Self-care: Does it exist and can I have it?

Felicia Jones
Written by Felicia Jones

Summer may seem a distance memory as children return to school or maybe they’re starting or returning to college or university. We on the other hand may be changing job roles, life roles or merely departments. We may also have relatives, friends or neighbours who need our support. As a result, it can all feel too much and as if we’re perpetually rushed off our feet. It can seem that all we can do is to put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best.

Getting off this hamster wheel isn’t easy either. Society seems to advocate good mental health and wellbeing. Yet our Insta, media, achievement-driven, go go go culture suggests something else. Stress arises and this impacts everyone, not only busy working women who have children and maybe elderly relatives, but everyone.

It might surprise you to learn that this affects even those in the medical profession. Medscape ( the online platform which provides information and resources to those in the health sector report that burnout is extensive. Figures are as high as 68% being affected and a third of those are women.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 75% of mothers with dependent children also work. This does not include those that are official or non-official carers either. Real pressures exist. It’s not surprising then that The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report 17.9 million working days lost every year due to stress, depression, and anxiety.

So, what can we do?

Bring in more self-care

I know that self-care may sound a bit woolly but that can be because people often confuse the everyday practice with pamper-me specials. It’s not. Self-care isn’t simply a ‘would be nice’ or even a treat. It’s critical for our mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Continually taking care of others is important, but it can have hidden consequences. High blood pressure, eating erratically, loss of sleep, fluctuating moods, anxiety, headaches, and overall body pain are a few of the symptoms that can occur. But adding in small amounts of self-care may help and re-address the balance.

The Oxford dictionary defines self-care as:

‘The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.’

This definition says to me that it’s:

a) A practice. That means something that needs to be done on a regular basis in order for it to be effective.

b) Active. This isn’t a ‘I might’, ‘could’, ‘should take a break’, or go for a walk, or say no. This requires us to do something, and it can be hard, especially when we’re out of practice.

c) About protecting ourselves. That can sound harsh or strange as we may feel completely safe. But there must be a margin between us and others. A space where we end, and they begin. It can be easy for this line to blur especially with family which isn’t helpful for us or them.

d) About our own well-being. That means that we deserve to be well. The only way that we can ensure that, is by taking care of ourselves.

e) Finally, it says during periods of stress. I think it should read; ‘at all times.’ Applying self-care in the non-stressful times can help us to be more receptive rather than reactive. This means that we’re more likely to become less triggered when things change, or unexpected things arise.

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