With International Self-Care Day coming up on the 24th, July is the perfect time to review how we are tracking when it comes to self-care.
By the way, did you know that the organisers of specifically chose the 24th of July to remind us that we need to practise self-care 24/7? Pretty clever, hey?
We’ll go into more detail about that later in this article. In fact, we’re going to dive deep into self-care and help you create a self-care plan to suit your unique personality and style.
But before we do, let’s take a moment to unpack exactly what we mean by ‘self-care’.
What is self-care and where did it originate?
Awareness of the importance of self-care has burgeoned over the past few years, along with an international surge in demand for aromatherapy products. Hmm, could there be a connection here? Quite possibly… But self-care is not only about spa days, massages, and candle-lit bubble baths. In reality, it is far more multifaceted than that.
Here’s the lowdown on how self-care evolved
Despite it’s recent rise into mainstream culture, the concept of self-care is not a new one. It emerged in the world of medicine, and nursing in particular, and centred on an individual’s ability to promote, maintain and manage their physical health (for example maintaining good hygiene and nutrition, and seeking appropriate medical care).
Today, experts agree that self-care goes beyond taking care of your physical health – it has mental (and even spiritual) health components as well.
According to Paula Gill Lopez, PhD, an associate professor and the chair of the department of psychological and educational consultation at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, self-care is “the intentional, proactive pursuit of integrated wellness that balances mind, body, and spirit personally and professionally.”
Self-care is about doing things you enjoy AND some less enjoyable things!
With growing global awareness of the importance of self-care, we’ve come to understand that far from being a selfish act, it is necessary to reduce stress, prevent illness and ensure that we don’t fall apart under the strain of modern life.
But self-care specialists advise us not to think of it solely in terms of doing the things we enjoy. As Shauna Pollard, PhD, a psychologist based in Rockville, Maryland says, “Good self-care involves doing [all] the things that will help you operate at an optimal level.”
To properly ‘do’ self-care, she says, we must be prepared to do those things that bring us joy while we’re doing them. And some things that maybe aren’t so great to do – but will benefit us once they are done.
These things – such as going for regular medical and dental check-ups, avoiding risky behaviours, excessive drinking or smoking, and yes, even doing those pesky exercises the physio prescribed – might not bring joy in the moment, but they help to improve your overall well-being and peace of mind.
New York psychologist, Marni Amsellem, PhD, says, “Self-care is anything that you do for yourself that feels nourishing. That can be something that’s relaxing or calming or it can be something that is intellectual or spiritual or physical or practical or something you need to get done.”
That last bit might mean knocking over some big task that you’ve been procrastinating in order to reduce the stress you’re experiencing from having it hanging over your head.
The benefits of self-care
Okay, so self-care may not be all lavender and patchouli oil and hot rock massages, but there are definite benefits associated with self-care that cannot be denied. Here are just a few (in case you’re in any doubt that it’s worth doing).
Physical health benefits
According to the Self-Care Forum, self-care gives people greater control of their own health and encourages healthy behaviours that help prevent ill health in the long-term. Your self-care routine will empower you with the confidence and information you need to look after your own health when you can, and visit the GP when you need to.
Additionally, the physical benefits of regular self-care include:
- Higher energy levels
- Greater longevity
- Better sleep
- Better physical fitness
- Improved immune response
- Lower rates of illness
- Better recovery after illness or surgery.
In short, more time on your feet and feeling great and less time ‘soldiering on’ or out for the count.
Mental health benefits
Making time for relaxing activities, such as going for a run or walk in nature, listening to music or practising yoga or meditation can help to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety and to lift your mood.
Self-care can also have a positive impact on your self esteem, since showing kindness to yourself, helps you look upon others more kindly. Studies show that people with higher self-esteem are better able to cope with setbacks and more likely to achieve their self-improvement goals.
In conjunction with professional help, self-care can assist in the management of mental health issues and might even prevent them from getting worse.
Caregivers and parents especially can benefit from self-care. In these roles, it is easy to become so focussed on the other person’s needs that you forget your own. Taking time out for regular self-care helps you feel happier and healthier. This, in turn, improves your ability to support others as well as to form and maintain healthy relationships.
“When we are regularly taking care of ourselves, we are better able to react to the things that go on in our lives,” Dr Amsellem says. “It’s something we do to maintain positive well-being.”
