by yourself, for yourself. And that’s it’s totally fine to want and need it.
In his 2014 TED talk on How to practice emotional hygiene, Guy Winch says we constantly favouritise the body over the mind. We’ll stick a bandaid on our knee when we scrape it, but feeling depressed? Just shake it off! But it’s just as important we protect our self-esteem, and battle negative thinking. To put it more plainly, Guy Winch says we wouldn’t make a physical wound worse by poking at it. Instead we should catch unhealthy habits early and gain control over the situation. Self-care plans can be a fantastic way of doing this. But how do you start?
There’s so much out there on the internet (or professionals!) to help you get started. I checked out what the lovely Laci Green of Sex+ had to say on the matter!
A care plan is always going to be a totally individual thing. But maybe the best place to begin is the most obvious: basic human needs. Are you drinking enough water? Have you showered today? Have you eaten enough? Sometimes the more simple things are the ones we forget. The other aspects of self-care are really going to depend
on your own needs. Here’s a few ideas:
- Figure out a good amount of time each week to fulfil social needs. Start small if you need too – in hours and number of people you chill with – to see what you can manage.
- Try and find a healthy balance between work and private life. Enforce boundaries and know when to shut off work outside of its designated hours.
- Take time out for yourself and do things you enjoy. Read a book uninterrupted for an hour or so. Cook yourself a meal and immerse yourself in the act. Do some yoga or meditate. Whatever floats your boat and leaves you feeling a little more refreshed and revived.
- Develop parts of yourself you feel are lacking – skills, interests, self-esteem. Do what makes you unconditionally happy – without feeling guilty!
- Be wary of toxic environments and people though. Either completely distance yourself, or limit the time you engage with them. Taking care of yourself takes commitment and courage. It’s about remembering you deserve to honour and love yourself and sometimes need to put yourself first. Don’t worry you’re not doing it the “right” way – it’s not about being perfect and everyone’s care plan is going to be unique.Still need a few ideas on how to give yourself the love you deserve?
If you have ever considered self-harm or suicide, or just want someone to talk to about difficulties you’re having, please know there are plenty of organisations like Lifeline and Headspace there to help you. Check out Sofia’s post on 10 Tips on How to Love Yourself.