Self-care. It’s something many of us have heard about and perhaps tried ourselves, but just how important is self-care and how regularly should we be doing it? Eleanor shares her story.
For a long time, I viewed self-care as a ‘nice to have’ and something that I didn’t think I needed. Getting creative, spending time outside, and engaging with music were all things I loved to do, but for many years these were pushed to the side. Excuses like being too busy for self-care, or thinking self-care wasn’t for me, meant that I ended up only focused on things I considered ‘essential’. Eventually, the pressure of school, family stresses, and other issues built up and I was hospitalised for my mental health to help keep me safe.
For a long time, I viewed self-care as a ‘nice to have’ and something that I didn’t think I needed.
Time in hospital gave me space to engage in the things I enjoyed and taught me about things that helped me feel good about myself. However, upon being discharged home, I slipped back into the mindset of viewing self-care as non-essential and only to be used in times of crisis. This pattern of overwhelming stresses, hospitalisation, and discharge back to the same mindset continued throughout much of my teenage years. I couldn’t identify what was keeping me in this cycle and assumed that I was destined to stay in this loop.
Not building self-care into my daily and weekly routine meant I was frequently becoming overwhelmed with the tasks and responsibilities I had to do. Self-care is not something that is only needed following a breaking point, it is needed to stop yourself reaching breaking point in the first place. Once I could recognise that self-care needed to become a regular thing, I thought hard about what this would look like for me and aimed to do a self-care activity every day.
Not building self-care into my daily and weekly routine meant I was frequently becoming overwhelmed.
For the first week or two, getting used to this routine felt unnatural and out of place, but remembering how helpful regular self-care was for me before - and what had happened when I didn’t prioritise this - helped me get through the first few weeks, and eventually daily self-care became second nature and something I looked forward to. Whether it’s going for a short walk in the garden, doing some painting or colouring, watching some or all of a film/TV programme or putting some music on, regular self-care has become such an important part of my life.
I wish younger me had given herself the space to recharge, relax and enjoy the things she loved to do. Even just 10-15 minutes a day of doing something for yourself (in whatever form of self-care that works for you) can really help you look after your mental health and balance the busyness and stressful demands of the day. I now firmly believe that self-care is not a ‘nice to have’, it is a ‘must have’ for everyone, regardless of their lifestyle.
I now firmly believe that self-care is not a ‘nice to have’, it is a ‘must have’ for everyone.
I am slowly learning that making self-care a priority when things feel really tough is likely to make things much more manageable than trying to push through and focus on academia, employment, or other big areas of life. Building in regular self-care helps me look after my mental health and wellbeing, and also makes the stresses that come with other areas of life more manageable and less likely to end up leading me to crisis point.
So, if you feel like you don’t have time for self-care, or that it isn’t for you, please give it a chance. It doesn’t matter what it looks like to you, but it’s so important to give yourself that headspace. You deserve it.
More advice and tips on self-care
‘Self-care’ is a phrase you’ve probably come across, but what does it really mean?
We've launched a new campaign to scratch beyond the surface of self-care, looking at how self-care can help you, what to do when it feels impossible, and how you can find what self-care works for you.
Where to get help
However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
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