The importance of self-care

It is so easy to get into the habit of putting others first, doing all of the time and being busy with everything and nothing in life. We feel pressured to check our inbox, answer WhatsApp messages, be a parent, be a partner, be happy, exercise, spend... 


We can easily become bound up in these and various other tasks and somehow we find ourselves suffering; suffering frustration, anxiety, boredom, fatigue, depression and sometimes just being vacant-minded. Perhaps wondering to ourselves “I came into this room because...?”, wanting a duvet day and wanting to be left alone. Being depressed but not knowing why, unusually high levels of anxiety with seemingly no solution. The lack of motivation and the feeling drained.

All of these can be, I feel, symptoms of lack of self-care.

Yes, we are all good at keeping hydrated, nourished and busy. Yet, somehow, we seem to have forgotten that we are people who deserve nurturing rather than just maintaining.

We have a need and are allowed to give ourselves self-care. To take the time to 'charge our batteries' and 'top up the tank' or 'take a breather'. Indeed, our first female Prime Minister is well known for, among other things, taking a power nap, as was a well-known wartime Prime Minister. Neither of those people can rightly be accused of underachieving. Meta specifically provides workplace facilities for staff to do just this! None of whom we can sensibly regard as being icons of unsuccessful and lazy living!

Yet, society wants us to view this essential activity as being selfish or lazy. Being social beings, we heed this and take notice of the way we are admonished to behave. And in doing so, we cause ourselves enormous damage and lose a part of what it is to be human.

So, having identified a legitimate need, how are we to go about satisfying the need?

How can we begin to take better care of ourselves?

How can we nourish ourselves in order to maintain ourselves and ward off the real threat of burnout? As is so often the way, this self-care is not something new and untried. It is something we have known previously but work, stress, relationship pressures, and family needs have pushed this innate and fundamental activity beneath our level of consciousness.

The ways of meeting this need are numerous and individual. They can be specific or general. I would suggest that features common to each way of “doing” self-care are that we deserve it, that we are better for partaking in the activities, and that the activities are anything but selfish.

To use a couple of metaphors, “When the oxygen masks drop out of the ceiling, it is wise to put your own mask on first” and “You cannot pour anything from a broken jug”. The point is that what might be perceived as a selfish act and also a waste of time are anything but these.

For me, it is the walk to work, avoiding the queueing for buses or parking spaces. It is taking time to look out of the window and admire the view or the sky. For me, it is reading a book or leaving the dishes, laundry or whatever until the morning. It can also be the few minutes just spent pondering where my life is at or what my day has brought.

It can be sitting in the sun on a park bench or sitting in a coffee shop and just gazing at people carrying on with their lives. Maybe it includes being kind when instead I wanted to be harsh or critical. The offering of a seat on the train or telling the stranger they had dropped something. 

Alternatively, it can be taking time to meditate or perhaps mentally listing the first 10 things that come into my mind that I am grateful for. The bills being paid, the achievements I have made today or recently, the answered phone calls and the caring messages sent.

By the very act of doing any of these things, we are taking the time to care for ourselves. A caring that is necessary and needed. A care that is so easily overlooked.

I feel it is most definitely not selfish or lazy. It is, for me, essential, vital and nourishing. It is something I revel in doing, knowing that those few moments, minutes or however long enable me to be a better person. A better me. A more effective and efficient me.

In my daily life, having practised self-care, I am more able to be aware of my feelings. This enables me to actively consider if they are appropriate and what need they are speaking from. Self-care enables me to respond and not to react when my feelings are felt strongly. Self-care enables me to be better than I was and to move towards being as good as it is possible for me to be. Hardly a waste of time, in my experience.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Chelmsford CM1
Written by Steve Fayers, Counsellor / Therapist | Certified Trauma Therapist
Chelmsford CM1

I am a person, a counsellor, a parent, a flawed human being who has struggled with life. Struggled with addiction.
I would rather struggle than give in and accept a life that does not meet my needs and wants.
I am trying to be the best person I can be.
"I will not go quietly into that goodnight " (paraphrased Dylan Thomas)

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