What is self-care and how can it help you cope with visible difference?

Self-care protects our wellbeing and builds resilience against challenges. We explore how you can build better self-care into your life.

Good self-care helps protect our health and wellbeing, as well as building resilience against the difficulties life throws at us. This can make it an important resource for people living with a visible difference or disfigurement, who may face challenges in day-to-day life.

On this page, we tackle the question “What is self-care?” and explore some of the ways you can introduce it into your life.

What is self-care?

When things are not going so well or if we are struggling with certain situations, we sometimes fall back on habits to help us cope. However, these are not always healthy or caring towards ourselves. This can be a particular problem if you experience difficult situations in day-to-day life related to your visible difference.

So what is self-care and how can it help?

Self-care means taking an active role in improving your own health and protecting your wellbeing – stopping those bad habits from kicking in. Good self-care is especially beneficial in times of stress and worry when our physical, mental and emotional welfare might be affected. This can make it a valuable resource if you are living with a visible difference.

Five key areas of self-care

Key to answering the question “What is self-care?” is understanding the five key areas of life which form part of our self-care. These are:

  • Physical: Nutrition, exercise, sleep, personal hygiene, smoking, drinking, drugs.
  • Emotional: General wellbeing, how you feel about yourself / your accomplishments, enjoyment of activities, relationships with partner, friends, family, children.
  • Psychological: General mental health, spiritual practices, meditation, keeping a journal or blog, gaining support, learning new skills, being adaptable, practising positive thinking.
  • Social: Time with friends / family, communicating with people, setting up / attending social groups or occasions, social hobbies.
  • Professional:Managing work duties / pressures, work-life balance, achievements, professional relationships, time management, time outside work spent on work-related activities (e.g. checking email) and finances (e.g. budgeting, paying bills, debt, disposable income).

Self-care basics

Here are some basic things you can try to improve your self-care routine:

  • Prioritise activities you enjoy: There will always be an endless to-do list of household chores and things spilling over from work. Reserve one evening a week for your favourite activity.
  • Build in “daily-dos”: Try and find a little time each day for little pleasures, such as going out for fresh air at lunch time or reading a book instead of the news on your commute.
  • Say no: Don’t feel guilty about declining an invite to take some “me time” when everyone else is doing something – do what feels right for you.
  • Eat healthily: Eating lots of high-sugar foods and carbohydrates can make you feel sluggish. Try to maintain a balanced diet. Eat protein (meat, fish, soya, beans, cheese, eggs) to fill you up. Drink at least two litres of water a day.
  • Pay attention to yourself: Taking the time for a quick shower and setting out fresh clothes the night before can help us start the day more positively. Pay yourself attention – you are worth it!
  • Relaxation: Try switching off your phone and reading, watching a film, taking a bath, doing yoga or going for a walk in the park. Take a look at our guide to relaxation techniques for some inspiration.
  • Rest: Don’t feel that taking regular breaks is selfish or lazy – it’s as vital for our bodies as food and water. Even sitting or lying down for 10 minutes can help you recoup your energy.
  • Sleep: Seven to eight hours’ sleep a night is vital for most adults. If you struggle to sleep, practise good “sleep hygiene” (e.g. by having a bath or reading a book before bed) or try out these relaxation techniques.

If you find you are consistently neglecting good self-care, we recommend creating a self-care plan to help you take a more systematic approach to self-care.

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Is self-care for me?

Yes, self-care can be used by anyone. The pressures of work and daily life can add up, often leaving us with little time to care for ourselves in positive and healthy ways. It is important to practise self-care to help you deal with the challenges you may face in life.

It is especially important if you or others you care about are going through a difficult time, as this can take its toll. All too often, we put the care of others before ourselves. However, if we aren’t in good physical and emotional health ourselves, it is hard to find the energy and head space to care for others.

If you are living with a visible difference, self-care is particularly important because of the challenges day-to-day life can throw at you – such as people staring, asking questions or making comments. Good self-care will leave you calmer and more relaxed – and therefore better able to handle these challenges without it taking a big toll on your mental and physical health.

Signs you need to practise more self-care

Ask yourself the following questions. If you find yourself answering “yes”, you may need to pay more attention to your self-care. Do you often:

  • Put the needs of others before your own?
  • Do things for other people?
  • Feel tired or lacking in energy?
  • Feel low?
  • Worry or feel anxious?
  • Sacrifice the things you enjoy because of a busy schedule?
  • Find it hard to relax?
  • Have difficulty sleeping or feel unrefreshed after sleep?
  • Feel you have to do everything yourself?
  • Feel you have little time to spend with your friends?
  • Struggle to remember when you last had fun?
  • Avoid social situations?

Understanding your coping strategies

Understanding your coping strategies will help you establish whether you need to pay more attention to your self-care. Use the lists below to help you identify whether these strategies are healthy or unhealthy:

Healthy:

  • Going for a walk.
  • Exercising.
  • Reading.
  • Watching a film or show you enjoy on TV.
  • Taking a bath / shower.
  • Using breathing or relaxation exercises.
  • Meditation.
  • Yoga.
  • Talking with friends.
  • Socialising.
  • Sitting with a warm drink.
  • Enjoying a hobby.
  • Resting.
  • Enjoying some fresh air.

Unhealthy:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family – not socialising.
  • Smoking.
  • Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol.
  • Taking illegal or excessive legal drugs.
  • Becoming frequently angry or aggressive.
  • Overeating / skipping meals / eating a lot of junk food or sugar.
  • Isolating yourself.
  • Not taking care of your personal hygiene because of how you are feeling.
  • Not sleeping or oversleeping.

If you find yourself selecting more behaviours on the “unhealthy” list than the “healthy” list, you may find it helpful to evaluate how you are coping. Although some of the things on the “unhealthy” list may feel good at the time, they may not be helping you in the long run.

Take a look at our guide to creating a self-care plan to help you could replace some of your “unhealthy” behaviours with “healthier” ones.

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