What is self-care and why is it critical to your wellbeing?

Do you start the day feeling fully rested and refreshed?  Are you free of guilt for taking some time to think about your own priorities?  Do you have a sense of purpose beyond the ‘to do’ list that’s marked ‘today’ and ‘later’?  Have you got something planned for today that you enjoy doing or for tomorrow?  Are you sniggering – or at least rolling your eyes? Are you thinking this is impossible in my life right now? 

Self-care is a very popular topic at the moment however, because it’s such a buzzword these days it’s true meaning sometimes gets lost.  Most people like the idea of self-care but think it will be seen as selfish or self-indulgent.  I see this especially when coaching women, I often see they struggle to put themselves first.  They prioritise care for others before themselves.  

At times when I’ve asked my clients about self-care, they have looked at me with such bewilderment.  For some it’s something they have never considered or even felt they have the right to consider as they don’t believe it is possible due to their busy lives and how much time they spend caring for others.  Many years ago, I remember being in the same position.  My wonderful doctor asked my about what things I enjoyed, things I could do to bring some pleasure into my day as he was assisting me in recovering from a serious illness – severe post-natal depression.    I remember thinking what planet are you on?   How the #*ck am I going to do any of that, I’m struggling to have a shower each day and look after my baby and infant child.  I also remember thinking how nice it would be to have some time for me but fearful of the judgement that it may be seen as selfish.  

So back to the first part of my question, what is self- care?   Put simply, self-care is taking care of yourself.  It’s a daily practice of habits and rituals that nurture your wellbeing, from the physical and mental to the spiritual.  It’s about filling up your cup first, so you can pour more energy back into your life.  Best of all, self-care also makes you feel good. 

Self-care is about getting to know yourself and teaching yourself you really matter.  It can be one small step at a time, even if it’s only a few minutes each day as just a small amount of time looking after you can have a positive impact on your life.  Like me, all those years ago, my daughters who both have children have said a shower each day without interruption is a blessing.  

And why is self-care critical to your wellbeing?  Just like the flight attendant says before take-off: you must put on your own oxygen mask first.  If you’re always helping others without looking after yourself, eventually you will run out of energy.  

Lockdown for many people has been an opportunity to think about what is important in their lives.  Some have changed their priorities and now the main ones include looking after themselves and doing what makes them happy and the flow on effect is life changing – for the better 😊

I worked with a number of clients during the lockdowns that were struggling to fit everything in, including caring for those around them.  One client, like many women, was getting up early in the morning, doing a few hours work, schooling children, working more, feeling guilty if she was offline for a while, then working more.  She was finding it very hard to shut down her mind at night and was not sleeping well.  She said she couldn’t talk to her partner about how she was feeling as she was worried about putting the extra strain on them.  We discussed self-care and she said one practice she had recently introduced was getting up at 5am to meditate.  During the coaching session the space was created for her to realise that a 5am meditation wasn’t something she was enjoying as part of her self-care routine but she did enjoy meditation.  We worked together to come up with some simple self-care options which included a bed-time ritual with a short meditation.  

So where do you start with self-care or maybe you already have some practices in place and are looking for tips or ideas.  Start small:  choose one new practice to weave into your daily life.

  • Think about the five main aspects of self-care – physical, mental, spiritual, joy and relationships.  Do you feel drawn to a particular one?  
  • Where in your life do you feel the pull to make a change?
  • Where do you feel like you could use some loving?  
  • What would you like to make more time for?
  • What sounds like a fun thing to do?
  • What could make an immediate impact – a quick win?

Choose a specific action that you could start today! It might be something you want to introduce as a regular practice or a task that’s been on your wish list for a while.  Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

  • Create a bedtime routine
  • Read a book, listen to a podcast during your lunch break
  • Sign up for a class/training you have always wanted to do
  • Start a daily gratitude practice
  • Book a session with a Coach!!  I know a really good one…….  😊

A great coach of mine made this suggestion to me a couple of years ago which you may already be doing, but could you use it more?  Piggy back it – make it easier for your brain by associating it with a habit you already have.  Some ideas:

Current Habit: Making the bed
New Habit: + Sitting on the bed and doing a minute of deep breathing

Current Habit: Brushing teeth
New Habit: + Doing ten squats

Current Habit: Washing the dishes
New Habit: + Listen to a podcast

Current Habit: Walk/take kids to school
New Habit: + Call a friend for a chat on your way home or to work

Current Habit: Make a coffee
New Habit: + Fill up your water bottle at the same time/do some stretches

I piggy back some of my self-care practices.  I enjoy walking and sometimes listen to one of the latest podcasts my daughter has recommended.  However, sometimes I just like to walk in nature being completely present (no talking and no telephone).  So relaxing and uplifting just soaking up nature’s beauty.  (see How to be present blog)

The foundation of self-care is self-awareness.  It’s a crucial element as it is how you figure out what kind of self-care you actually want and need.  Self-awareness is simply getting to know yourself.  It’s about slowing down, being present (see How to be present Blog) and getting quiet so you can hear your inner wisdom.  I promise you it’s there and we all have it.  When you’re in a healthy head space your thinking is clearer and it’s when you connect deeply with yourself.  Your self-doubt fades and you trust yourself more. 

Working with a coach gives you the space to stop and look at what you want, how to make it a priority in your life and develop strategies on how to put it into action and make it a habit or ritual.  

I would love to help you with some self-care strategies that will assist you in looking after the most important relationship in your life – the relationship with yourself.   

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Jackie Nield Life Coach

Hi, I’m Jackie.

I help people find their direction in life and become free of what’s blocking them so they can live with passion and purpose.

My clients are professionals that are committed to living a life they love.

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