One Doctor's Insightful Guide to Practicing Self-Care Every Day

Self-care is something that (as humans) we do every day. We feed ourselves, drink water, clean our teeth, brush our hair, and shower. Beyond that, many of us try to eat well and exercise. Self-care is integral to living a long, healthy and happy life. It's a hot topic right now, a wellness "buzzword" if you will. Why? Because with our modern lives are becoming busier and more hectic, so it's easy to let self-care practices (most often healthy eating and exercise) slide. 

The definition of self-care is any necessary human regulatory function, which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. Basically, self-care is all about you, it's up to you to recognise your needs, but make sure they are prioritised and take the action to ensure that they are met.

In terms of healthcare, we sometimes refer to self-care as self-management. They both work on the same principles—that people are responsible for protecting and maintaining their own health and wellbeing. And a doctor's role is to educate, support and facilitate you in this process. When we talk about self-care in medicine, we are mostly referring to the management of chronic health conditions from diabetes to asthma to heart disease. In these cases, patients become “experts” in the management of their own health condition.

Self-care in the broader sense should not just be confined to managing long-term illness. I see it as the opposite, in fact. In my work as a GP, I feel one of my most important roles is to educate patients about health, wellness and lifestyle and help empower them to take ownership of their health and, in some cases, their lives to optimise their wellbeing to maintain and protect them from both physical and mental illness.

I feel passionate about the self-care topic because in the past I have not prioritised my own self-care as much I have should have. I have definitely been guilty of attempting to spin too many plates at once and spreading myself too thin. And although I believe, at times, it's absolutely necessary to push yourself hard in order to achieve your goals, it should not be at the cost of neglecting your own care.

In my opinion, self-care boils down to education and prioritisation. It's Self Care Week and as we near the end of the year, take the next seven days to reflect on the components of your life: work, relationships, family and health. Take time to think about what needs to happen for you to carry out all the roles you have in your life in the most efficient and optimised way.

Once you have insight into your life and lifestyle, you can then make each one a priority. Often the hardest part is making it happen, but remember small changes to your daily life often make the biggest impact.

Simple things liking learning to say no, listening to your body and striving for balance in your life are key factors in self-care. They are not selfish or self-indulgent—they're essential for self-survival.

Below I have listed out the key components of self-care and some tips for practising self-care in your everyday life. Choose from the list below what areas you're neglecting, then set yourself some attainable goals for 2018. Keep scrolling to start practising self-care.

Key lifestyle factors of self-care

- Learn to relax.

- Exercise: Find something you enjoy it should be fun not a punishment.

- Eat well: Always opt for a balanced diet (fad diets fail).

- Surround yourself with positive people.

- Learn to delegate.

Top tips for a self-care mindset

- Set manageable goals and put then in an achievable time frame.

- Plan your day, week, month around your goals.

- Learn to say no.

- Listen to your body, if you’re tired let yourself sleep.

-Stop overthinking.

- Stop comparing yourself to others.

- Stop trying to change things that are out of your control.

- Believe in yourself.

- Don’t look to others for constant reassurance.

- Embrace your imperfections.

- Make a point of recognising all the amazing things in your life and be grateful for them.

- Celebrate the small things.

Next up, are you suffering from stress? These are the symptoms to look out for.