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At Self Help UK, we understand the importance of taking good care of yourself. Self Care can mean a number of different things, but on this page you can find out what it means to us.
For our Self Care Training resources page, please click here.
What is self-care?
Self-care is a term that is cropping up a lot these days, from the government, healthcare services and just in the news – but it may not be too clear what is actually being said when people talk about ‘self-care’.
Watch this video to find out how different people defined self-care:
It’s important to emphasise from the start that self-care is not the same as no care. When self-care is mentioned or recommended, it is an invitation to you to become the most important part of your own health and wellbeing, not a dismissal or a refusal of help. Self-care means that you take control and responsibility for your health, wellbeing and lifestyle. It means that you can maintain your independence and not become reliant on other services or individuals.
The Department of Health defines self care as being:
“. . . about individuals taking responsibility for their own health and well-being. This includes: staying fit and healthy, both physically and mentally; taking action to prevent illness and accidents; and the better use of medicines and treatment of minor ailments.”
Self-care is about being empowered. By self-caring for life you will be improving your health and wellbeing – forever.
What do you do to self-care?
You may already be self-caring without realising it! There are so many different ways that you can self-care, some of them might seem obvious. Outside hospitals or care homes, everyone self cares all of the time but not everyone self cares optimally. Medical treatment and the way in which it is delivered can either support or erode the capacity to self care.
Here we found out what our self-carers do as part of their everyday routines:
Anything that you do to improve your health or mood is self care. Brushing your teeth, getting enough sleep and taking 30 minutes of exercise each day are just a few examples of everyday tasks that are actually acts of self-care. Taking good care of a long term health condition is a great example of self-care. If they’re not properly monitored and looked after, conditions like diabetes, COPD and depression can become more complicated and seem to be unmanageable.
What you are doing when you self-care is taking your health and wellbeing into your own hands and becoming empowered! Let us know what you do to self-care by tweeting to @SelfHelpTeam
Who should self-care?
The short answer is: Everyone! Self-care is not just related to long term health conditions or ailments – although these can be improved through self-care. It goes back to that well known saying ‘prevention is better than cure’.
To make it more manageable, pure self-care can be broken down into categories.
Self-care through lifestyle changes and maintenance is something that really applies to everyone. These are the small changes that we make to everyday decisions and lifestyle choices to improve our immediate and future health. Eating a balanced diet, cutting back on alcohol, exercising regularly or quitting smoking all count as self-care; so does brushing your teeth!
You’re probably already doing something every day that is self-care – good for you!
Self-care for minor illnesses is something that we’re all likely to do at some point in our lives. Administering first aid, getting medicine over the counter and knowing when to go to the pharmacy instead of A&E are all ways of self-caring.
Self-management of a long term condition is also self-care. By managing your condition well, you are doing everything that you can to stay in control and lessen the risk of complications or exacerbation.
At least one of these categories applies to everyone; even if you’re just maintaining a healthy weight or brushing your teeth every day you are self caring for life!
When should you self-care?
You may go for a run first thing in the morning or have an early night. You might pop to the pharmacy in your lunchbreak to keep your medication stocked up or decide not to have your afternoon cigarette break. These things are all self-caring at a time that is convenient to YOU.
Self-care doesn’t have a set timetable, or an expiry date. You should self-care when you can; it is as simple as that. It can fit neatly into your existing daily routine quite snugly without having to make major lifestyle changes, in most cases.
If you are making the decision to self-care for life do it in a way that is achievable. Don’t pledge to do too much and become disheartened if you can’t commit to it. Take small steps to make little but significant self-care changes in your life.
One of the important self-care messages is to know your own body and what feels ‘right’ or healthy for you. If you feel unwell then do seek assistance; if it’s a cold go to your pharmacist instead of your GP. But don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it; struggling in silence is not good for your physical or mental health.
Try to make some time for yourself each day; 30 minutes of exercise is great but if you can’t afford that then take 10 minutes to relax or reflect. Putting yourself first when it comes to your health and welfare is responsible, not selfish – take all the time you need!
Where should you self-care?
You can self-care wherever you are. If you are at home, self-care by making a healthy choice of what to make for dinner. If you’re at work make sure that you’re not staring at a computer screen for too long. If you’re out and about walk a little faster to increase your heart rate.
There are things that you can do to self-care no matter where you are.
A big part of self-care is understanding which health service is suitable for your health needs. A&E is designed for life threatening emergencies only. If you have a minor illness or injury or want some advice from a health professional, you can self-care and save yourself time by visiting your pharmacist. You’ll be seen quicker and can drop in rather than having to make an appointment. You can also receive advice on managing your medicines and pointers on how you can self-care for life.
It’s also important to know how to stay healthy for all your working life. Occupational Health can play a big part in self-care. If you are taking regular medication, make sure that you are aware of any side effects or instructions – especially if you are driving or lifting heavy machinery.
Your health and wellbeing should always come first. You don’t need to stay away from work with sore throats, coughs or colds – pop to your local pharmacist instead!
Ultimately self-care is about you taking responsibility for your own health and wellbeing, which is something that you can make the decision to do wherever you are. Self-caring for life means that you find places and times that fit with your lifestyle to put your health first.
Why should you self-care?
This is probably the biggest question about self-care – why do it?
The reason is simple; it will directly benefit you. There is not a good reason not to self-care; you will be taking responsibility of your lifestyle and health into your own hands. It isn’t a trick to try to deprive you of any health service because those services are still there for when you need them. In fact, if everyone starts to self-care for life, those services will be more readily accessible!
If you self-care for life then you are making positive steps to improve your health and your quality of life. It is about being empowered and maintaining your independence. The little things really will make a difference; by eating well and exercising more you will improve your fitness and you mood or by making sure your medicine is stocked up you avoid running out and facing complications.
Take control and feel good about yourself! Make self-care a lifelong habit.
There are a number of resources that are available to you to help you get started:
- Check your symptoms and know what to do next: www.nhs.uk/symptom-checker
- For tips to live well NHS Choices can help: www.nhs.uk/livewell/Pages/Livewellhub.aspx
- NHS Choices can also help with advice on long term conditions: www.nhs.uk/planners/yourhealth/pages/yourhealth.aspx