The Positive Pensive

An anxious pessimist tries to find the positive
A cup of tea and a book in front of a chair

What the heck is self-care, anyway?

The term ‘Self-care’ has become popularised with regards to mental health – and it’s a good thing too. It’s self-care week, so it’s about bloody time you knew what it is and why it’s rad. 

I’ve written briefly around the topic in the past, highlighting little moments to savour and 9 ways I could improve my mental health. Still, it’s high time we explored the concept of self-care a little more – because it may just surprise you.

WTF is self-care?

I’ll tell you what it isn’t: meditating all day with sporadic sessions of yoga. Although, it could be!

My point is that self-care has a bit of a wanky reputation for being limited to very specific things. The truth is self-care can be defined as anything kind you do for yourself that looks after your mental, emotional and physical health.

And given that we’re all quite different in what we like and don’t like, that means self-care looks different for everyone. It’s unique to you.

So far, so good. We’re all loving the idea of self-care now, right?

Okay, good. Now, I don’t want to get too rigid about it, but there are a few things to bear in mind to make sure you’re practising lovely, re-energising ‘me’ time.

Intentional self-care

The point of self-care is that it’s a conscious gesture, a way to treat yourself. So ideally, it should be something that you can plan to look forward to – not something that happens typically as a routine part of your day.

This can be where people lose interest.

Planning stuff?”

I know, I know. But self-care doesn’t have to be a four-hour spa session (although it could be), or watching the directors’ cut of Lord of the Rings (although it could be).

It’s about taking a little time to focus on something that makes you feel nurtured and, well, happy. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. It could be simply enjoying a meal you don’t usually have, or giving yourself a half-hour lie-in because damn it’s Sunday and you deserve it.

Makedaisychains on Instagram has some great ideas of ‘#BoringSelfCare’ that can still make you feel good.

Promoting happiness

I’m hoping if you’ve made it this far, you get the idea that self-care is something positive to be enjoyed.

Making time for self-care can be tricky, but it shouldn’t feel like something you’re forcing yourself to do. You might like a bit of yoga every now and then, but forcing yourself to do it every Wednesday night – even if you’re feeling unwell or run-down – is probably not going to make you feel super cared for.

Exercise is, of course, good for you and sometimes getting started is the hardest bit. Still, if you’re genuinely not in a position to don your activewear and do some intense stretching, it’s worth considering an alternative option.

Run yourself a bath. Start a new book. Get an early night. All of these options can be just as satisfying and make you feel looked after. You can exercise when you feel better.

Find what works for you

Many of us have particular commitments on days of the week – whether it’s our working hours, gym sessions, classes we attend. Whatever it is, these can make us feel like we’re short on time and have no room for self-care.


I hate to say it but, on these days (or evenings), you’re just gonna need to figure out what works for you. If I’ve got an appointment that doesn’t get me home until 6.30pm – and then I have to make dinner, do chores, and whatever else – I’ll make sure that my little window of self-care is short and indulgent, or takes place earlier in the day.

That can be buying myself a nice lunch (which I wouldn’t usually do), or even simply taking the time to savour a glass of wine (which I definitely sometimes do).

It’s all about being flexible and getting to know what makes you feel good. Like this guy:


For more ideas on self-care, check out the Mind website or check out this list of 45 tiny self-care practices from Tiny Buddha.

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