Written by Anna Somers
We often think self-care is treating ourselves to nice things (and it could be!). In practice, self-care is a way to meet your brains’ and your body’s needs.
Let’s imagine our ability to function as liquid in a cup. Some days we have a lot of room in our cup for stress, and other days we don’t. Without meeting your own needs, that cup doesn’t get refilled enough.
The trick is to find a balance between what’s draining our cup (like work, study, family, and other life stresses) and what’s filling our cup. If that cup runs dry, we can feel overwhelmed and burnt out.
Let’s look at a few ways to start with self-care and keep the proverbial cup filled.
Tip #1 – What’s missing?
There are a range of different needs we need to meet: physical, mental, emotional, sensory, social, etc. This also means that there’s a range of different approaches to self-care.
Figuring out exactly why your cup is running dry will help to determine what kind of rest or self-care to start with.
Start by listening to what your body is trying to tell you. Are you mentally exhausted after cramming for an exam? Perhaps you’re emotionally or physically exhausted.
Everyone will also have a different way to do self-care. If I’ve had a slow day and I’m feeling sluggish and under-stimulated, I know that exercise will be the solution.
If I’m overwhelmed and stressed, I might need to instead have some self-compassion, find the weighted blanket, and have a nap.
The more you practice being in-tune with your needs, the better you’ll be able to tailor self-care.
Tip #2 – Start with the basics
This one will sound obvious, but your body will not survive on four hours of sleep and a caffeine addiction alone.
When we are under a lot of pressure or stress, we sometimes forget that our body needs basic care. If you physically, mentally, and emotionally feel like a neglected plant with wilting leaves in a corner of a dark room, we need to re-evaluate how we’re caring for the plant.
Like the complicated house plants that we are, we need sunlight, fresh air, and adequate nutrition and hydration. On top of that, a good sleep schedule and regular exercise will help to give you more energy through the day.
Eating regularly and trying to have a balanced diet is hard as a shift-worker, but if I have only had one iced latte and a bagel all day then I’m not giving my body the fuel it needs.
Over time, these are all things that can easily be forgotten, but help to maintain and prevent stress and burnout.
Tip #3 – Schedule it!
Prioritising self-care into your daily routine will prevent that cup emptying before crisis mode happens. Start small and focus on building habits as this will be easier to maintain in the long run.
Incorporating a moment of reflection at the end of the day, putting on sunscreen, and listening to music may be small steps to take care of yourself.
Once you’re in the routine, working towards meal planning, an exercise routine, and exploring new hobbies may be goals to aim for.
This will look different for everyone!
How I stay on top of my self-care?
I tend to forget to meet my social needs – especially when work and study has a heavier workload than usual.
Scheduling time to meet with friends and keep connected is important for mental and emotional wellbeing. It’s also self-care to know when I don’t have the energy for a social event.
I use a planner to visualise the balance between work, study, and social events. I also try to make sure I have enough time to recharge my social battery, exercise, and meal plan.
It takes some fine-tuning, but my current routine started by just trying to go for a walk every day.
Find what works for your routine and for your needs.