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As our third annual International Weekend of Self-Care (IWOSC) approaches, I wanted to share with you a few of my recent thoughts on self-care.

There are many different ways you can think about or define self-care – which can make the topic a bit tricky to navigate!

At The Lily-Jo Project, we typically define self-care as: 

  • The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own physical and mental health.
  • The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own wellbeing and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

However, through a different lens, self-care can also be thought of as a way of nurturing and parenting yourself in a healthy way. 

Which brings me to the question… What if you have not experienced good quality parenting as a child? What if nurturing yourself feels uncomfortable or even “wrong” or “selfish”? What if you don’t even know the first place to start when it comes to looking after your wellbeing? 

You are not alone. In fact, Psychology Today reported in 2021 that an estimated two out of every three people in the United States do not practice self-care, with 46% estimated to be “struggling” to find ways to maintain their mental health. 

There is good news, too. Perspectives on self-care are shifting in a positive direction due to increased health awareness after the pandemic. For example, recent research from Hearst found that an estimated 90% of individuals in the UK now recognise that self-care is important. 

Of course, knowing that self-care is important and knowing exactly how to self-care are two completely different things – and it’s okay if you feel a bit lost! 

Let’s T.H.I.N.K. About Self-Care

So in light of this year’s self-care weekend, let’s take a step back and T.H.I.N.K. about ways we can improve or tweak our self-care practices. 

T – Thoughts

A holistic approach to self-care incorporates both positive and realistic thinking. Positive thoughts help to promote good overall well-being and happiness, while realistic thoughts help us stay grounded. 

There are many different ways to manage your thought life, and what works best for some may not work for others. One tool I often recommend to clients is to maintain a gratitude journal, which involves regularly writing down the things you are grateful for. By focusing on positive aspects of your life, you can shift your perspective and improve your thought patterns in general. Another great strategy to promote positive thinking is the 2-Minute Morning Method, which is based on key happiness research. 

If you find yourself struggling with negative thoughts, I encourage you to check out Harvard’s guide on how to identify negative automatic thought patterns. Another great article is How To Stop Negative Self-Talk from the Cleveland Clinic. 

H – Holiday Moments

You know that feeling where you’re away on holiday, and you literally have nothing to do but enjoy yourself? This feeling doesn’t only have to exist thousands of miles away at the beach or in the mountains. We can actually capture these moments of joy and relaxation in our daily life.

How? I like to encourage the people I work with to have “holiday moments” each day. Start by thinking about all your favourite things to do when you’re away. 

 Here are a few of mine…

  • Reading
  • Photography
  • Cultural experiences
  • Nature walks
  • Spa and wellness treatments
  • Exploring local shops and cafes 

Then, make a conscious effort to carve out time each day to do something that you love to do on holiday. It doesn’t have to be expensive – even curling up with a book or doing a face mask at home can help us get that relaxed, holiday feeling. 

I – Intuition

Self-care is also about listening to your gut and following your intuition. If something is making you feel a negative way – for example, it evokes anger, sadness, anxiety, or guilt, make an effort to first listen to those feelings and then try to understand what the situation is teaching you.

You may not be able to pinpoint the exact emotion that you are experiencing – and that’s okay! Instead, your emotions can manifest themselves physically – for example, as an increased heart rate, butterflies in your stomach, or sleepless nights. 

Navigating these uncomfortable emotions may require some additional reflection – for example in a journal or through a creative activity. You may also find it helpful to discuss your thoughts and feelings with a trusted counsellor. 

Finally, once you have found some clarity, you are well positioned to make any necessary decisions or changes for your individual life. 

N – Nutrition

Balancing your nutrition is an essential part of self care. This involves drinking plenty of water and making sure to eat regular, balanced meals. 

Everyone’s journey with diet and nutrition is unique. One thing that I often recommend to clients is keeping a food diary. This is not a diary to track calories, but rather a diary to track your food intake and corresponding emotions. 

There are dozens of food diary templates that you can download online – here is an example of a daily food diary from the NHS. There is also a wonderful article from Mind on food and mental health that may be helpful to read through as well. 

K – Kindness

Kindness and self-care are also closely intertwined. Being kind not only benefits others, but it also has a positive impact on our own well-being. This then helps to create a harmonious cycle of care and positivity in your life. 

Here are just a few examples of kindness to consider:

  • Being kind to others: volunteering, inviting a neighbour for a cup of tea/coffee, cooking a meal for someone in need, offering to run an errand for an overwhelmed friend, surprising your partner with a small gift or taking care of a household chore. 
  • Being kind to ourselves: speak to yourself in an encouraging voice, let go of your mistakes, write a list of things you are grateful for, take a walk in nature, allow yourself time to do something you enjoy – even if all your tasks for the day are not finished. 

There is actually quite a lot of research that supports the many benefits of kindness. You can learn more from the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness and the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

Final Thoughts & Additional Resources

The practice of self-care is a continuous, ever-evolving process, and it’s perfectly normal for your routines to change through the various seasons of life. What should always stay the same, however, is your relentless pursuit of maintaining good mental and physical health – even if that means setting a few boundaries, making some changes, or challenging yourself to explore your emotions. 

If you found this article helpful, check out the following resources on self-care:

About The Lily-Jo Project’s International Weekend of Self-Care

This blog article is a part of The Lily-Jo Project’s International Weekend of Self-Care campaign which takes place in August. To learn more about this campaign and access additional self-care resources, visit www.thelilyjoproject.com/internationalweekendofselfcare

About the Author: Lily-Jo

Lily-Jo is a qualified mental health counsellor, counselling supervisor, and senior coach at Unstoppable Life Coaching. She is also the founder of mental health organisation, The Lily-Jo Project, which is a platform devoted to using the power of music to educate, equip, and empower people of all ages to take control of their mental health.

In 2023, she released her debut book Talking To Children About Mental Health, which focuses on the unique challenges that gen z and gen alpha are facing and how adults can help them. 

You can catch Lily-Jo on her podcast or stay connected on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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