We’ve all heard the term “self-care”. It’s been bandied about all over the place during the last couple of years, and we all know we should take the time to do it. But what actually is it that we’re supposed to be doing, and why is it important?
Now, more than ever, self-care is crucial for our health and wellbeing. The reality of the past two years, and of the current global situation, continues to have a negative effect on many people’s physical and mental health, so prioritizing some me-time should absolutely be up there on your to-do list right now.
The World Health Organization defines self-care as: “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” According to this definition, self-care includes anything and everything related to staying physically healthy — including hygiene, nutrition, and seeking medical care when needed. It’s all the steps a person can take to manage stressors in his or her life and take care of his or her own health and well-being. Simply put, self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy and well, and do all the things you need and want to do every day.
That means self-care includes things like getting a vaccine, taking prescription medications on schedule, or getting regular exercise. Self-care isn’t just about looking after your physical health though. Living through a global pandemic these past few years has taken its toll on our mental health too. According to an Australian study, in 2020 the pandemic led to a 28 per cent increase in major depression disorders and a 26 per cent increase in anxiety disorders globally. Researchers found that women were twice as likely to experience pandemic-induced depression and anxiety, compared to men, and that younger individuals were the most at risk.
Whilst lighting a candle or having a massage likely won’t help if you are experiencing anxiety or depression, small acts of self-care do help us to cope with the everyday stressors of life. Work stress, kid stress, family stress, holiday stress, it all builds up and can lead to burnout if we’re not careful. Add to that the many restrictions on normal life that we’ve all been trying to navigate over the past two years and it’s easy to see why people are feeling lonelier and less able to unwind and slow down.
Self-care doesn’t have to be big, or take up a lot of time. It can be anything that makes you feel nourished. That can be something that’s calming or relaxing, or it could be something energetic that makes you feel alive. Self-care practices can also include things which stimulate you intellectually, like learning a new skill or taking a course.
According to The International Self-Care Foundation, there are seven pillars of self-care which we should use as a framework to make sure we are looking after ourselves:
- Knowledge and health literacy
- Mental wellbeing
- Physical activity
- Healthy eating
- Risk avoidance
- Good hygiene
- Rational use of products and services
Self-care practices have been linked to longevity and other positive health outcomes with research showing that things like exercise, yoga, and mindfulness support both physical and mental health.
Successful self-care does require self-awareness though. Check in with yourself and ask yourself how you’re doing, and then really think about what your mind and body needs. Self-care doesn’t have to look the same every day, or for every person either. The key is to find things that make you feel good, and engage in them regularly.
Here are a few ideas to ease you into your self-care journey:
- Start the morning by paying attention to your breath for five minutes and setting intentions for the day
- Eat breakfast
- Reflect on what you’re grateful for each night
- Put your phone on silent or airplane mode for a half hour every day
- Call a friend just to say hello
- Take up a relaxing hobby
- Drink a glass of water
- Pick a bedtime and stick to it
- Spend time outside in a green space
- Arrange to go for a walk with a friend
And remember, practising self-care is not selfish, and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time or cost lots of money. There’s no way to say exactly what counts as self-care, because everyone’s definition is their own, but we do know that the popular saying “you cannot pour from an empty cup” resonates so well with us here at Oleander.
And if your self-care includes treating yourself to something lovely from time to time, well then we have just the products in store! We stock a variety of Canadian-made items to aid you in your me-time, from luxurious body butters and bath soaks, to journals and beautifully scented candles. Perfect for some quiet self-reflection, mindfulness or meditation, we also stock gorgeous throws and pillows. Visit us here.