Looking after yourself includes taking care of your mental, emotional, physical, social and practical needs.
Each of us has our own personal values, life situations and support needs. How you look after your mental health and wellbeing is different for everyone.
It’s important that self-care feels achievable, effective, and right for you. Self-care doesn’t need to cost money, and it doesn’t even need to take up much time in your day.
PANDA’s guide to self-care keeps the focus simple. It’s about taking time to identify what matters to you most and creating time and space each day to look after your own wellbeing.
Why is self-care so important?
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says that self-care is a core activity of daily living. Self-care isn’t a luxury, like an occasional or one-off special event. It’s the small, everyday actions we take to look after ourselves and our loved ones, and the things that help us make life feel manageable and enjoyable.
Self care is a crucial skill to practise in our adult lives.
Care is a survival tool we all need and use every day. Self-care is so much more than just surviving though. It’s how we look after ourselves, day in and out, with the inner and external tools we have available.
Everybody uses self-care, every day, even if they don’t realise it. Small things like having a cup of tea, making an appointment or even paying a bill you’ve been putting off can count as acts of self-care. Know that you are worthy and deserving of care, in every aspect of your life. Trust that all actions you take to look after yourself, no matter how small, can have a positive impact.
Major benefits of self-care
Simple self-care ideas
Everyone needs regular meals, water, rest, and movement. Beyond these basic building blocks of a care routine, there are many different self-care activities you can try. The right combination of care strategies may help you manage your wellbeing by decreasing stress. Effective self-care may also bring an increased sense of connectedness, purpose and hope to your life.
“I created a triage to do list for daily/weekly life which sits on the fridge so everyone who comes in the house can see what needs to be done at any given time with a quick look around to confirm if it’s been done or not.”
Things to try when self-care feels overwhelming
Sometimes it may feel hard, almost impossible, to find the energy and motivation to practice self-care. Thinking about where to start and what to do for self-care may feel overwhelming.
It might be easy to criticise yourself if you’re having a difficult day and can’t manage your usual self-care activities. Maybe you missed your morning shower because you were up half the night with an unsettled baby.
Your self-care activity on this kind of day might be:
- Giving yourself permission to have a pyjama day
- Washing your face and popping some comfy clothes on
- Asking family or a friend to care for your baby during the day or night so you have a moment to shower or have a sleep.
Occasionally judgement creeps into conversation about self-care. For example: “Real self-care isn’t about bubble baths and massages, that’s just indulgent”. But for some people a warm shower, bath, or five minutes on the couch giving yourself a gentle neck or hand massage is genuine, practical and relaxing daily self-care.
Finding the right support people
Good support people ask you what you need. They listen with care, curiosity and compassion. If you tell them what kind of support you need, they help you access that – whether it’s a chat or cup of tea, help booking an appointment, or a moment to yourself.
People who are kind, patient, and interested in your wellbeing belong in our inner circle of caring community. They might be health care providers, loved ones, or another parent at playgroup. Your community of care might include people you’ve known for years, and new people you’ve met during pregnancy and early parenthood.
Setting boundaries when your support needs aren't being met
Consider changing the way you are in contact with people
Talk to someone
“Like when you’re on an aeroplane and they tell you to always fit your own oxygen mask first - I can only bring full compassion and patience to others when I have given them to myself.”
Give yourself time
As our children grow and evolve, so do our own personal support needs. Life keeps changing, and as it does we all need to adapt to new circumstances and routines.
As life happens and different challenges come up, our self-care needs may change over time. That’s normal. Self-care strategies that you’ve used for years, last month, or this week may feel less useful today in future. This doesn't mean you can’t do self-care. It’s likely a sign that you may need to adjust your self-care strategies to meet the changing parts of life.
Caring for yourself can be hard work sometimes. It may feel hard to prioritise your own mental health and wellbeing support needs, especially if you’re used to putting everybody else’s needs ahead of your own. It could be a nap, warm cup of tea or a guided grounding exercise, freezing some easy meals for your family or speaking to your GP. Self-care is simply looking after yourself.
As the expert in your life, you’re the one who decides what self-care looks like in your day-to-day routine. If you’d like some support to find different self-care strategies, you can call the PANDA Helpline and speak with one of our counsellors about your support and wellbeing needs.
PANDA Community Champion story
How Alice practises self-care
"I have a debilitating health condition that required lots of rehab after pregnancy, so I did meditation or sat by the edge of the beach even in wild weather to feel connected to something bigger."
PANDA National Helpline
Find someone to talk to, Monday to Saturday.
1300 726 306
Call 000 for police and ambulance if you or someone else are in immediate danger
Talk with friends or family
Consider talking about how you are feeling with someone you trust. This might be a friend or family member. Once you starting talking you might be surprised at how many others have had similar experiences and the support they can provide you.
Talk with your doctor
Talking with your doctor can be an important step to getting the help you need. They should be able to give you non-judgemental support, assessment, diagnosis, and ongoing care and treatment. They can also refer you to specialists such as a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
Get help now
If you are having suicidal thoughts or are feeling disorientated it’s important to get help immediately. PANDA is not a crisis service, if you need immediate support call Lifeline 13 11 14 (24/7).