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  • Writer's pictureKate Warren

Self Care is not selfish

Welcome back one and all. It’s Kate here, back for another instalment of the Stay U Blog. This week is all about the importance of Self Care. It is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days, so let’s start with what Self Care actually means. The best description I found was:

“Self-care is the process of establishing behaviours to ensure holistic well-being of oneself, to promote health, and actively manage illness when it occurs. It means looking after yourself physically, emotionally and socially. Self-care describes the role of individuals in preventing disease, managing their mental and physical health, and actively participating in their health care.”

Essentially, it’s not only taking care of yourself, but also starting and maintaining beneficial habits that assist you in being happier and healthier in your mind, body and soul.

When you have mental health issues – be that depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism or anything else that affects your day-to-day life – Self Care can take a back seat. We don’t feel like eating properly, we don’t feel like doing physical exercise, and in some cases, we don’t even feel like brushing our teeth or hair. We can feel that taking time for ourselves is selfish, or that doing something that is solely for our benefit is a waste of money. Time taken to look after our health and wellbeing is not selfish - it is smart, and it is important.

Self Care goes hand in hand with a more positive outlook on life, better physical health and a lower risk of illness, lower stress and anxiety levels, and an increase in energy. It can also help improve your confidence, self-esteem and relationships. Probably sounds like magic – but it really isn’t.

The Black Dog Institute created a fantastic printable Self Care list for use during the Covid lockdowns. Things may have changed a little bit for us, but it is still a very comprehensive plan. You can find it here - COVID-19_Self-Care-Planning_Black-Dog-Institute_Editable.pdf (

Essentially, it recommends you look at your needs in seven key areas:

- Physical (eating, sleeping and exercise)

- Emotional (what you need to feel good/positive)

- Spiritual (time in nature, meditation)

- Professional (work-life balance, doing meaningful work)

- Social (your relationships, friends and family)

- Financial (income, debts, and quality of life)

- Psychological (counselling, time off electronic devices)

When you break your life, and your needs, down into smaller components like these, you can get a clearer picture of what is going well, or not so well, for you. You can identify unhealthy habits, and start to make a plan for change, and finding ways to care for yourself.

Looking at activities like the one above can be useful, but they can also be very overwhelming. That’s why my next recommendation might be helpful:

You completed the Self Care Planning list above and have 2 to 3 “answers” for each – that’s up to 20 things that you need to change or start doing. Let’s face it, for most of us that is unrealistic – not to mention it can make us ask ourselves, “am I doing anything right?”. Of course, you are! Let’s make it more manageable.

From the list, take four things that are most important to you – your “Top 4”, so to speak. This is where you can start. Write your “Top 4” on individual pieces of paper – blank A4 paper, or pages out of a notebook. Stick them up on your wall, or a mirror, so that you can look at these clearly and easily. Take time every day – even if it’s only 5 minutes – to look at the pages and actively work toward the goals. You may want to eat better, or get more sleep, or spend less time on your pc or mobile. Leave the pages up and work on them for 2 weeks and make a note of the differences they make to your life – you don’t have to “achieve” or “complete” them, you just need to make a start. Then for the next 2 weeks you take another 4 things off your original list, and so on. Sounds more realistic, doesn’t it? It is not an overnight solution, but anything worthwhile takes time.

That is all for this blog. I hope you have enjoyed it, and have gained a better understanding of Self Care, its importance and how you can do it for yourself. The next blog will be about a topic with a lot of mixed opinions - Gender.

Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved. Take care of yourself until we meet again.

Sources: What Is Self-Care, and Why Is It So Important for Your Health?; What exactly is self-care and why do we need it? - BBC Bitesize.; What Is Self-Care? - Australian Self-Care Alliance.; A guide to self-care - Life in Mind Australia.; Black Dog Institute | Science. Compassion. Action.

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