Building a self-care strategy that works for you
Just imagine soaking in a tub of rose-scented hot water until your skin wrinkles and the water goes cold. Bliss for some… But for others the thought of spending more than five minutes in a steaming hot bath (rose-scented or otherwise) may seem like torture.
The point is, self-care practises are very personal. So, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to self-care that works for everyone.
Particularly when we’re looking at the mental health side of self-care, what counts as self-care for one person, may not be self-care for another. And even your own ideas around self-care might change over time.
A great place to start building your unique self-care strategy is in your notebook, bullet journal or journal (but you knew we’d say that!) Grab it any way and follow the thought-prompts below to get started on your ideal self-care strategy:
- Make a list (in words or pictures) of things that bring you joy, replenish your energy, and restore your balance. This could be anything at all. For example, the colour blue, the smell of rain, puppies, tea, base jumping, dressing up, dancing, socialising, you name it!
- Brainstorm ways to incorporate these things into your life. You could add the colours and fragrances you love to your home or workspace, set aside some time each day (or even once a week) for activities you enjoy.
- Create a strategy based on your brainstormed ideas. Start by choosing which self-care practises you’d like to incorporate into your daily routine. Arrange them in order of preference.
- Keep it simple.A good rule of thumb especially for beginners is to keep your self-care practices nice and simple. By taking small steps, you’ll find it easier to stick to the changes you’re making, and success breeds success! Here are some examples:
- Add one blue item to your desk
- Dance to one song you love each day
- Write in your journal for five minutes
- Take a 10 minute walk
- Power down your devices 20 minutes before bed
- Hug a person, a furry friend (only if they are willing) or a squishmallow (hey, don’t knock it, those things are delightfully huggable!)
See below for ideas on different self-care practises for different personality types.
- Start small by introducing just one self-care practice each week.When you’ve managed to stick to that for a week, then move on to the next one.
- Use yourjournal ornotebook to reflect on your progress, the obstacles you encountered, ways you could overcome these in future, how you feel, any new self-care practices you’ve thought of or anything else that comes to mind.
- Stay flexible. It’s okay to try things, discover they’re not for you, and change your strategy. It’s self-care practice, not perfection. Your needs change all the time and what might have worked for you before, may not be the self-care you need now.
- Overcome barriers to implementing self-care. If you feel overwhelmed, demoralised, sad or stuck and unable to start a self-care practice, there could be things that you need to deal with before you can get going. Some people are able to journal their way through these barriers, while others may need to seek the assistance of a counsellor or mental health professional.
Read our article Like a workout for your mind, daily journaling improves your mental healthfor more tips.
Self-care is about taking care of you, but you don’t have to do it alone! Reach out to your friends, family, carer, coach, doctor, mental health professional, community or workplace for support and/or use a free app such as the ISF Self-Care Support App.
Self-care tips to suit your personality
Whether you're a thoughtful introvert, an extroverted adventurer, a conscientious carer, a creative soul or an ambitious achiever – in short, whatever your personality type – it’s important to create a self-care strategy that suits your personal style and preferences, so you can nurture yourself in a way that feels authentic and fulfilling.
Here are a few different types of self-care practises you could include in your strategy, depending on your personality type.
The contemplator (Introverted)
Contemplators find solace in introspection and reflection. They are often introverts who recharge by spending time alone. Self-care strategies for introverts should include quiet and reflective activities that allow you to decompress and rejuvenate. For example:
- Reflection: Take time out each day to process your thoughts, experiences, ideas and emotions. This might include keeping a journal, daily meditation or mindfulness practices.
- Solo adventures: Explore a museum or art gallery, go see a movie or indulge in a hobby that brings you joy and fulfilment.
- Nature retreats: Go for serene walks in nature, find a cozy spot to stargaze or head off on a silent retreat.
- Quiet evenings:Curl up with a good book, watch TV, knit, crochet or draw or enjoy the ubiquitous soothing bubble bath to relax and unwind.
The creative soul (Imaginative)
Whether you find expression through art, music, sculpting, writing, sewing or any other creative pursuit, self-care suggestions for the creative soul should include opportunities to be inspired and replenish your creative well. For example:
- Artistic expression:Paint, draw, write, dance or play a musical instrument to unleash your creativity and allowing your imagination to flourish.
- Nature walks:Find inspiration for your creative endeavours by connecting with the beauty of nature, and capturing it in your journal or notebook using sketches and/or words.
