What does it really mean? That’s not just to most people, and not according to the dictionary – but to you.
The WHO defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability, with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
But at its core, self-care is as simple as taking care of yourself. It’s something that you do simply because it makes you feel good, and helps you to recharge: without pressure, and free of guilt. Just as we nurture our physical health through sleeping properly and exercising regularly, self-care looks after our mental wellbeing.
Everyone’s version of self-care – how it looks in practise, and the specific tools and techniques they use – will be different. That’s why it’s called self-care, and why it varies for each of us – why it’s such a deeply personal thing. Yet many of us don’t do it enough.
So what does self-care mean to you? How do you shut out the stresses of the wider world for a moment? How do you switch off the guilt, and silence that voice that says “I should be doing something else first”, or tells you that “there are more important things to do right now”?
If you’re struggling to practise self-care right now – whether that’s down to something earth-shattering, like a bereavement, or more commonplace, such as a busy schedule – it can be useful to be reminded of the routes via which we can all practise self-care every day. Here are some of the different ways our staff look after themselves with self-care techniques – we hope you can take inspiration from whichever ones are applicable to you.
- Going for long walks in the countryside with my dogs –watching them run free and chase their ball (and each other) and seeing how happy they are. Followed by lots of cuddles!
- You can’t beat a lovely warm bubble bath with some essential oils.
- Zoning out into my own little world and watching either “rubbish TV” or something gripping –and binge-watching it on an evening!
- When I’m halfway through a chore, I’ll drop everything and play the piano for a little while.
- Cooking a big pot of vegetable soup, and taking my time chopping, frying, stirring…and eating!
- I’ll call someone up, just to check in with them, have a laugh –see how they’re getting on. It probably sounds like I’m only calling for their sake, and – though that’s part of it – I acknowledge that a big part of me needs that contact, too. Just a moment of connection with another person.
- For me, it’s putting my favourite playlist on Spotify on in the car– or in my headphones – and turning it up at full volume. I just sing my heart out, no matter how bad it sounds!
- A jigsaw puzzle with my daughter. It’s time together, doing something we both love and creating memories.
- Do I admit that the PlayStation isn’t just a thing for the kids? Yeah…why not!
- My tip for practising self-care is to try write a Haiku whenever you can. In case you don’t know, a Haiku is a Japanese poem of 17 syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally evoking images of the natural world. It encourages us to look around us for inspiration, and to notice things; be they great or small, beautiful or ugly. Here’s one I wrote recently:
Five seagulls in line
Balancing on next door’s roof
Like shipwrecked sailors
They’re easy to do, and don’t take long. There’s joy, however, in completing one that captures a moment like a painting – never to be forgotten.
Whether it’s poetry, piano, or PlayStation, self-care can provide a vital passage to mindfulness – grounding you in a moment, and giving you back what the rigours of daily life strip away. But, as the tips demonstrate, it can also be a way of not only caring for yourself, but caring for others – for your family and friends.
And self-care doesn’t always have to be about the here and now, but the future. About having those conversations that get you and your family on the same page when it comes to what’s ahead. That could be entering into a dialogue about planning for a relative’s future care, or what to do should they become too unwell to make decisions for themselves.
For bereaved people – or patients and families living with life-limiting illnesses – self-care is both especially important and all-too-hard to make the mental or physical time for. That’s why talking about death, dying, and grief – breaking down the taboos, and starting those difficult conversations – is more important than ever.
So this year, join us for Dying Matters Awareness Week 2022. Together, let’s speak up about those big questions around how and where we die, who we’re with at the end, and what support structures we have around us. Let’s talk about grief and plan for death to ensure that everyone has access to the care they need, and show our political and healthcare leaders how to make things work.
But mostly, let’s talk about death – so we can get on with living. And bubble baths.