The importance of looking after yourself emotionally

Every week, Dominique McMullan tries something different. This week: practising self-care

We all need to practise self-care. Photograph: Getty Images

This week I practised self-care. Self-care is a zeistgeisty expression which inspires eye rolls. It’s about looking after yourself emotionally. It’s something Irish women, especially Irish mums, aren’t very good it. It all sounds a bit indulgent, like sure wouldn’t we be better if we just got on with it?

It’s become a bit of a dirty word. Some see it as an excuse for millennials to indulge, while instead they get on with working 12-hour days and shouting at people in traffic. Some think it’s emblematic of the “lazy” snowflake generation, that it’s only practised by eco boomers (a very millennial term for, well, millennials) who are more interested in Netflix and Chill – in the literal sense – than doing any actual real work. (Side note: Netflix and Chill can actually be practised in the metaphorical or literal sense as self-care, should you wish.)

But self-care is not decadent. It is about taking responsibility for yourself. Despite being a new buzzword, it is not a new action. It should not be treated reverentially. It is not another stick to beat yourself with. It’s essential.

I’ve heard it described as emotional hygiene. Just like how taking a shower is important and necessary if you want to function in society, taking time to mind your brain and indeed your soul is too.


Yoga stretches

Self-care doesn’t have to be about yoga stretches, glowing skin and long baths. And unlike some health gurus might tell you, you can’t do it wrong. For one person it might mean a face mask, for another it might mean turning off their phone. Maybe it means going for a walk or listening to a podcast. For some people it’s about inspiration boards, meditation and affirmations. But for others it’s about regular sleep, home-cooked food and extra large gin and tonics.

For me, this week, it was about reading. I can become a bit obsessed about getting eight hours of sleep in. My husband laughs when he sees my fingers moving as I'm falling asleep; mentally counting the hours before I have to get up. Last night I threw caution to the wind and stayed up until midnight reading and drinking tea. Wild times, I know. I wasn't wrecked the next day, and I had fed my soul with a lovely story (A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara). My "self" was cared for and I was a nicer person for it. You there at your desk, you should try it.