More information about the importance of self-care and how it can benefit your wellbeing – particularly if you live with a visible difference.
Living with a visible difference can have an impact on our mental health, and it can be easy to neglect our own self-care. Self-care planning helps to ensure that we look after ourselves.
Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t programmed to be instantly happy. Self-fulfilment requires practice just like any skill – and that’s why self-care planning can be invaluable.
On this page, we explore the benefits of having a self-care plan and suggest how you can put one together.
When we are finding things difficult, it is easy to fall back on habits that provide comfort. Often, these strategies are not caring towards ourselves. If you live with a visible difference, you may experience difficult situations a lot. However, relying on unhealthy habits to provide reassurance can make it more difficult to lead an enjoyable life.
Good self-care planning helps us avoid these unhealthy habits by paying attention to the five key areas of self-care:
Self-care planning helps us focus systematically on these areas and look after ourselves better. This is like using a map to get somewhere, or a recipe to bake a cake. Our self-care plan is there to guide us and help us check that we’re on the right track.
Read our guide “What is self-care?” alongside this one to find out more about the five areas of self-care – as well as some key signs that you may need to practise more self-care.
To help you draw up a self-care plan, it is helpful to understand your current routine. Think about what you already do and what you want to change under each of the areas above and write these down. We have included examples below.
Positive self-care things I do already:
- Physical: I walk the dog every day.
- Emotional: I work at being happy in my marriage.
- Psychological: I meditate every day.
- Social: I attend a weekly walking club.
- Professional: I work hard and produce work I am proud of.
Things I would like to change about my self-care:
- Physical: I’d like to cut down on my drinking.
- Emotional: I need to spend more time with my family after work.
- Psychological: I need to stop being so hard on myself and think more positively.
- Social: I need to stop making excuses to friends about meeting up.
- Professional: I need to stop working such long hours.
Self-care things I would like to try:
- Physical: I’d like to try a Pilates class.
- Emotional: I’d like to join a book club and make time to read more.
- Psychological: I want to do a photography course to learn about techniques.
- Social: I’d like to meet at least one friend a week.
- Professional: I’d like to learn more about social media in my job.
A good self-care plan is made up of manageable, realistic steps.
Identify a goal you would like to work towards and how you can make time every day to practise this:
- Take things slowly – start small and you can build up as you get the hang of it.
- Use a diary or online calendar to record areas where you have done well with your self-care. Also note where you have struggled, need more support or found barriers to your goals.
- Don’t feel silly about adding small things, such as taking a long bath or half an hour for a cup of tea, as these all add up to improve your overall self-care and wellbeing.
- Make sure your self-care plan is personal to you.
- Consider asking a trusted friend or family member to look over the diary with you, particularly someone you live with. They might have helpful suggestions and also be able to offer support to you in some areas, such as not disturbing your set “me time” or accompanying you to events.
To help with your goals, you may find it helpful to set weekly goals using your diary or calendar. Here is an example of this – where the goal is to work on confidence:
- Monday: Pin affirmations next to the mirror and read them each morning.
- Tuesday: Join the book club.
- Wednesday: Pick out three outfits which I feel comfortable and confident in and take photos on my phone so I can refer back to them when I am feeling nervous about what to wear.
- Thursday: Find some recipes online for healthy meals I can take to work.
- Friday: Go out for coffee or lunch with a colleague at lunch time.
- Saturday: Create a relaxing space in the bedroom.
- Sunday: Walk the dog in the park and talk to at least one other dog walker.
At the end of each week, look over your weekly goals and think about what you have achieved and ask these questions:
- What do you feel proud of?
- What worked out well for you?
- What did you take control of?
- Were there any barriers holding you back?
- What could you do differently to help you?
An example answer to the last question is that you might ask a friend to come to the first book club meeting if you felt too nervous to go by yourself.
Sometimes you will achieve your goals and can move on to the next stage or another goal. Other times, you will need to transfer goals to the next week and try again – don’t beat yourself up, but think of practical ways you can achieve them, building on what you have learnt the first-time round.
Although it may seem daunting at first, we hope that self-care planning helps you cope better with the anxiety, stress and difficulties you may sometimes feel living with a visible difference.