Develop your self-care strategies

One of the most basic, yet most essential, life skills is learning self-care strategies and how to best take care of ourselves: physically and emotionally. Life can be difficult at times, battering us into submission. Unless we schedule self-care and time to rest and recuperate, it can often not happen, leaving us physically exhausted and emotionally depleted.

However, self-care isn’t just for when you are finding things difficult, try and practise it even when everything is going well. Think of self-care as like car maintenance. You don’t just take your car to the garage when the warning light goes off. You regularly have services to keep the car running and prevent minor problems from becoming major problems. This doesn’t guarantee that your car might never break down just when it does you have more resources to draw on. It’s the same with our selves. Regular self-care keeps us going, and generates resilience and self-care strategies to draw on if/when we reach a crisis point. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous: you don’t have to be ill to feel better.

Often people find practising self-care difficult as they are focused on looking after other people but have no idea how to nurture themselves. To ourselves we can act more like slave drivers than best friends. If this all sounds familiar, then you can change this. Starting today you can act by treating yourself kindly, being self-nurturing and accepting of personal foibles.

How to practise self-care

  • Be very kind to yourself
  • Notice your self talk as you would any other kind of mind chatter. These are not facts they just are.
  • Ask yourself what do I need right now? Then try and fulfil that need.
  • Try and get enough sleep.
  • Moderate your intake of alcohol, caffeine and junk food
  • Move your body even by just strolling around the block for ten minutes.
  • Vent by writing down your thoughts and feelings.
  • Do something you love.
  • Retreat from the world and do absolutely nothing.
  • Reach out to people who make you feel good and schedule time with them.
  • Watch a comforting movie or TV series.
  • Listen to your favourite music.
  • Dance like nobody is watching.
  • Watch the clouds.
  • Take a long bath.
  • Create something.
  • Say no.
  • Express your gratitude.
  • Breathe mindfully.
  • Communicate how you are feeling. Can you say to the people around you ‘I’m feeling a little fragile right now and I need to take some time for me.’
  • Swing on the swings.

The thing about self-care is that it is very personal and it depends on the circumstances. What nourishes one person (meeting new people and going to parties) can deplete another. You need to find a self-care recipe that works for you and the exercise below should help you uncover this.

Homework – what nourishes me, what depletes me?

Ask yourself:

What nourishes me?

What depletes me?

Try and write down five things that nourish you and five things that deplete you. This week choose one thing from each list and see how you can do more of the former and less of the latter. If you want to you could be even more specific by filling in the question below:

When I feel ……, I need ……

For example, you could answer: when I feel sad, I need to put my pyjamas on and watch old cartoons until I feel better. When I feel angry, I need to go for a long run on the beach. When I feel panicky, I need to sit and focus on breathing.

If you can create a personal self-care prescription you will have a better idea of how to take care of yourself when feeling vulnerable. So, tell me in the comments; how are you going to nurture yourself this week?

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