WTF Is Self Care And How Do We Practice It?

Self care. What the hell is it? When those two little words spring from some TV therapist’s lips, my mind goes into lockdown and all I hear is mumbo jumbo fluffy empowerment stuff.

Oh, it’s about having a bath? With lemongrass candles? Or it’s about breathing or enjoying a walk?

Everyone washes, inhales air and uses their limbs to get from A to B. How are these every day practices deemed self care?

Melbourne based GP Dr Chloe Kindred explains self care to me as, “recognising physical, emotional, mental and social needs – and taking steps to meet them.”

She says it’s about identifying when you’re running on empty and filling your tank up so you’re running at 100%.

Makes sense. But for someone like me who juggles many things, how can self care not feel like self-indulgence?

Dr Kindred explains that if we don’t take that time for ourselves, we’ll burn out. You may still be able to accomplish your tasks but they’ll below your standards. You can see that friend in need, run to the gym, smash out a report, take the dog for a walk, have a meeting and organise your best mate’s birthday party all before the nightly news; but it doesn’t mean it will be done well. And you’ll wear yourself out.

She says burnout is a real issue in today’s fast paced society.

“In my work, I see so many young people juggling uni, work, dating, friends, and family as well as developing side hustles to achieve their savings goals. Self care is falling by the wayside and the physical effects are evident quickly.”

“From sluggishness, nutritional deficiencies and weight gain to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, a lack of looking after ourselves manifest in varying degrees,” she says.

So how do we stop neglecting our needs and start nourishing our body and soul?

One person who may have the answer is Katie de Rooy, founder of The Change Box, a gift and subscription box service with an emphasis on relaxation and wellbeing.

She believes these three practices are essential for self care:

#1 Establish non-negotiables

“Sometimes the most difficult part of self care is finding the time,” Katie says. “But if Richard Branson, Beyoncé and Oprah can find time for it, then we all can!”

She suggests setting daily tasks to make you feel calm, relaxed and focused, and make them a priority so they become part of your routine. It doesn’t have to be long or complex.

#2 Take a break

“A 2015 study found that 40-second breaks from work where employees looked at a flowering green rooftop boosted attention and focus. It’s seriously that simple!”

#3  Positive self talk

Katie says self care is also about nurturing your emotional wellbeing. So if you’re one of those people who like to beat up on themselves with negative self-talk, practice talking to yourself as if you would your friend.

How to take time out

Dr Kindred also has a few ideas on how to incorporate self care into our lives:

  • Exercise

Along with good sleep and healthy food, exercise has shown to be as effective as antidepressants in combatting mild to medium depression.

  • Alcohol consumption

Moderation is key believes Dr Kindred. “Too much alcohol can deplete your serotonin levels increasing the likelihood of anxiety and depressive symptoms.”

  • Mindfulness meditation 

This practice has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety while improving focus to.

  •  Puppy love

Much has been said about a dog’s ability to lift mood and improve well-being. Dr Kindred says even if you don’t have your own, see if you can puppysit a mate’s furry friend instead.

  • Friends

“Several studies show it’s not about the quantity but the quality of our connections,” Dr Kindred tells The Cusp. “Positive interactions with our mates give us a sense of belonging, improve our well-being and enrich our lives no end.”

There are many ways to recharge our batteries. The first step is simply spending time figuring out just what self care means to us. Take that moment to stop and smell the roses, whether they’re scattered in your bubble bath or not.

A published freelance writer from print to online, Katy’s passion is honest authentic writing. From the mundane experience to a sensational observation, Katy always finds a way to voice what she sees. Relatable and quirky, she writes with warmth and familiarity. She also loves lists, matching socks and edamame beans.