For years I’ve struggled with mental ill health and a big part of that struggle was not understanding that self-care should be my top priority. I used to think self-care and prioritising myself was selfish, but the truth is, it’s okay to be selfish sometimes. 

For us to take care of our own health and well-being, sometimes means saying no to things that we don’t want to do. It sometimes means distancing ourselves from people that don’t have a positive influence on our well-being. It sometimes means that we must put ourselves before others and there is nothing wrong with that. This has been my biggest lesson and one of the best changes I’ve made to my life. So, how does self-care look to me?

It looks like routine: Routine keeps me motivated. It inspires my creativity, boosts productivity and keeps me feeling energised and happy. With a routine, my mind and body know what to expect most days and this is a comfort to me. I get anxious when I’m feeling uncertain or trying to navigate the ‘unknown’ so, I guess that’s why routine works.

It looks like exercise: Yes, I know, how predictable. The truth is for me exercise is so important to self-care. Each day, I make sure I get some form of movement in. Sometimes this is going to a CrossFit class or going for a run but it doesn’t need to be that intense. It could be a walk after work, morning yoga or dancing around the kitchen when making dinner. Nothing helps to clear my head more than moving a little. 

It looks like nutrition: I have noticed a correlation between fuelling my body with good food and managing symptoms of anxiety. Our bodies need a good balanced diet to function well, and so do our brains! There is a big difference in how I feel and my anxiety levels when I eat well and keep hydrated compared to the times where I don’t. So, I adopt the 80/20 rule and try to keep a healthy balanced diet 80% of the time (this may not work quite as well over Christmas but who can say no to Stollen bites).

It looks like interaction: Talking, conversation and social interaction is a huge part of my day-to-day life and crucial for self-care. This doesn’t always mean going out and being super social. Sometimes it means a voice note, a phone call or a Zoom meeting with colleagues. I like to converse and interact with other people. It helps. 

It looks like rest: Arguably the most important part of self-care. Rest. It’s important. It’s great to fill your days with hard work, activities and being social but making time in the day for yourself, to watch a film or a TV programme, to read a book, to listen to a podcast – anything really. For me, taking time each day to rest my body and mind (where needed) is vital.

I recently wrote: “Time is precious and whilst other people can (and will) help you to feel happy, in the end it really is what you give to yourself that will yield the best results. At least that’s what I believe. So, tell yourself you can. Find the time to prioritise yourself. Stop saying yes to people and things that bring you no joy. Surround yourself with positive people and situations that add value to your life. Embrace every aspect of you that you love and work on the aspects that you aren’t so happy with. Chase your goals. Learn to find some joy in each day. Don’t be afraid of change or failure because without those, how will we ever progress or learn? Try to let go of things out of your control (this one is still work in progress for me). Embrace your emotions, don’t hide them. Give love. Be loved. Be kind to others but more importantly, be kind to yourself.”

That to me, is self-care.

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