When we hear the phrase “self-care”, we may associate it with activities such as rest, “me” time, spa treatments, sleep or a vacation.
However, some may also think of it more negatively, such as being selfish, indulgent or ignoring responsibilities.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), self-care is “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 health worker”.
This is a much broader view than just behaviours or activities that include pampering or rewarding ourselves.
Self-care means to take care of yourself so that you can be well and healthy to do all the things that you need to and want to achieve in a day.
It is taking the necessary steps to look after your health physically, mentally and emotionally.
Do’s and don’ts
Self-care can come in many shapes and forms, and depends on your own current situation.
Your form of self-care may be quite different from another person’s.
The main aim is to promote and enhance your health and overall well-being.
Self-care is not something that is done only when you have the time or opportunity to do so, or just as a reward for something you have achieved or accomplished.
Self-care is a deliberate choice to do things that will refuel or reinvigorate you, rather than deplete you.
Some common examples of self-care include getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy food intake, or pursuing an activity that is intellectual, practical, physical or spiritual according to your inclination, or something that you just need to get done to make yourself feel better.
> Use self-care as an excuse for excessive spending.
While it may seem very tempting to splurge on that pair of shoes or overpriced vacation, self-care is not supposed to make you feel worse after.
> Believe that self-care has to be something big or expensive.
Self-care can be something as simple as setting aside 10 minutes a day to meditate, drinking eight glasses of water per day, or listing three things you’re grateful for at the end of every day.
> Mistake self-care as being selfish.
The saying “you cannot pour from an empty cup” holds true here.
The most important person in your life is you.
If you’re not well, it’s going to be very difficult to be available for others.
> Be self-aware when doing self-care.
Acknowledge and identify what your needs are, then proceed with the relevant and appropriate self-care that can meet those needs.
Listen to what your mind and body needs.
For example, you may be feeling overwhelmed with things at work this week.
So maybe you want to do something more relaxing, like getting a massage or listening to music.
But for others, it could be engaging in something more active, like going for a hike or indulging in your hobby of painting or drawing.
> Ask for help when you need it.
You do not have to do everything by yourself.
Recognise your limitations, identify where support and help are needed, and ask for it.
There is no shame in asking for help.
> Regard self-care as essential rather than indulgent.
Some may feel uneasy or guilty when they set aside time for themselves before others.
To counter this, try listing all the reasons you’ll be a better friend, colleague, partner, parent or child if you give yourself this opportunity to nourish and care for yourself.
> Prioritise the basic, i.e. good sleep quality, healthy food intake and good hygiene.
Make sleep a priority
It is recommended that an adult gets about an average of seven hours of sleep at night.
It is important that you get good quality sleep, such that you feel well-rested when you wake up.
Sleep helps to keep your body and mind healthy.
The risk of developing health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease reduces with adequate sleep.
You are more likely to be able to think clearly, make good decisions and be in a better state of mood, when you have a good sleep the night before.
There are many things in your day-to-day life that can make it harder for you to sleep, including stress and anxiety that you experience at the workplace or at home, medical conditions that cause pain, a sleep disorder, or a medication that can cause difficulty falling asleep or maintaining a good sleep.
Certain changes to your daily routine may be needed to ensure that you sleep well.
- Have a comfortable room to sleep in – one that is quiet and dark.
- Sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Do not bring your work into the bedroom.
- Ensure that your bedroom is only meant for relaxation and sleeping.
- Do some relaxing activities like listening to music, reading, doing yoga or mindfulness before bedtime.
- Avoid eating spicy food; drinking coffee, tea or alcohol; and smoking; right before bedtime.
Healthy food intake
You can care for yourself through your diet.
Planning for when and what to eat gives us the opportunity to make good choices.
Not planning ahead will leave us with making choices out of default, which could lead to unhealthy food intake.
Being mindful of what we eat is also a good form of self-care.
Choose food that can nourish your body and make you feel good.
Set a routine
When starting a self-care routine, first, identify the activities that can improve your well-being, be it physically, emotionally, intellectually, mentally or spiritually.
Remember that it should be something you would actually like to do, and not something you think you should do.
If running or jogging is not what you enjoy doing, then do not do that.
However, if you would like to sleep-in on the weekends, but know that you would feel bad about the lost hours that day, then that is not a good option either.
Select the easiest activity that can be incorporated into your daily routine.
Starting with something simple increases the likelihood of you actually doing it.
Carry out that activity for a week and evaluate any differences or benefits to your day.
Tweak, maintain or add on to the activity as you see fit.
You can also change the self-care activity to suit your current needs.
In this day and age when time seems to move really fast and our to-do lists seem neverending, it is important to take stock of what really matters in our lives.
Our health and well-being needs to be front and centre, as without them, we will not be able to do anything else.
Taking the time to care for ourselves not only helps us in the present, but is also imperative in preventing future setbacks and complications.
Darlina Hani Fadil Azim is a lecturer in psychology and behavioural science, and Associate Professor Dr Christina Liew, the Academic Lead in Clinical Competencies, at the Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine. This article is courtesy of Perdana University. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only, and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.