This isn’t just an article for the “spoonies” or chronic fatigue sufferers out there. This is for everyone. Self-care is essential. A necessity. Not a luxury.
“But I don’t have time!”
“But my child/cat/dog/washing machine (delete or add others as appropriate) just won’t leave me alone!”
All perfectly reasonable situations we all find ourselves in, but I ask you this one question, or rather present to you this situation:
Imagine you have a jug full of water. You spend each day using that water to fill other people’s cups: your child, your partner, your family, your friends. (To clarify, this analogy isn’t just for those with chronic illness, it’s for everyone).
That jug is naturally going to run low of water. Who is going to fill it up? What happens when the water in the jug runs out?
Put simply, you cannot keep pouring out of your jug into other people’s if you don’t fill up your own jug. It’s not up to anyone else to do as everyone has their own jugs they need to fill. It’s up to you and only you.
This is the very principle of self-care. The analogy of the jug of water and glasses to fill up. Everyone has their own jug so everyone is responsible for filling it up themselves.
The act of self-care isn’t selfish. It isn’t self-centred. It is essential.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is pretty much what it says on the tin. Taking care of yourself.
A quick Google tells me the actual definition of self-care is:
“the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress”
It’s any activity you do, anything at all, that helps support your mental, emotional and physical health.
Sounds good eh?
Self-care is the practice of knowing yourself and your limits. About learning to say no when it’s not going to benefit you or your health, or rather saying no if it is going to risk your own health. It’s about learning to stop and rest when your body tells you to.
What is self-care?Tweet
What does self-care look like?
This list is going to look different for everyone. What helps you or makes you feel better is going to be different to the person next to you, but here are some ideas to start you off.
- Create a “things that make me feel better / make me feel worse” list
I was inspired to do this after reading Matt Haig’s book “Reasons to Stay Alive”. In this book were a couple of chapters containing his lists of things that made him feel better, and things that made him feel worse.
Now obviously life isn’t going to always follow these lists, and you’ll have to do things on the “things that make me worse” list. But, if you can create that self-awareness early on, and think about the things you can and cannot control, you will be taking part in self-care without even realising.
- Use relaxation techniques and/or practise mindfulness
Contrary to some people’s belief, mindfulness is not letting go of all your thoughts and feelings. Nor is it emptying your mind of everything. It is being aware of your thought processes, your sensations, and noticing them with kindness. Allowing your thoughts to be present in your mind and sensations present in your body, will allow you to see them with a different approach. I personally love Headspace, an amazing app to help you practise mindfulness meditation.
- Speak to people. Tell them what helps you and what doesn’t.
Your loved ones aren’t going to be able to read your mind. Nor will they know exactly how your illness is affecting you. Tell them. Explain to them what it is like. Explain what they can do to help you, how they can support you, and what a good and bad day look like. Feel free to use my articles “what is chronic fatigue syndrome?” and “how to support someone with chronic fatigue syndrome” if it helps to have a third party explaining it. They may never fully understand and to be fair, we can’t expect them to, but if you can communicate your thoughts and feelings, it will make everyone feel that bit better.
- Do something you enjoy every day
Listening to your favourite song on the way to work. Reading a page of a book before bed. Taking a shower (not something I can do every day but you might be able to!) Drinking a warm (or even hot if you’re lucky, parents I’m talking to you!) cup of tea or coffee. Whatever it is that you enjoy. It doesn’t need to take ages but set that time aside, it will make the world of difference.
- Eat well
There’s that phrase “you are what you eat”. Unfortunately I’m not the best at this as like I admitted in my article “rules for parenting with chronic fatigue syndrome“, I’m not an organic-cook-from-scratch type person but if I’m writing an article on self-care I have to include a bit about eating well. Make sure you’re getting enough from the main food groups. And no, wine doesn’t count as fruit. I checked.
5 Ways to Incorporate Self-Care TodayTweet
What self-care isn’t:
- Setting unrealistic goals.
New years resolutions anyone? Who else has set that resolution mid-hangover on January 1stto run every day, cut out all sugar AND pretty much every other food group you can think of? Yeah that isn’t going to last very long is it?
It’s the same with self-care. If you set yourself goals that you know full well are not going to be maintain-able, then don’t. Goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
Hear self-care and immediately think I’m telling you to head to the spa? Well obviously that would be lovely but no. Self-care doesn’t have to cost a thing. It’s completely free.
Back to what I said at the beginning, self-care is the complete opposite of being selfish. You just cannot look after others if you don’t look after yourself.
Like this article and want to make sure you receive my next posts direct to your inbox? Fill in your email address below to join my email list:
Haven’t yet followed Mummying and M.E. across social media? Do so here: