Self-Care: A catalyst for therapeutic success

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is a term that we have heard of, but do we actually know what it entails? We might have pre-conceived notions regarding what it is, based on what we see on social media. We might perceive it as an expensive and time-consuming process involving fancy candles, spa sessions or yoga. And we might even feel as if it has nothing to do with us. But is that truly all there is to it?

To put it simply, self-care is a way of looking after one’s own physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It's about trying to understand what we need and listening to how we feel. Self-care can be in the smallest simplest things we do in our day like eating and sleeping on time or going on a long drive when feeling overloaded.

It is not an activity that we can generalise. What might be a relieving activity for one but may not be as relieving for the other. Therefore, it is as unique as people are, specifically catering to their needs, developed by them. It might also appear different depending on where we are psychologically at the moment; what works for us when we are doing well may seem unattainable when we are struggling. But that's okay. The crucial thing is that we listen to what we need rather than what we believe the world requires of us.

How can it help?

In the same way a regular maintenance helps our vehicle function effectively, we need to give ourselves regular maintenance to live effectively, improve the quality of our life and handle problems while being in the best possible mental state. For instance, while preparing for your assessments, one should find small ways to take breaks and relax for a while before getting back to the grind. Like taking a walk-in fresh air or making coffee while dancing on your favourite song.

Neglecting one’s needs can have detrimental effects on their day-to-day functioning, social and physical life. Having said how self-care helps, it is crucial to note that it is not a replacement for external help from closed ones and professionals while struggling.

How does it help in therapy?

While seeking help for psychological distress, self-care becomes a complimentary tool for successful therapy. Those habits cultivate routine and regularity in individuals, improving their commitment to their therapeutic path. Moreover, they help us to get to know ourselves and our emotion better, which helps us identify our emotional triggers and deal with them in a healthier way. In stressful routines, it gives us a brief pause from work and lets us channelise our energy on our self through mindfulness, physical activity, and relaxation techniques. Reduced stress fosters an atmosphere that makes treatment more successful and helps you to take therapy sessions with more clarity. To put it simply, self-care is the continuous process of looking after one's physical, mental, and emotional well-being. When we combine it with therapy, it serves as a supporting framework that improves the therapeutic process, solidifies learned abilities, and gives us the confidence to actively manage our mental health and wellbeing.

What are some ways of exploring self-care?

Self-care often requires us to experiment on ourselves. We can find what works for us by trying different things here and there. You can simply start by asking yourself whether there is anything you can do for taking better care of yourself or your mental health. If this doesn’t help, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • When I am exhausted, what recharges me?
  • What do I often do to improve my mood?
  • Which extra activity makes my day better?

It could take some trial and error to find the self-care routine that works for you. If self-care is not something you regularly do, it may seem awkward at first - you may even feel guilty or selfish - but keep trying. After all, we all deserve to take care of ourselves and our needs.

Here are some ideas you can explore:

Physical self-care:

  • Get adequate sleep: Sleep for 7-8 hours every night to help replenish and rejuvenate your body.
  • Exercise: Include regular exercise in your regimen to improve your physical and mental health. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity every day.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes nutritional meals that will nourish your body and mind while avoiding processed and harmful items.
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day to help drain toxins and keep your body running smoothly.

Emotional Self-care:

  • Practice mindfulness: Spend some time each day practicing mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises to help reduce stress and increase relaxation.
  • Spend time in nature: Take a walk in a park, go hiking, or spend time near a body of water to help reduce stress and improve mood.
  • Schedule time for self-care: Set aside time each day for self-care activities, such as reading, bathing, or practicing yoga.
  • Connect with loved ones: Make time to connect with family and friends in person or through video chat or phone calls.
  • Say no when necessary: Set boundaries and say no to commitments or tasks that may cause undue stress or burnout.
  • Seek help when needed: If you are experiencing mental health concerns or physical symptoms, seek professional help from a healthcare provider or therapist.

What if self-care seems impossible?

Self-care is just taking care of oneself and doing everything that benefits oneself. Personal hygiene, food, sleep, water, mobility, and companionship are examples of self-care necessities. However, when we are battling with our mental health, self-care can feel extremely difficult, if not impossible. We may feel miserable because we can't enjoy or seek comfort from the activities; we used to do to feel good. This might be normal. In the meanwhile, the most essential thing is to alter your self-care expectations. Concentrate on the fundamentals and consider little efforts you may take to care for yourself. This might involve addressing fundamental requirements such as eating, drinking water, washing, and sleeping.

For those who cannot cope with basic life requirements, it is essential to acknowledge the situation and seek professional help. Remember, to be kind to yourself every day.

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