Let’s call a spade a spade: self-care isn’t a popular term. The majority of people have reported that the term is ‘cringeworthy’, that they usually roll their eyes at its holisticity and click away from articles pertaining to it. It’s not the most alluring term to the cynics out there (ironically, those who tend to need self-care most). But here’s the shocking truth, which you may not like I’m afraid: self-care matters, even if you hate the term self-care.

To those with exceptionally low self-esteem the phrase can seem synonymous with being self-absorbed, lazy and wasteful. Many believe they are not worthy of self-care and this mind-set is exceptionally hard to break as it is usually something developed in the early stages of childhood. The trouble is that when we neglect to take care of ourselves we are suddenly struck with the frustration of not performing at our best, which leads to further depression and anxiety.

How to ‘self-care’

It’s hard to know what exactly constitutes self-care, so here’s a stripped-down checklist which you can follow to evaluate whether or not you are practicing it:

  1. Ask yourself what you *really want and how you’d really like to feel. If your answers to these questions don’t match up with your reality then start evaluating why. Think of things you can do which will improve this and make you feel the way you want to to feel. Think of things which move your heart, give you that butterfly feeling in your stomach. Are there foods, activities, people, colours, smells, places or foods that really make you happy? What values do you hold; are you living up to them? Mentally channelling what makes you feel at your best and then incorporating these things into your life, no matter how small, on a daily basis, helps maintain some level of self-care. See it as checking in on yourself every day, just to make sure you’re doing ok. (*zigazig-ah)
  2. Remember you are your most precious resource. A space shuttle on its way to Venus is only as good as its Space-Pirate captain. Or perhaps a more serious and appropriate analogy which is equally awesome (though how is that possible, really?). What this metaphor is meant to explain is that you are needed to be at your best in order for you to be able to accomplish, see, be or do what you want to in life. You won’t be able to run a marathon, take care of your pet or be there for your friends if you are not also living at your full capacity.
  3. Ditch the inner critic. Your inner-critic is not you. Fact. It’s a collection of voices you’ve picked up over your life and morphed into some vicious, judgemental, cruel and unfair conscience which you’re allowing to guide you. There’s a time and a place for your inner critic (i.e. in morally sketchy situations) but there shouldn’t be a place for it in your day to day life, particularly when it’s guilting you for thinking highly enough about yourself that you merely consider the idea of self-care.
  4. Stop trying to be a people pleaser. There, I said it; controversial I know, but if you’re someone who identifies as a people-pleaser, you’re probably someone who overextends themselves to the detriment of their own needs. Being a kind person involves pleasing others as part of your nature, but to be a people-pleaser usually involves bending over backwards to make everybody happy — truth bomb: this isn’t possible. No one can please everybody. In the act of pleasing everyone you sacrifice one person’s happiness and pleasure: your own. Being honest with people that you don’t want to go to that party (without any made-up excuse – just the truth that you don’t want to go), or telling someone you don’t like how they are treating you, does not make you an evil person. Your thoughts, opinions and needs are as valid as those you are trying to meet. If people don’t like you for being 100% authentically yourself, despite you being a kind and considerate individual, then they are high-maintenance and you really don’t need that type of person in your life. Though I promise you, you may be surprised: you will find that all those friends and people in your life respect your decisions and feelings a lot more than you thought they would: even when it’s a ‘no’ to them.
  5. Stop beating yourself up. This is a tough one. It’s strange to analyse but somehow, in this bizarre world we live in, not beating yourself up and perpetually tearing yourself down is a really difficult thing to do. Being compassionate to yourself is a rare and extraordinary talent: rather shocking, isn’t it? See mistakes as learning opportunities: mistakes do not define you. Who you become because of them does. Stop comparing yourself to others; be happy for others to have qualities you admire, take inspiration if you see an opportunity to emulate, but also remember all of your qualities.
  6. Nurture yourself. Nurture your mind with knowledge, you body with good, wholesome plant foods and some kind of physical venture here and there. (This doesn’t have to be a major exercise like running or swimming: why not go on an adventure walk somewhere? Find a hill to climb or even take a stroll around a town, a gallery, or museum.) Give yourself a reason every day to give yourself thanks for the kind treatment, enjoyable time or thoughtfulness you gave yourself that day. It all goes towards stronger mental and physical wellbeing.