Starting A Self-Care Journey That Works for You

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Life is full of ups and downs and challenges and pressures. Very often whenever we are faced with challenges and time constraints the first thing to suffer is our health and well being. Many of us think of self-care as a luxury that we only focus on when we are physically and mentally well. In fact, regular practices which promote mind and body wellness is especially critical during the tough times, and for, our tough times. 

It is important that your self-care practise is unique to you. The one size fits all approach doesn’t work because we all have individual needs and thresholds. While we can encourage and guide each other, it is important that your practice is suitable for you. Regardless of how well we might think we understand another person, their needs for managing life’s requirements will be different to yours and you to theirs. 

One way to work out what areas need addressing is to see which needs are going unaddressed and what areas of your life yourself you need to take control of. You will need to focus on your specific needs, habits and time contrasts. 

The time you spend working on the plan will itself be very beneficial for you and help you create a self-care plan. 

What you need to keep focus on during your process?

The aim of these questions is to assist you in creating a workable and relevant care plan for yourself. 

Implementation is the best way forward.

Your self-care plan won’t be perfect from the beginning, as you put it into action you make adjustments and tweaks until it’s right for you. Don’t wait for the “perfect time” or the “perfect plan”

Be realistic and pick something that you enjoy

For example, you may have seen the benefit of doing Yoga and feel it is something that will benefit you, but you are scared of trying new things (and losing your balance) in public. Over time you can work to overcome these issues, but that does not mean you have to force yourself straight away. 

You can find a quiet room or garden in your home and follow a Yoga class online. During the Covid lockdowns more and more studio classes can be accessed online or even through Youtube. As you get comfortable you can connect with like-minded people or even a teacher online and start with one of one or a small class.

There are many such options and there are alternatives for these options that will suit you and make you comfortable. 

Do Not Financially Burden Yourself

Financial concerns are a major source of stress and anxiety for people. It is contradictory to spend lots of money on trying to help yourself de-stress if it is only going to cause you more stress. Self-care is about putting less burden on yourself.

Try to start out with cheaper alternatives. Instead of joining a gym straight away, try going for regular walks. Do some simple exercises at home that don’t require weights or equipment. Once you become regular with these then you can think of ways to develop your training regime, or joining a gym or group fitness class. 

Cooking at home with family is a cheap way to connect and socialise with your children and household members. This will also teach your children new skills and save you lot’s of money on takeaway. 

We are not saying it is wrong with spending money on something that really works, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure the cost doesn’t increase your stress.

Do Not Over Commit Yourself

Overcommitting to a laundry list of self-care activities meant to increase your wellness can leave you exhausted and more stressed than when you started out. 

Each of those activities on its own could be enjoyable and relaxing, but if you do them too often or too many together then you run the risk of not leaving yourself enough time to reflect and internalise your feelings and thoughts. Too many commitments can also leave you feeling physically and mentally exhausted, which is the opposite of what you want to achieve. 

Time management is the first part of wellness

Running out of time is one of the biggest reasons for stress and anxiety for many people today. Whether it’s students balancing assignments, sports and socialising or adults balancing between various family, work and social commitments, we always find ourselves not having enough time.

When you are making self-care goals, make sure you plan them in a way where you can balance all your important responsibilities and still have time for your practice. 

Learning from your past can create a better future

Think back to a time when you felt happier and positive about life. It doesn’t matter how far back you have to think, even if it was childhood or later.

Can you identify why you felt this way? Was it due to a lack of responsibility, were you more adventurous or playful than you are now? 

Memories such as this help identify key moments and actions that helped you find peace before, and by mimicking some of the mindset you can recreate the calmness and wellness in your life by incorporating similar habits and thoughts into your current situation.

Take stock of your physical needs

Do you have any specific physical needs or requirements that you have? Do you engage in any physical activity or therapy to meet those requirements, such as exercising or going to a physical therapist?

This self-analysis will help you find areas where you would like to make changes and steps you can take to reach them. 

Sleep

How are you Sleeping? What can you do to sleep better? Not getting enough sleep is a major cause of compromised mental health, focus, increase stress and low mood. Unfortunately, this affects adults, teenagers and even kids and is a growing epidemic of our times.

