The relationship at the centre of your universe—and arguably the most important—is the one you hold with yourself.

Yes, that might sound selfish—but it’s true. As they say in those airplane safety videos, you have to put the life vest or oxygen mask on yourself before you can help someone else. And it’s the same in life—we’re not recommending you become a completely self-centred person, but we are saying that in order to be the best version of yourself for the people in your life, you have to take care of yourself first. 

You can’t fill a cup with an empty jug

In order to have the energy and emotional bandwidth to be a good friend, parent or partner to someone you care about, you need gas in the tank. And that comes right from the Dalai Lama—he’s suggested there’s a need to develop a compassionate stance towards oneself in order to to be compassionate towards others. The relationship you have with yourself, and the effort you put in to maintaining your personal equilibrium, will impact every other relationship around you. This means if you want to be present and ready to jump into action when someone needs you, you should be practising self-care and recharging your batteries as part of your normal routine. 

Take a break! 

As well as allowing you to become more emotionally available for others, self-care also plays a role in your long-term health and wellbeing. Research has shown it can help extend lifespan and reduce risk factors for illness, plus there are benefits for your mental health too—self-care has been shown to improve self-esteem and reduce anxiety. 

One study defines self-care as “the set of activities in which one engages throughout life on a daily basis,” and while that is perhaps strictly true, it doesn’t get into whether the self-care is good or bad. We’re getting somewhere when we combine it with: “the practice of consciously doing things that preserve or improve your mental or physical health.” In short, you need to be checking in with your own personal needs daily. 

US-based expert Marni Amsellem, PhD, defined self-care as “anything that you do for yourself that feels nourishing.” You heard that right—you have permission to schedule in some ‘me time’! Pretty nice, huh? “When we are regularly taking care of ourselves, we are better able to react to the things that go on in our lives,” Amsellem says. “It’s something we do to maintain positive well-being.”

Taking care of you

So with this in mind, how can you ensure you’re taking care of yourself enough to be able to show up for others in your life? 

There are a number of self-care and self-compassion practices you can incorporate into your day to keep you feeling mentally and physically fit and energised. For example, there’s the usual advice about eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and making time for rest and recuperation. Beyond this, self-care really is whatever you make it. 

As Marni Amsellam says, it should be something that nourishes you. Think about that—what activities do you feel re-energise your body and mind? Reading, cooking, maybe gardening? The main idea is that for a small percentage of your day, you ensure you are doing something—anything!—that builds a happier, healthier and stronger version of yourself, in order to preserve your relationship with number one.

Making time and space for you

Self-care as a concept seems so simple, and yet so many of us struggle to prioritise it. We may feel like we already have too many tasks to get done in a day, that somehow we don’t deserve to put our own needs first, or that by taking time for self-care we’ll be seen as selfish or vain. But we need to break through these preconceived notions and limiting beliefs that get in the way of us taking care of ourselves. 

If you need a sign to make space and time for yourself this week, then consider this blog post to be your cue. Find a slot in your diary,—even if it’s just five minutes—and block it out. That’s your time. Use it wisely!

Take a step towards better self-care with an alcohol-free challenge!



‘You Before Me’: A Qualitative Study of Health Care Professionals’ and Students’ Understanding and Experiences of Compassion in the Workplace, Self-compassion, Self-care and Health Behaviours

The experience of self-care: a systematic review

Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training

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