Throughout life, you’re taught to extend love outwards—to be kind to others, to share, to shower others with compassion, empathy, and generosity. Yet, when it comes to directing all those gifts to yourself, it often feels less natural.
If you’re inclined to live your life with feelings of guilt, shame, and perhaps self-loathing, it can be challenging to replace that hatred with adoration and love. You may not feel you deserve such gifts, but the reality is that you probably need them more than anyone. Your ability to love others will grow with your ability to love yourself.
Why Self-Care Is Essential
Self-compassion and self-care are integral cornerstones of healing your relationship with yourself. While it sounds easy, for many, learning to love yourself will be one of the most challenging tasks you’ll ever face.
By practising self-care, and learning to extend love toward yourself, you begin to cultivate feelings of self-worth, strength, and resiliency, leaving behind self-abuse and harmful coping mechanisms used to mask negative feelings you’ve had about yourself.
Loving yourself does not mean you are selfish or self-centred. On the contrary, loving yourself deepens your ability to care for others and broadens your capacity to love. Pointing your compassion inwards fosters increased empathy for those around you. Simply put, you can’t care for others well if you don’t care for yourself first.
Self-care includes caring for your whole being, including:
- Living a balanced lifestyle (being mindful of sleep, nutrition, and exercise)
- Exerting healthy boundaries for yourself and others
- Practicing self-acceptance
- Becoming more mindful and aware of your thoughts, behaviors, and actions
Here are six forms of self-care that will nourish your entire being.
Physical self-care means caring for your body internally and externally. Your physical self-care could be ensuring you get eight hours of rest every night, taking a long walk, or preparing a healthy and wholesome meal. By prioritising things like sleep and nutrition, you can optimise your energy levels, which results in having more energy for yourself and loved ones.
If you haven’t practised physical self-care before now, take small steps to take care of your body:
- Commit to light exercise three times per week
- Go to sleep 15 minutes before your normal bed time
- Prepare and enjoy at least two dinners at home with a loved one each week
- Take mental note of what types of food you are eating and assess if you need to change your eating patterns
Emotional self-care is important for your overall health. You can take care of your emotional well-being by processing and verbalising feelings with trusted friends, family members, or a therapist. You can also release negative emotions through an expressive art form such as:
- Listening to music
It also helps to avoid situations and people that cause you undue emotional distress. Practice setting boundaries and learn to be in touch with your thoughts and feelings. By releasing your emotions rather than bottling them in, you can move through painful experiences that may otherwise cause you to suffer.
You can practice mental self-care by trying new activities that challenge and stimulate you mentally. It’s common to get caught in stagnation traps and stick to what’s familiar, so trying a new activity or hobby can help shake off mental cobwebs.
- Engage in a meaningful conversation with a friend
- Try a puzzle
- Delve into a new book
- Explore a different philosophy from your own
- Listen to inspiring and thought-provoking podcasts
Your spirituality is personal to you and only you. This aspect of self-care can assist in feelings of connectedness, oneness, and universality, helping diminish feelings of isolation and loneliness. Spiritual self-care might be achieved through:
- Donating your time to a worthy cause
- Spending time in solitude in nature
- Reading books
Relationships are important, and social self-care means taking time to nurture the relationships you have. Practice social self-care by spending quality time with individuals who uplift and support you, such as friends, family, and trusted confidants.
If you’re trying to escape negative social circles that don’t support your well-being, social self-care might mean looking outwards to create new, meaningful friendships and connections. A few ways to do this may be to join a like-minded group, volunteer at special events, or sign up for new activities.
Practical self-care involves caring for routine aspects of your life that support you, including:
These tasks may feel like chores, but these to-dos can motivate you and instil a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. You may choose to de-clutter your home, create a calming space for yourself, or set up a routine to pay your bills on auto-pay. Sometimes things like financial matters can feel like a burden, especially if you’ve been dealing with emotional issues and negative self-talk, but having control over practical areas of your life can be incredibly empowering and rewarding.
Practiscing self-care in all aspects of your life can help nurture you as a whole being and leave no area of your life unattended. When you feel as though you’re being cared and loved for, you can give more to others—and this positive energy comes back to you tenfold.