Back to basics, environment and physical needs

So in summary of last week, self-care is about recognising our own needs and actively engaging in behaviours to try and meet those needs. Hopefully after last week you managed to have a think about your own needs. Sometimes this can come to us really quickly and other times it can be more challenging. For example today I can recognise that I feel tired. So my need might be for rest, or sleep. I also might be bored and feeling tired, so my need might be for fun. Or I might be tired from repeating the same kind of behaviours, so maybe my need is for change or time to reflect, for example journaling. Understanding our needs is a difficult thing to do and it takes time, practice and patience!

What makes understanding our needs even more difficult is when our basic needs are going unmet. These include our need for safety and security, food, water, sleep etc. Think about it, when you’re hungry what use are you to anyone? Or how do you feel after a couple of nights of no sleep? We are pretty useless right? These fundamental human needs are common to us all, and they are a priority. If you are not sleeping, or you do not feel safe, there is no point in trying to journal to address our emotional needs, or do mindfulness for psychological needs for example. Basic human needs always come first.

Always address your basic human needs first.

So what do we mean by this? Think about someone you love or care for. A family member, a child, a pet, a friend. If you were responsible for them, would you allow them to go a few days without good food? Without water? Without safety? No. We prioritise these needs for others, but we are not so good at doing this for ourselves. I recently had a long conversation with a client about food. She described how she doesn’t need to eat healthy as she doesn’t gain weight. This led to a long conversation about how food is not about body image, but rather about fuel for our bodies. Our bodies need fuel to function. Healthy food gives us energy, improves concentration, releases good endorphins. Food makes us feel strong and motivated. Or it can make us tired, lethargic, exhausted and fed up. It depends what we put into our bodies. Trying to function well without good food, water or sleep is like trying to drive with no petrol.

Trying to function well without good food, water or sleep is like trying to drive with no petrol.

It can be the same with out environment. If your environment feels unsafe or stressful, it is going to be extremely hard to focus on any other form of self-care. We need a healthy, safe, clean environment in order to be able to function well.

So the homework for this week is to start with your basic needs. Does your environment feel safe? Does it feel clean and comfortable? Have you had some healthy body fuel (food) today? Have you given your body some water? Have you had enough sleep? And if not, is there ways to address these things first? If you feel stuck think about how you would care for a loved one, or a child. What would their basic needs be, how would you meet them, and how can you apply this to yourself. Try this out for a few days and see how you get on. It seems so basic, but it regularly amazes me how much we neglect our bodies physically, and then wonder why we don’t feel good. Let’s start with the basics.

Good luck and take care,

Jessica

Self-Care... What does it mean?

One of the most popular answers I get when I ask clients about what they think self-care means is “ways of relaxing”. I think we all do this subconciously. I want to do an exercise with you… Quickly think of three things you can do to practice self-care… go go go! Don’t read on until you think of a couple..

I would generally be pretty willing to bet that they include things like taking a bath, lighting candles, listening to music or going for a walk. Am I close? Were these things on your list? We often first think of relaxing strategies when we are thinking about self-care. These things will help you to relax (usually). But is relaxing the same as self-care? I think that often it comes across that way in the media. Self-care and relaxation strategies are often spoken about interchangeably. But self-care and relaxation are not the same thing!

Self-care and relaxation are not the same thing

And here is where it gets more confusing… sometimes they can be the same thing, if a person needs to relax! Take for example a busy working mum. She may feel like she never has a minute alone to herself, she is always on the go, feeling exhausted and finding it hard to de-stress at the end of the day. This woman needs to relax. So strategies such as taking a bath or going for a walk alone are likely going to help her and if she recognises that she needs time for this regularly and puts in place some kind of a plan to manage this, then this will go from being a relaxation strategy to fitting into the category of self care. But now lets consider another woman, she is unemployed, low in mood and struggling with motivation. If she has a bath or goes for a walk is it going to help her? It may make her feel more relaxed, but not necessarily better. This woman needs to feel fulfilled. She needs a new role, a sense of purpose each day and actually something to curb the boredom and slump she is feeling. Self-care for this woman might be something like learning a new skill, being responsible for others such as elderly or children, volunteering etc. Making this woman feel relaxed, when actually she needs to feel inspired is not self-care. Self-care is about recognising our own needs, and finding ways to meet them.

Self-care is about recognising our own needs, and finding ways to meet them.

Does this make sense? Lets take another one. A man this time. This man feels lonely and isolated and as a result his mood is low. What can he do as self-care? Our relaxation strategies, while maybe making him feel relaxed are unlikely to help him as they are solitary behaviours. What is his need? A need for connection? Company? To feel valued by others? His self-care will be developed to meet these needs. Self-care for this man may mean calling a friend and going to meet them for a coffee. Maybe he needs to join a new club, or do a group activity or sport. Self-care for each of our examples is going to look different because each of their needs are different.

It can be hard to work out what we need. Especially if we haven’t had good role models to encourage us and model this for us. This is why clients come to me feeling fed up. One client once told me “I swear if you’re going to tell me to light a candle and take a bath I am going to walk out of here and never come back”. Although we had a giggle, I was pretty clear with her that if a candle and a bath were going to cut it, there would never be any need for psychology. Sometimes it is hard to recognise our own needs and if we cannot recognise them then we cannot hope to meet them. Many people get stuck in this way.

What about you? do you know what your needs are right now? Here is an exercise I often try with clients.. Answer me this, if I had a magic wand right now and could give you anything you want to make you feel better, what would it be? Does something come to mind? Take a minute to think about this one…

I believe that we all do generally know what we need, but we struggle to notice this and sometimes need an extra hand. What would our examples say? Our busy mum would probably tell me she just wants an hour to herself, if I could magic that up for her. Our lonely man might tell us he would like me to magic him up a nice partner, or a decent friend. We do usually know what we need deep down. We just need to give ourselves some time and space to work it out.

This could be your first step towards self care. Giving yourself some time in the day to sit and reflect about what your needs are. Do you need rest or some fun? Do you need time alone or to be with others? When you stop and think about it, what is your body telling you. Remember if you feel like you need some extra support with this, you can always get in touch for a free consultation to discuss your needs, and what Auric Psychology can do to help you.

Good luck, take care of yourself,

Jessica

Self care for me is always about good coffee!

Self care for me is always about good coffee!

Self Care... An Introduction

Self-care has become a popular turn of phrase. Often when someone is run down, or they seem a bit tired, or flustered, we will remind them “Don’t forget, self-care is so important!”. Social media streams are filled with articles teaching us ways to practice self-care with everything from “self-care in three easy steps” to “Self-care, why it doesn’t work”. In the therapy room, I teach self-care and I have come across all kinds of behaviours that individuals practice, so I thought it might be helpful to start a blog about some of these ideas, to share with you all.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be discussing various “methods” of self-care, and dispelling some of the rumours about what self-care is (or isn’t!). For now check out the image attached, and check in with your own beliefs. Is this how you would have defined self-care? What does it mean for you?

Take care of yourself,

Jessica

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