- Cultural exploration:Visit art galleries, attend theatre performances or explore different cuisines to stimulate your senses and fuel your creativity. Write about your experiences in your journal or use an art journal to record your thoughts and feelings in pictures.
The nurturer (Empathetic)
Nurturers love to care for others. They also often overlook their self-care needs.
Self-care strategies for nurturers therefore should include activities that help you to set healthy boundaries while still feeding your inherent need to show kindness:
- Taking time out for yourself each day:Whether it’s five minutes or an hour, it’s vital to have some personal time in which to recharge. During this time, do something that brings you joy. This could be flower arranging, knitting, reading or dancing around your kitchen listening to your favourite tune or anything else that helps you to feel re-energised.
- Acts of kindness:Perform random acts of kindness, not just for others but for yourself too. Embrace self-compassion and treat yourself with the same care you offer others.
- Spend time with your tribe:Surround yourself with positive and uplifting people who appreciate and reciprocate your nurturing nature. Make time to reconnect with them regularly.
The adventurer (Extraverted)
Adventurers thrive on excitement, new experiences, social interactions and lively environments. They often seek stimulation and connection with others. For extroverts, self-care revolves around engaging with people and the external world.
Your self-care plan should include activities that feed your adventurous spirit. For example:
- Outdoor adventures: Set time aside to do something fun and exhilarating such as bushwalking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, visit theme parks, go on rides or even adrenaline-pumping activities like skydiving or zip-lining if you enjoy living on the edge.
- Socialise:Meet up with friends, join clubs or interest groups, organise parties and game nights or attend social events to satisfy your need for social connection.
- Group activities: Engage in team sports or participate in interactive workshops that help you to feel energised and stimulated.
- Nights out on the town: Spend time out and about doing things that fuel your extroverted nature. Go to music festivals and concerts, play electronic darts, mini-golf or indoor skydiving.
- Travel: Travelling is where adventurers truly come alive. Explore places and cultures you’ve never seen before or revisit old favourites.
- Volunteering:Channel your extroverted energy by getting involved in community service or supporting causes that matter to you (provided that you find these activities energising rather than draining).
The analytical thinker (Logical)
Analytical thinkers are logical, detail-oriented problem-solvers. They enjoy mental challenges and seek intellectual stimulation. Self-care ideas for analytical thinkers include:
- Puzzles and brain teasers:Take time out to do crossword puzzles, Sudoku or online brain-training games to keep your mind sharp and engaged.
- Learn a new skill or language: Stimulate your mind by learning something new.
- Satisfy your thirst for knowledge: Read non-fiction books, listen to educational podcasts, enrol in workshops or courses.
- Problem-solving projects: Undertake DIY projects or engage in activities that require planning organising, and problem-solving skills.
The achiever (Ambitious)
Achievers are driven by success and constantly strive for self-improvement. To create a balanced life, you should engage in self-care practices that foster personal growth. For example:
- Goal setting activities: Define clear, achievable goals, track your progress and celebrate your successes to maintain motivation.
- Learning opportunities:Attend workshops, classes or take up hobbies that align with your interests, fostering a sense of accomplishment.
- Stress management:Take time to engage in stress-relieving activities, such as exercise, yoga or deep breathing to avoid burnout.
The harmoniser (Diplomatic)
Harmonisers thrive in an environment of peace and cooperation. To maintain your inner harmony, your self-care strategy should focus on:
- Sharpening your interpersonal skills: Attend workshops on communication and conflict resolution to enhance your inherent diplomatic skills.
- Relaxing activities:Engage in activities which relieve stress. This could be reading, baking, gardening or even axe throwing – whatever works for you.
- Expanding your knowledge base:Read non-fiction books and/or listen to podcasts on interpersonal relationships and communication.
The take-away here is that no two self-care strategies will look the same. Rather than trying to follow any one particular plan, draw on the knowledge you have about yourself and the things that energise you, to create your plan. Be prepared to try different self-care practises and to switch out ones that aren’t working for you.
Above all, remember to be kind to yourself and prioritise self-care regularly to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Care for yourself and the planet with Notely
Ready to start your self-care journey? With an eco-friendly notebook or journal from Notely, you’ll not only be giving back to yourself, you’ll also be giving back to the earth as we replant the planet, one note at a time.