The truth is, it is simple to improve both the quality and amount of your sleep on your own. Correcting your sleeping pattern will do wonders for your self-care progress.

Get tips for better sleep from your GP or your local sleep therapist.

Healthcare

The first step of self-care is facing facts. Nothing can motivate you to make improvements to your like than a dose of truth serum, or a full blood test. This is what your doctor will do when you visit them to discuss your health and well being and see what areas you should be concerned about and what areas you need to work on. 

Regular visits to your doctor is important to stay up to date with changes happening inside your body that hasn’t manifested externally yet. High blood pressure, pre-diabetic blood sugar levels, stress and digestive and organ issues often take time before notice something is not right. 

A regular visit to your doctor will ensure you’re aware of the status of your full health and can also act as a good motivator when you see how the changes you have implemented through your self-care plan, reap beneficial rewards. 

Nutrition

How do you eat? No, not the foods you eat, but how you eat those foods? In our fast-paced society take away meals and on the run eating is standard practice for most of us. We all value the convenience and time efficiency of packed, wrapped food that can be eaten on the go and quickly. 

Good nutrition doesn’t simply mean eating a healthy balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and meat but also how we eat those. Eating slowly, at regular intervals, and chewing your meal completely before swallowing has been proven to enhance digestion and keep you satiated for longer periods than eating low nutrient foods and eating while distracted with work or entertainment. 

Exercise

Giving your heart, lungs and muscles a regular workout is essential to good health and warding off illnesses, especially degenerative diseases as we get older. 

According to health experts, we need to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. 

Choose an activity that you enjoy doing and can see yourself doing over a longer period of time. It can be something as simple as going for a regular walk in the evening with your family, bike riding with the kids or going for a swim. 

You can mix up your activities and get some friends along to encourage each other into good habits. 

Benefits of Touch

Physical contact can play an important role in wellness.

Touch is a basic human need, and touch starvation can have serious health consequences. 

As part of your self-care treatment you may choose to try:

  • getting a massage – either professionally or choose to swap with a friend or partner.
  • hugging – you can hug someone else or just yourself.
  • get a pet or volunteer to look after someone’s pet once in a while. 
  • you can also try and find a cuddle buddy amongst your friends.

Addressing your Mental Needs

Mental health is a growing concern in Australia, further execrated by the complications of Covid-19 related lockdowns and job losses. 

Mental health refers to both cognitive and other mental health needs. When you are thinking of how to improve your mental health, think of activities and incidents which energised your brain and kept you feeling sharp. Once you have identified these, try and incorporate them into your daily or weekly schedule.

Stress reduction

Stress is a part of modern living. However not addressing its levels can have serious ramifications on our mental health.

You can start is by reflecting on how you are handling situations that currently stress you out. How do you react to them, manage them and address them? What is your physical reaction to these and what thoughts do they bring up? See if you can get rid of any of the situations that cause these stresses, and reassess how you can handle the ones you cannot remove. 

Boundaries 

One of the toughest parts of a successful self-care management plan is to create and implement personal boundaries. Boundaries help us take charge of our lives and set clearer rules with your family and friends and assert your space in all matters of life.

Setting these limits might involve:

  • saying no when you’d rather not do something
  • not volunteering for extra work
  • communicating your needs and expectations more directly to others

Cognitive Wellbeing

Mental agility in all its forms is key to overall health and wellbeing. Our mind is the centre of thoughts and feelings and our subconscious even controls how our immune system and organs function and fight off disease and illnesses.

Boosting our overall mental strength is easy and can include: 

  • Leaning a new skill
  • Learning a new language
  • doing something with your opposing limb – learning to write with your left hand, if you are right handed or kicking the ball with the other foot etc.

Seeking Therapy

Therapy is a great way to start and maintain your self-care routine. You can begin by working through any mental health issues or mental blocks to beginning your self-care journey. 

Over time this can yield amazing improvement to your mental health, sense of self and emotional and physical health. 

