The concept of self-care isn’t a new one, yet we’re still in a position where 51% of Americans feel burnt-out and stressed.
Self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive, and there are plenty of ways to help yourself feel better.
Yet, despite this, too many people misunderstand what effective self-care really means.
Stick with us till the end to find out how you can build your own self-care routine and how that can help you manage your depression.
We can quantify any activity that helps us take care of our personal well-being as self-care. Self-care is especially valuable to our mental and overall health. Yet, as we’ve mentioned, it’s something we’re prone to neglect.
Even those who don’t suffer from any form of mental health problems would benefit from self-care. At its core, all self-care means is that we take the time to do important things for our health.
Self-care can have surprising and notable effects on our self-esteem, which improves our quality of life a great deal. So, while self-care can improve our lives in a plethora of different ways, the important part to remember is that this must form part of an internalized health plan.
When we practice regular self-care, we become more self-aware. We are also more likely to engage in self-improvement activities. Overall, however, self-care promotes a mindset of rest and relaxation.
Let’s have a look at just a handful of the things self-care aims to improve:
The primary benefit of self-care is in the tools it gives us to handle stress and other harmful emotions. We are less able to manage these feelings when we are burnt out and exhausted.
So even though we know all of that, why does it sometimes feel so hard to actually practice self-care? We understand how and why we should take care of ourselves, yet when it comes down to it, we just can’t motivate ourselves to make the right choices.
Why is that?
There are a few reasons self-care can feel so challenging on an individual level, and they may surprise you.
In almost every interaction, we are more likely to notice something negative than we are to pay attention to something positive. As humans, we are unfortunately hard-wired to register negative stimuli more readily than positive.
This means we are more likely to:
What does this have to do with not being able to practice self-care?
It means that our belief in ourselves is formed by our own negative bias. If we don’t believe we’re able to do something, then we’re unlikely to even try.
Self-care inherently takes work. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work, but it can feel overwhelming. Especially because, for many of us, that means establishing a new routine. When you’re tired, and perhaps in the most need of some self-care, exerting any kind of new effort feels like a hassle.
The easiest way to overcome this is to know that it will happen. And, we’re going to give you some good advice about how to establish a new routine to take away some of the stress.
Whether or not you’d assume it, self-care can be a magnet for feelings of shame. It could be internalized feelings of shame that revolve around feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt.
We may also be concerned others may shame us for being in a position where we must actively practice self-care. Fortunately, though, like plenty of other negative emotions, shame can’t withstand the light of reality.
Recognizing and calling it out is the best way to dismantle shame in our lives. You are worthy of love, compassion, and the right to change and make good choices for yourself.
This is interesting because all over the internet you’ll see adverts that proclaim their product is the key to your self-care woes. A new foot spa, an extravagant holiday at the coast.
While we see a correlation between indulgences and self-care, an indulgence immediately becomes harmful when it sparks feelings of guilt. One person’s self-care indulgences may be a gateway to another’s self-harm.
It’s all dependent on their relationship with the activity and their own capacity for moderation. Another influencing factor is how severe the overarching reality of its consequences are.
A holiday can be great, but not if it’s going to send you into debt. A slice of cake could be amazing for one person, but not someone who is battling an eating disorder.
Self-care can be a major game-changer in the day-to-day management of depression. It’s important to note, however, that if you are struggling with severe mental health problems, you need to speak to a professional.
Managing your depression means staying in touch with your friends and family, making concerted efforts to be more active, and, if you’re in a good place, facing the things you normally avoid.
Before we dive much more into managing your depression, let’s quickly touch on what depression actually is.
Plenty of people go through periods of feeling sad, but it’s unlikely to last longer than a few days. Depression is a persistent lack of happiness and joy for weeks, months, and even years.
Depression is not a trivial matter. It’s a real illness with real, and significant, symptoms. Depression is not a sign of weakness and it’s certainly not something you can just “snap out of it.”
If you’re experiencing some or all of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from depression:
If you’re presenting any of the following symptoms, it’s worth speaking to your doctor about a treatment plan and how to manage your symptoms. Make sure you’re working with a healthcare specialist that you trust.
If your doctor has effectively ruled out a physical cause for your symptoms, they will probably start you on a treatment plan with a mental health professional.
There are plenty of therapies and medicines that work to treat depression. Some treatments may include medications like antidepressants or psychotherapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy and behavioral activation.
