Self-care is about self-initiated behaviours that promote good health and wellbeing. Sometimes we can forget to help and care for ourselves as we are concerned with helping others. Putting your wellbeing first need not be a selfish act. After all, one cannot pour from an empty cup.
The term self-care has received considerable attention in recent years as we have seen numerous products, services, health and fitness experts, all geared towards improving wellbeing.
Self-care looks different for everyone. It could be going to the gym, taking a road trip with friends, meditation, or cleaning your living space. There are many ways to practice self-care, and it all boils down to doing things that you enjoy or need. Self-care does not have to be elaborative or even expensive.
It should be about practical things that you need to do to remain healthy, reduce stress, and feel as mentally well as possible.
Self-care relies on self-awareness in order to recognise patterns in your emotions. This includes events or situations that cause negative feelings as well as activities that improve your mood or reduce your stress levels. Self-awareness thus helps in devising your own self-care activities based on what is best for you and your life.
As a self-care practice, mindfulness is a mental state which involves the intentional focusing of the attention on an object, for example, breathing, while observing thoughts, emotions, and sensations as they emerge in the present moment. Our thoughts can have very powerful effects on how we feel, and often those thoughts are triggered and drive our behaviour quite automatically. Mindfulness, therefore, teaches you to be present to whatever experience you’re having at that moment without forming judgement or having to react. Intrusive thoughts can then be experienced as neutral while you detach yourself from them and observe your thoughts. As such, you can become less reactive to stress-related or anxiety-provoking events.
Why is mindfulness effective?
- Mindfulness influences our health through emotional regulation, which can help us understand and cope with uncomfortable situations. Some people suppress or avoid negative emotions, which is unhealthy for the mind and body.
- Attention regulation is important, especially in a fast-paced environment. Mindfulness strengthens the ability to control attention and focus; you can learn to focus well despite distractions.
- Mindfulness increases body awareness and improves physical health in several ways, by relieving stress, lowering blood pressure and improving sleep.
- Mindfulness can induce changes in the perspective of the self as well as offer personal growth opportunities through self-care practices.
Caring for ourselves is important because it contributes to our wellbeing, and achieving wellbeing requires intentionality through healthy choices.
Silindokuhle is an Industrial/Organisational Psychologist registered with the HPCSA. She holds a Master’s degree from UKZN and runs an independent practice specialising in psychological assessments, training and wellbeing.