When is the last time you did something for yourself? Something that didn’t benefit your family, your boss, or your friends? Now think about the last time you did something for someone else—we’re willing to bet that happens much more frequently. Self-care is a hot topic in Australia, and that could be because Australians aren’t doing enough of it.
A recent survey looked at self-care among adults in nine major cities in the US, UK, Japan, and Australia. The country that had the lowest prevalence of self-care? If you guessed Australia, you’re right. Only 40.4% of Australian respondents practiced self-care.
So, what is self-care and how can it change your life?
What is Self-Care?
At a basic level, we all practice similar types of self-care: brushing our teeth before we go to bed, eating when we’re hungry, or visiting the GP if we fall ill. Self-care is the foundation for good health, because it covers all of the things you do to keep yourself well, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean a bubble bath and a face mask. It’s how people recharge their batteries, and it can look different for everyone. Effective self-care comes from engaging in activities that genuinely fill you up, not doing them because you feel like you should.
When people are too busy for self-care, it can have a negative flow-on effect to all areas of your life. Before you know it, you may be exhausted and feel like your life is spiraling out of your control. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but it is possible to climb out.
The Seven Pillars of Self-Care
The International Self Care Foundation developed the concept of ‘The Seven Pillars of Self Care.’ These pillars provide an overarching look at self-care and how people can practice it:
- Knowledge & Health Literacy
- Mental well-being, self awareness, and agency
- Physical activity
- Healthy eating
- Risk avoidance
- Good hygiene
- Rational use of products and services
Self-care may take the form of spending time with a good friend, a day without social media, a restorative yoga session, ten minutes’ daily meditation, or saying no to activities that drain your energy. Self-care is about finding balance in your life by prioritising yourself.
How Self-Care Can Turn Your Life Around
The benefits of self-care come in all forms. Here are 7 to keep in mind:
A small amount of stress can be healthy, because it switches you on and prepares you for challenges. But too much stress can take its toll; people aren’t designed to be in stress mode 24/7. Self-care lets you step away from the things that are stressing you out and restore yourself.
Slow your racing mind
Taking a self-imposed time-out gives your racing mind a moment to slow down. It’s a way of calming yourself so that you can think clearly and sort through your thoughts, instead of cycling through them at warp speed. We spend so much time taking in information—whether it’s in person, through an email, or while scrolling on our phones—and not enough time processing that information.
Reduced healthcare costs
Evidence shows that people with chronic diseases who practice self-care can reduce their healthcare costs. Self-care is not a leisure-time activity; it’s essential to good health, which may mean fewer doctor’s visits.
Gives you more energy
If you’re too busy for self-care, you probably feel tired most of the time. Getting enough sleep and physical activity is a critical component of self-care, because it can give you more energy to get on with your daily tasks. Instead of crashing mid-afternoon, you should have enough energy to get you through the day.
Better able to deal with challenges
When people are overwhelmed with tasks, it’s very difficult to stay focused and make rational decisions. Think of self-care as a way to reset your brain, to regain your focus and ability to make good choices, whether it’s about what to eat for dinner or how to respond to a family crisis.
Incorporating self-care into your routine is a way of taking charge of your life. If you often feel like you’re stuck on a treadmill running at maximum speed, self-care is a way of reducing that speed to a manageable pace. Self-care gives you the power to control your life.
Self-care can improve your confidence and self-esteem. We often focus on things we’d like to improve about ourselves, but we forget that self-care is a great strategy for self-improvement. You’re actively doing something to better your health, which can make you feel good about yourself.
You don’t have to overhaul your life to fit in time for self-care. Start small, by taking ten minutes each day to engage in an activity that makes you feel good about yourself, whatever that might be. Self-care is a habit, not a quick fix; make it part of your regular routine and you can start to turn your life around.