Very often, self-care is a neglected aspect of our daily patterns and routines - some do not know what it is and many only pay minimal attention to it. Self care is a practice which enables us to live, with intent, as healthy a life possible. Some might perceive, even the consideration of self-care, as being selfish or self indulgent and so discredit the practice. However, self care is essential if we are to be productive, healthy people functioning optimally.

So what exactly is self-care? It ranges from something as simple as brushing our teeth to getting ourselves to a doctor when we are sick. It is about a realising that if you put others needs above your own needs you will be left with little to give. In simple terms self care is about understanding how to take care of yourself. The World Health Organisation defines it in the following way "Self-care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, prevent and deal with illness"  There definition of illness would include both physical and mental illness.

With this in mind, there are practical actions that we can take in order to achieve this. While there are many other possible practice of self-care this article will only deal with a few of the basic but essential behaviours which lead to a sense of health.

Eating and food choices - Very often we are rushed, eating on the go, we don't take to time to consider our nutrition. Food Fuels our bodies  and "junk" or "low grade" fuels or nutrients are going to be experienced in our physical bodies by possible weight gain and low levels of energy, and health problems or illness. It is  essential to remember, when busy or when feeling we do not have an appetite, to try and eat something small for each meal rather than miss meals. Food, particularly health food, keeps us both physically and psychologically healthy.

Sleep - Sleep is critical to our sense of wellness and for many reasons our modern lives seem to be such that we are often sleep deprived - either though choices we make regarding time or because of our response to stress and anxiety. Trish Allen, in her blog article 9 Self-care Essentials to Add to Your Life, states that the following procesess occur when we sleep "While sleeping, we repair damaged tissues and organs, we metabolize hormones our body no longer needs, and our brains use this time to organize our thoughts and experiences, and to make permanent neurological links (memories) for the learning we experienced that day". A suggested guideline to sleep for most people would be between 7-10 hours per night. You as an individual would need to establish what amount of sleep is optimal for you.

Exercise - Moving our bodies on a daily basis is essential but added to this should be a conscious effort to exercise at least three time a week. Exercise is very often an aspect of self-care that is overlooked because it means setting aside time to get to a venue, like the gym, or joining a class. Exercise can include the following: a cardio work out, core work, resistance training, swimming, running, or power yoga.

Breathing - It may come as a surprise to many that the way we breath should become a focus to us, is not the fact that we are alive sufficient proof that we breath? Trish Allan states the following "When we breathe fully, using our diaphragm, the parasympathetic nervous system becomes engaged. This is the rest and relax system of the body, the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, which engages during times of crisis or arousal, and which for many people is on much of the time. Allowing the body and mind to believe that all is okay and that it can rest and relax comes with breathing deeply and provides an opportunity for significant repair to the body". Certain practices such as meditation or mindfulness will encourage us to focus on our breathing.

Alone time - Time spent on your own is opportunity for reflection and an assessment of self. It brings with it the occasion for those who enjoy the practice of journaling to journal, but it is an opportunity to reflect on thoughts generated and emotions experienced and to process them. Alone time can integrate an experience to get outside and connect with nature around one, even if it is simply sitting or walking in a garden or park.

Self-care does not happen by accident, it happens when you prioritise it. Self-care involves a conscious decision to prioritise self health and set boundaries which ensure that these simple practices become part of our lives.