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What do we really mean by the term self-care?

Self-care is now a very popular term but one that is quite misunderstood and often associated with luxury and special treats. However, in psychological terms, self-care is about understanding what you as a unique individual need in order to maintain a good level of emotional and physical health and wellbeing. It is about getting to know your own limits, what helps you to feel good about yourself and what you need to function in the way that feels right for you.

Self-care involves the mundane and small things that we need to do each and every day to maintain a healthy mind and body. Some examples of things that you could do are:

• Eating breakfast each day
• Going out for a walk
• Connecting with a friend in real life
• Saying no to something if it feels too much
• Going to bed at a reasonable hour
• Drinking plenty of water
• Journaling
• Practicing mindfulness each day
• Taking five minutes to breathe and be by yourself
• Cooking yourself a nutritious meal
• Taking a shower
• Listening to music

The key is to keep checking in with yourself. Asking ‘what do I need right now’ and finding a way to meet that need. Doing the small things can often help to keep your ‘cup full’ rather than allowing yourself to become depleted and burnt out.

There are however many things that can get in the way of self-care; lack of time, too much stress, needing to look after others before yourself. But so often the biggest barrier to self-care is our own internal dialogue. We can convince ourselves that we are not worthy of being cared for and that other people or things are more important. Understanding our inner critic and learning how to gently but persistently challenge it is hard work but can make a huge difference.