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Because you’re worth it: how to practise self-care

Caring for yourself isn’t self-indulgent - it’s an act of self-preservation, and it can benefit those closest to you too

Self-care is a hackneyed phrase. It’s a concept co-opted by advertisers to flog everything from golf holidays to hair conditioner – “because you’re worth it”. At its root self-care is about reclaiming something, like your time, your energy, your agency or just some peace. You don’t have to spend anything to do that.

You’ve got a friend in me

Growing up there is a huge emphasis on manners, putting others first and being “good”. But this shouldn’t be at a heavy cost to ourselves, says Bethan O’Riordan, an accredited psychotherapist with the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP). “I see it a lot in the therapy room, people give so much to other people and in fact they are incredibly anxious themselves.”

One of the difficulties people have with self-care is it’s a lot easier to be kind to others rather than turn it inwards on ourselves, she says. To overcome this ask yourself, “what advice would I give to my friend? Nine times out of 10 you would give that friend really excellent advice. You can forget the same advice is even possible for yourself.”


Self-care or selfish?

Some critics of self-care say it’s about looking out for me as opposed to looking out for each other, prioritising the self over the collective to which our health and happiness is inextricably linked. But caring for yourself isn’t self-indulgent, it’s an act of self-preservation and it can benefit those closest to you too, says O’Riordan. “To be able to give we have to have something to give,” she says. “Everyone around us does well because of us – whether that is in a job, in a family, in parenting or in a relationship – when we are at our best we are most available to ourselves and to other people.”

Small is beautiful

Facing a tough week? Don’t postpone self-care until the weekend. Chances are you will be in a heap by Friday and self-care will take the form of a prosecco/cookie dough/Netflix blowout.

“Even taking really short breaks throughout the day can be helpful,” says O’Riordan. Think about the things that deplete you – maybe it’s a work presentation or getting the kids dressed and out the door for school. Re-nourish yourself after you do those things, she says. “This could mean just stopping and recognising that something was hard, pausing for a cup of coffee or reading a page of a book – anything that replenishes that internal reservoir. Taking really short breaks throughout the day can be helpful.”


If the idea of self-care feels a bit self-indulgent try self-compassion. Self-compassion takes practise, however. Instead of berating yourself for the things you think you are getting wrong, be kind to yourself about the things you find difficult. “Try to have compassion for yourself. Compassion is the wisdom to say, ‘Gosh, this is very hard in my life’,” says O’Riordan. “That can be a lot easier and feel more tangible than the idea of self-care. It can feel more authentic.”

Schedule fun

With a mountain of work and household tasks to get through alongside caring responsibilities, life can feel like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. That’s no fun, so you’ve got to make time for fun.

“I think one part of self-care that people miss is to incorporate fun into their lives,” says O’Riordan. “So much of the time we are trying to get the bits done that we need to get done for life to trundle on. We forget to factor in fun as a form of self-care.”

Whatever it is that is fun for you do more of it.