What is self care?
Practicing self care can help you to look after your mental and physical health
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Self care has become somewhat of a buzzword, particularly on social media. But what does it actually mean? Self care is a general term for treating yourself right. This can be anything from positive self talk to playing your favourite sport to taking a break from social media. Try to treat yourself as you would treat someone you care about. It’s easy to forget about your own needs when you’re busy but it’s good to get in the habit of taking some time for you every day.
Why is self care important?
Self care allows us to check in with how we’re feeling and look after ourselves. Here are some reasons why self care is important:
It looks after your health
Caring for yourself means both your physical and mental health will benefit. By looking after your body and your mind when you are well, you are reducing your chances of experiencing a mental or physical illness.
It prevents burnout
Burnout is a state of chronic stress. When people feel ‘burnt out’ they may feel exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Burnout can happen after a long period of stress. If you are feeling stressed, try to incorporate some things into your day that help you to feel more at ease. By taking some time out to relax, it may reduce the likelihood of you experiencing symptoms of burnout.
It helps you give your attention to what you are doing
Caring for yourself can help stop your mind from wandering and help you focus. If you are well fed, well rested and not overly stressed, your mind will feel sharper and better able to deal with the task at hand. When you are able to give each task more attention, it will help you to feel more fulfilled upon completing it, and can also help to set you up for your next challenge.
What can you do to practice self care?
Here are some ideas for practicing self care:
Do things that make you feel good:
Do you play music or write stories? Or do you feel better able to deal with life after a run? Maybe you like a cup of tea and a chat with your family or friends. Make time for doing the things you enjoy, whether that’s reading, cooking, playing video games, etc. You deserve time to recharge your batteries while reflecting on your day.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet is important for everything from your physical health to your mood and energy levels. Make time to prepare nutritious meals. The cooking part itself might be your idea of self care. If you are super busy during the week and can’t always find the time, plan ahead and make yourself a few meals at the weekend to keep in the fridge or freezer and heat them up as you need them.
Keeping active doesn’t necessarily mean running marathons or joining the gym. You can keep active in whatever way suits your budget and lifestyle. If you have the time or money to start a fitness class, join a gym, or join a sports team, that’s great. There are plenty of other ways to incorporate exercise into your day. Do some yoga in the mornings or at the end of the day. Walk or cycle instead of getting a lift or the bus. If that’s not possible maybe get off the bus a few stops early and walk the rest of the way. Go for a quick walk on your lunch break or between lectures or do some planks at home. For more ideas on how to keep active have a look at our exercise section.
Get enough sleep
Your body needs sleep to survive, and needs enough sleep to thrive. It is recommended that adolescents get between 8-10hrs of sleep per night, while adults should aim for 7-9hrs, although there may be some variation depending on the individual. By aiming to get enough sleep so that our body can rest properly, we can help ourselves to function more optimally the next day. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
If you regularly struggle with getting to sleep it might be a good idea to speak with your GP to find out if you have a sleep disorder like insomnia.
Have a look at our sleep section to learn more.
Meditation is a skill that is developed with practice. The idea is to observe your thoughts, rather than get involved with them. Giving your mind and body a break from being constantly engaged.
There are many techniques to help with meditation. Practicing mindfulness or concentrating on your breathing can help you to focus on the moment.
Be kind to yourself
Negative self-talk can seem like your inner critic. It’s so easy to be overly critical of yourself and say things that you would never say to a friend. Try to catch your negative thoughts and be more constructive and positive. Instead of “I’m always late because I am bad at time keeping” say “I could work on my timekeeping, but I know I can do it if I put my mind to it.”
Being nice to yourself also involves knowing your limits. Try not to burn yourself out by committing to too much. It’s ok to say no to things. Especially if you are already run down. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back. Pushing yourself beyond your own limits won’t benefit anyone, especially not you.
Take a break from social media
Social media may seem like an escape from your busy life but it can have negative effects on your mental health. People usually only post about the good things happening in their lives so it is important to be mindful of that when you see what other people are sharing online. It’s not real life, but it’s easy to forget that.
Set a time in the evening where you will commit to putting your devices away or try to put them away an hour or so before bed. There are apps which monitor your social media usage which you may find helpful in tracking the amount of time you spend each day online, and could help you to reduce the daily amount. If you think you have an unhealthy relationship with technology, consider doing a digital detox.
Check out some of our opinion pieces on self care and looking after yourself:
- Self-Care: My anxiety & stress survival strategy
- Reclaiming my life from social media
- The best self-care podcasts online for your mental health
- How sleep can affect your mental health
Feeling overwhelmed and want to talk to someone?
- Get anonymous support 24/7 with our text message support service
- Connect with a trained volunteer who will listen to you, and help you to move forward feeling better
- Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to begin
- Find out more about our text message support service
If you are a customer of the 48 or An Post network or cannot get through using the ‘50808’ short code please text HELLO to 086 1800 280 (standard message rates may apply). Some smaller networks do not support short codes like ‘50808’.