Self-care is about so much more than bubble baths. Here, 16 women share exactly what it means to them - and give us an insight into how they practise it.
The idea of practicing self-care is one we are very much on board with: after all, who wouldn’t want to take time for themselves to feel more whole, happy and centred? However, it can sometimes feel a little out of reach – especially as, due to burnout, the spare hour we find between social plans, work and life admin usually involves crashing out in-front of Netflix instead of meditating.
But maybe the key to unlocking a self-care routine is taking the mystery out of it, and learning from normal women about what self-care means for them and how they fit it into their schedules.
Here, Stylist speaks to 16 women to find out just that. And as these varied, and sometimes surprising, answers reveal, self-care goes much deeper than the simple act of enjoying a bubble bath.
From journaling and yoga, to exercise and saying no at work, read on and be inspired to practise a little self-care - right now.
“To me, self care means believing that I matter. And because I matter, I try to pay attention to what I truly think, feel, want or need in any given moment.”
“Self-care to me is doing everything I can to keep my mind and body in the best possible shape, ready to deal with all that life can throw at it. I’ve been on antidepressants since I was a teen and find exercise really beneficial for helping with my symptoms, so that’s my main form of self-care.”
“Self-care is about allowing yourself the space and time to do the things that keep you happy and sane. For me, practicing self-care is often about not doing things. I’m very good at committing to plans and thinking, ‘Of course I can do drinks after work for the fourth night in a row’. But the best self-care act I can do for myself is to look at my diary and take things out.”
“Self-care is about taking time out to check in with yourself, and ask how you are feeling both mentally and physically. We live in an age where we’re always switched on, so this can be difficult to do, but so important.”
“To me, self-care means taking the time to remember my importance in the world. It’s so easy to put everyone and everything ahead of yourself, so I try to remember that I’m not just a mum, a wife, a sister, a friend or a colleague; I’m me, and I count.
I practise self-care by being kind to myself, and ignoring that crappy voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough. It’s about self-kindness and celebration of myself, my brilliant, scarred, 37-year-old, kind, funny and weird self!”
“I’ve done tonnes of work on self-care but it was always very superficial, in that I wasn’t actually ‘self-caring’, I was just undertaking self care activities.
It wasn’t until I went to the Maytree (the UK’s only suicide sanctuary) that I had a lightbulb moment with their volunteers, who listened so supportively and provided calm and kindness.
This kindness helped me to understand what self-care is really all about. When you are suffering from mental illness, you often have really low self-worth, and you become caught in a cycle of guilt at how your illness is affecting others, as well as shame that you can’t do simple things or ‘sort yourself out’.
“Ultimately, you have a loss of self-belief. When you feel this way, it can be virtually impossible to be kind to yourself, which is really what self-care is about. How can you practice self-care if you don’t believe you are worth caring for?
Before, I was going through the motions of self-care as if they were a task on a to-do list; it was robotic, and there was no real ‘care’ involved. I had to learn how to show myself kindness to be able to really practice self-care.
Now, when I go for a run, I see it as me looking after my body, getting out in the sunshine, looking around and enjoying being able to move. When I write, I see it as me nurturing the creative part of my mind.”
“Self-care is about making space to prioritise myself, without feeling guilty. I use journaling to check in with how I’m feeling and consider what self-care I need; sometimes it’s yoga, sometimes it’s a night in front of Netflix. More often than not, it’s saying no, setting boundaries and slowing down.”
“Self-care is about doing anything that makes you feel relaxed and helps you escape your everyday problems. Personally, I switch off by watching YouTube videos in the bath; it’s something I look forward to, which is the most important thing. It doesn’t have to cost anything to work for you.”
“Self-care is about connecting back to the things that bring you joy or make you feel good. I think you should practice self-care every day, even if it’s something as simple as a WhatsApp voice note conversation with your best friend to make you howl with laughter on the train home from work.
For me, I’ve realised that being out in the open air is hugely cathartic, so I try to walk for 20 minutes every day, even if that means getting off the train earlier than usual.”
“I don’t think there is one perfect formula for self-care. The key is in the name: it’s about discovering how best to care for yourself.
For the last four months, I’ve been working out with a personal trainer two to three times a week, which has massively improved my mental and physical health. I also love books and am at my happiest when reading, plus I use the Calm app every morning and evening, which is my preferred way to wake up and wind down after a busy day.”
“Self-care is mostly about the right nourishment, which is fundamental to the way you look and feel. That’s why I live by the slogan ‘Nourish your body, indulge your soul’.”
“I believe that self-care comes in two primary forms; physical and mental. These might work in unison; for example, going for a run maintains both physical and mental health.
To practise self-care, I read a book or disconnect and wander around London, taking in the sites and sounds, and being really present in the moment.”
“I practise self-care by eating nourishing foods and doing yoga at least twice a week. I also like to have a middle-of-the-day bath, when I know that nobody is going to disturb me; I have two children and I’m an entrepreneur, so mornings and evenings are crazy chaos in my household.”
“Self-care means taking purposeful time out for myself, no matter how crazy the day is. I can’t give everything to my kids or patients if I don’t look after myself. For me, this means batch cooking using the slow cooker, not being afraid to say no to more tasks at work, or building Lego when I’m home.”
“Self-care is the preservation of my creativity. Running my company involves thinking of new ways to push the boundaries and redefine the beauty experience for women with afro, curly and multi-textured hair. This means that I have to operate from a place of fullness and abundance – this is where the magic happens, so I strive to protect it.
I practise self-care by carving out time for myself in a typically busy schedule. A mentor recently introduced me to the ‘miracle morning’ concept, where you get up a little earlier in the morning to meditate/pray, exercise or write. So far, it has been helping me to connect deeper with my inner self. Sometimes it simply means listening to my body and paying attention to what it needs or just incorporating things that bring me pure joy in my routine. This often takes the form of rest (although this is work in progress) or a little dance break. I love Salsa!”
“Sometimes it can be difficult to practise self-care, especially living in a busy household, leaving a busy life. I try to enjoy taking a long uninterrupted shower or bath, using my favourite products, and I will slowly and attentively apply my makeup. I also make sure I go to yoga class every week, as it gives me an hour to try and clear my mind and really connect with my body. A favourite indulgence is visiting the hairdressers, where I can sit, in peace, reading magazines and enjoy having my hair done in my own space.”
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