Developing a REAL self-care practice

May 11, 2018 | By More

Lisa Healy

Psychotherapist at Evidence-Based Therapy Centre

What comes to mind when you think about self-care?

When you think about self-care, does your mind give you images of being wrapped in a pristine fluffy dressing gown being pampered head to toe in a luxury spa? Do you picture yourself going on a blow-out shopping spree? Is there a giant tub of cookie dough ice-cream calling your name? Maybe a bubble bath surrounded by candles?


If these experiences sound like self-care to you: great! Treating ourselves when we have the opportunity is of course a wonderful act of self-care.

Is that where your definition of self-care ends?

Good self-care practices are an important aspect of maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health, yet many of us don’t give much thought to the everyday acts of caring for ourselves. Yes self-care can include ordering your favourite dessert or buying yourself the new coat you’ve been eyeing up, but it also includes those mundane tasks which purely help us to function well in our daily lives. Self-care is any activity which you engage in to look after your own health and well-being.

I invite you to imagine you were responsible for looking after a new-born baby: a little creature entirely dependent on you for its survival. What are the kinds of things they might need from you? What do you see yourself doing to nurture and care for this tiny human? 

You may see yourself ensuring that they are warm, safe, clean, well fed and well rested.

What about when they are in distress? How do you respond? Maybe you see yourself taking steps to sooth and reassure them. Maybe you notice yourself being loving and affectionate.

What about when they need stimulation or socialization? How do you notice yourself responding as they grow and begin to explore and play? Notice how you help them to feel safe and secure when they take their first risky little steps.

When we are young, we depend on the people around us to meet our physical, emotional, and psychological needs. As we grow and become more independent, the tasks of caring get passed on to us little by little, until we are more or less able to look after ourselves.  You might remember some of these moments from your own life, maybe the first time you poured your own cereal in the morning, or the first time your parents allowed you to stay home alone without a babysitter. We earn the trust of our care-givers and become responsible for our own health and safety. 

By the time we are adults, we’ve been caring for ourselves in a number of ways for many years.  Many of those tasks become so familiar that we can complete them on auto-pilot. They don’t take up much space in our minds.


Notice for a moment the steps that you imagined taking for that little baby, and bring to mind the ways you carry out those acts of care in your own life, in looking after yourself.

What are the steps you take to ensure you are safe, warm, well fed and well rested? Notice if there are times you put off doing these things, or skip them altogether.

How do you respond to yourself in moments of distress or discomfort? Are there times when you meet yourself with something other than soothing or reassurance?

What about when you are trying something new, or taking a risk in the service of something important to you? How do you help yourself to feel safe and secure when you need a little adventure?

What ways do you ensure you have access to fun or play (yes, even us grown-ups need it too)? Do you give yourself opportunities to laugh? What does it look like in your life when you move towards connection or belonging?


Notice the ways in which you commit to looking after yourself, even in small, seemingly insignificant ways. Do you recognize any moments where caring for yourself takes a back seat to other things? Do you see any obstacles to treating yourself as someone worthy of being looked after in these ways?

The first steps towards creating a real self-care practice are noticing the ways you can and perhaps already do look after yourself, and committing to making those tasks a priority in your day to day life. Here are some things you can try over the next week or two:

  • Get some quality rest. Why not try aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep opportunity per night? If sleeping is difficult, think about ways you might create a restful environment in your home.
  • Nourish your body by eating well and drinking plenty of water.
  • Spend time engaging with people you love. Think about ways to increase your face-to-face contact, and see if you’re willing to put away your phones or devices while you’re together.
  • Make health a priority. If there’s an appointment you’ve been putting off (maybe the dentist, or a check-up with your GP), see if you can schedule it for the near future.
  • Move your body. Maybe find a way to get in some activity while doing something fun or pleasurable. Maybe something as simple as dancing like nobody is watching to your favourite playlist.
  • Take time to be with yourself. Tune in to your own body and mind for a few moments each day. Make a little room to respond to whatever you find there with curiosity and compassion.
  • Give up the job of doing it perfectly! There will be times when you slip back into old routines or habits. Don’t become disheartened and don’t give up. A real self-care practice is just that: practice! Be gentle with yourself as you start to learn how to treat yourself with care.

If you would like to book an appointment with Lisa Healy or any of our other therapists, you can call the clinic on 091 727777 or get in touch via the contact page.

    Category: Uncategorized

    Comments are closed.