You don’t have to be a sufferer of mental health issues or be diagnosed with one to consult a therapist. Everyone is able to benefit from visiting a therapist and work on any part of their life that they feel can be improved. 

Mental health is a growing concern in Australia and the government has a number of support structures you can reach out to assistance for advice. 

Personal Growth

Expand our knowledge, experience and personal outlook towards the world is another way in which we can practice self-care. By strengthening our sense of self we can lead a more authentic, meaningful and fulfilled life that will have a ripple effect on our relationships and other facets of our life. 

You can do this simply by asking yourself

  • What can I learn about different cultures?
  • How can I spend time with people I wouldn’t usually spend time with?
  • How can I further my education in some way?
  • What are my options in changing careers if this one no longer fulfils my requirements or challenges me?

Take Breaks

Taking breaks and letting your mind and body recharge is a very important step of self-care. Regularly doing this allows ourselves to function at an optimal and healthy level. 

Part of self-care includes taking a break from your devices, taking a break from anything related to work and physically doing something you enjoy. Try doodling, having a colouring book, going for works, cooking your favourite dish, or the all-time best – have a short nap. 

If your schedule is full of things you have to do instead of things you want to do then that is definitely going to lead to burnout.

Be sure to attend to your emotional needs

Emotional self-care revolves around getting in touch with your feelings, learning to understand what they have to say, and using this information to better protect emotional health. How we feel at a time can provide clues about what’s missing in our life. 

Exercise Mindful Awareness

Practising mindfulness can give you an insight into your emotional and physical needs. The best way to practice is it to set aside some time and just focus on the here and now. As your mind begins to wander and go down one train of thought, bring it back to the present and carry on. 

You can also try meditation or writing down your feelings and thoughts in a journal. 

Find Wholesome Companionship

Humans are naturally social beings, our species learnt to survive by working in groups to hunt for food and protect ourselves against predators. 

Most of us need to spend time interacting with each other on a regular basis. Our manner of socialising depends largely on personal reasons. It could be around spiritual gatherings, sports and physical activities, wining and dining or even more intellectual pursuits. If you are in a new area you can volunteer for community groups or join your local sports or hobby interest groups.

Affection

Being loved and wanted is core part of what makes us humans and social being. Sharing affection with each other involves not just physical forms such as hugging but also kind gestures and words. 

Lacking this type of emotional support and reinforcement can trigger feelings of loneliness, isolation and make us feel depressed and anxious. For those of us who may not have friends and family, pets can be a great source of companionship and affection.

Prioritise Personal Time and Taking breaks

Taking time to unwind and just be by themselves. this is a time when you are doing nothing except being with yourself. 

This could include taking a day off from work when you’re feeling disengaged, creating a private space for yourself at home or making time for your favourite hobby. 

Private relaxation is essential for emotional health, so alone time in some form should show up in every self-care plan

What Your Self Care Plan Looks Like

Once you’ve identified your personal needs, you can start to create a list of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly needs.

Keep in mind that self-care needs often change over time, particularly when taking into account what’s happening in the world.

Self-discovery and self-awareness is an important part of self-care. As you learn more and more about your specific needs it makes it possible for you to find more productive ways to take care of yourself. 

Once you have identified your personal needs, you can start to create a list of daily, weekly, monthly and yearly needs. As you progress into your self-care plan, your needs will often change and this will require you to update your list as you go forward. That can be a sign that you are growing and progressing in your self-care path.

If you are having difficulty sticking to your self-care plan you can utilise a number of different tools to help you stick to your goals. These can include a wall planner, or wall chart, a self-care journal and setting reminders on your or smartphone.

The Final Word

Self-care is unique to you and your needs, so don’t fall victim to the one size fits all. You may find interesting and great self-care out there, but make sure to tailor it to your needs. The best teacher for what you need is you.

Most of us instinctively already take steps towards improving our physical, mental and spiritual well being, without knowing it. By simply creating a chart or plan on how you wish to keep these improvements happening and strategies you can employ along the way you will find it much easier to stick to your goals of self-caring and self-improving. 

Healthy Living
Author: Healthy Living

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