Behavioral activation is useful in relation to self-care, as it is about taking the first steps to break the vicious cycle.
Behavioral activation is about monitoring daily activities to understand the relationship between mood and our activities. It also helps us define and identify our values and goals, as well as gives us the tool to dismantle barriers to activation.
Where did the concept of self-care even come from? Honestly, the idea has always been around, most people just relied on their local and personal resources for their wellbeing. We’re talking hundreds of years ago here.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, advancements in medicine and science gave us the chance to put our health in the hands of others. Changes in socio-political and economic systems also made the concept of self-care seem like a bad thing.
In the ’60s, people were encouraged to just go to work, come home, have a good dinner, enjoy time with their family and then rinse and repeat. There was no room for anything ‘unusual’. It wasn’t a part of the picture-perfect, white picket fence ideal to struggle with mental health.
And, if you couldn’t take care of yourself, there must have been something wrong with you.
Fortunately, in contemporary society, there has been a welcome resurgence of the idea that personal care is key to long-term health and quality of life. Self-care is widely spoken about today and actively encouraged by people from all walks of life.
It’s challenging to notice changes in our bodies, especially if they occur slowly and over an extended period. You’d definitely notice if you suddenly woke up having panic attacks, but that’s typically not how it works.
It starts with a small seed of anxiety or panic, or even doubt, that grows into something creeping, thorny, and vicious. Luckily, our minds and bodies do give us some signs that we need some self-care, we often just need a little reminder about it.
Managing your depression and knowing when to take care of yourself is about knowing what your baseline is. If you’re deviating from your baseline, you know that something is wrong.
Understanding your baseline is very much an intuitive concept, but you know when something doesn’t feel right within yourself. Even if it’s just a case of trusting your gut.
We can divide the concept of self-care into six major types.
Emotional self-care involves activities that help you reflect, connect, and process your emotions. Examples of emotional self-care can include seeing a therapist, making art, or playing music, to name but a few.
Practical self-care involves tasks you complete in order to mediate further stressful situations. For example, you could make a budget, organize your closet or take a professional development class.
Physical self-care means doing things that improve your physical health and well-being. You could take a walk, get your full eight hours of sleep, and make sure you’re drinking enough water.
Mental self-care correlates to any kind of activity that stimulates your mind. You could read a book, solve daily puzzles or even go to a museum.
Social self-care applies to any kind of activity that nurtures the relationship with people in your life. It means making time to see your friends and family, especially if they bring joy to your life.
Spiritual self-care can mean anything from meditation to times of worship and is any kind of activity that nurtures your spirit. It does not have to be religious, but it is for some.
As we’ve discussed, a successful self-care regime is all going to fall down to a routine. Establishing that routine can feel overwhelming, but we want to tell you it doesn’t have to be.
The first step is about differentiating between what is self-care and what isn’t. It’s about more than just caring for your physical health. What is “good for you” isn’t necessarily going to work as a self-care plan for you.
For example, if you hate running, then going for a morning jog every day is going to feel like a chore. And then, guess what, it’s going to fall to the wayside. You want to engage with activities that you find energizing and fulfilling.
Your self-care routine should strive to make you a better version of yourself.
Fortunately, there are a few small steps we can take to establish what is going to work for you as a routine.
First, discover what makes you feel centered. Start by writing down as many things as you can that bring you joy. It could be a color, certain smells, or even something physical like journalling or dancing.
Then brainstorm how you can incorporate these things into your life. It could be a background thing, like painting a wall your favorite color or setting a designated amount of time to perform an activity.
Set goals for yourself. Once you’ve decided what to incorporate into your daily self-care routine, establish where and when you’re going to incorporate them into your life.
After a week, evaluate if they’re still working for you, then adjust and tweak your approach as you go.
It’s all about finding what works for you and building your routine from a bare-bones approach. Once you know you can stick to something, even if it feels minuscule, you’ll have a much easier time building onto that.
Developing a self-care routine is a journey and one that is going to challenge you for the rest of your life. The good thing is, that journey doesn’t have to be tiresome.
Use it as a time to explore and find what you love. Embrace the journey and share it with those around you. You’ll find more support than you expect and every additional step will show you that you can cope with your mental health.
If you’re ready to take the first steps towards healing and growth, reach out to us today to get help.