Many men shy away from the idea of self-care, usually due to a misguided view that it’s not masculine or because they don’t fully appreciate its importance. The reality is that too many people don’t understand what it actually is so let’s clear things up and answer the questions ‘what is self-care and why is self-care important?’
What is Self-Care?
Defining self-care is easy because you can think of it as the opposite of self-sabotage or self-neglect. Unfortunately, too many of us are fully aware of what these are.
Doesn’t it seem strange that as a guy you might negatively stigmatize many activities that you think are related to ‘self-care’ and at the same time associate a badge of honor to drinking too much alcohol or having an 8 hour marathon on Call of Duty? Would you not benefit more if you took the opposite approach?
As human beings we are naturally attracted to short term pleasure, and in the modern world instant gratification has become an expectation. Think about how often you check Instagram to see if your latest post has more likes, how you feel like you need those new designer trainers before your friends get them, how often you watch porn, or how many times you resort to a quick fix of junk food when you are hungry.
These things give you pleasure and make you feel good immediately. Pleasure is not a bad thing, it is a necessary part of your life, but you would do well to differentiate short-term pleasure that gives you a dopamine hit from longer term pleasure that provides you with more continuous happiness.
Why is Self-Care Important?
How did you really feel when you woke up with a blazing hangover and $300 worse off from the night before? What about an hour after you demolished those 3 burgers that you felt like you needed because you were so hungry? Or how about a week after that one-night stand that ultimately resulted in ignored messages and feelings of guilt.
Now let’s re-frame these situations. Imagine waking up feeling normal after a great night out and being able to make the most of your day. Imagine feeling full and satisfied after eating whilst having delivered important nutrients to your body that will help it look and feel better. Imagine being in a relationship with someone that makes you feel all the things that you want, every day.
It's easy to preach about taking a more productive and long terms approach, but the truth is that we are not wired to naturally think that way all of the time. The key is introducing enough balance, self-restraint and compromise into your life. If you can manage this then you will vastly increase your prospects of long-term health, success and happiness. You can do this with self-care.
Self-care isn’t just about face masks and bubble baths – it’s about meeting the needs within you in a way that will truly benefit you. It’s about caring for yourself in a way that you would someone you really love. It’s about loving yourself unashamedly, not in an arrogant or superficial way, but by proactively giving yourself the things that really matter and protecting yourself from the things that don’t.
Building a Solid Self-Care Plan
To successfully integrate self-care in your life, you need a self-care plan. It’s through a structured plan that you’re going to be able to properly and consistently add value to yourself.
A good self-care plan reminds you of what you want to accomplish and delivers a practical strategy to deliver it. You have values, goals, and a purpose in your life so you need your self-care plan to align them and compliment them.
Your self-care plan should inspire you and remind you about why you want and need to take better care of yourself. It should help you to track your progress so that you can see evidence of it working and give yourself a motivation boost to stick with it and make it a permanent habit.
Here are some tips for you to develop an effective self-care plan:
- Split out your plan into different self-care categories. The ones we would recommend focusing on to start are physical, emotional, professional, spiritual, social and financial.
- Understand your coping habits and have replacements for each category. Here you are looking at both positives and negatives. For example, if work related stress makes you smoke then recognize this and have an alternative action to replace it. This could be going for a walk or listening to music. As another example, if boredom makes you over-eat or drink alcohol, replace this with something like reading or exercising and cement new hobbies to have a long-term solution.
- Identify emergency solutions. This is to cover you in case things suddenly get especially tough due to a particular event or situation. Here you should consider things like having someone specific to talk to who will help and boost your energy, initiating deep breathing techniques, having a go-to song to listen to or having pre-defined affirmations to be able to say to yourself.
- List out all the self-care activities that interest you. We will give you ideas for activities later in this post. Write down the ones you are interested in so you can build them in.
- Create a daily plan. Define what you are going to do each day to take better care of your well-being. Be specific and stick to it long enough to give it a chance to work and for you to build new habits. It takes 66 days on average to build new habits so you want to aim for 3 months or more as a minimum to give it a real shot. Your daily plan should also include your replacement activities for unhealthy coping habits and what to do in emergencies as we have already discussed.
- Track your progress. Do this in a way that works for you. You can use spreadsheets, charts, a journal or any other way you prefer, but just make sure to track yourself religiously.
- Reward yourself for progress. Self-care isn’t about removing pleasure from your life, it’s about living a pleasurable life in a way that will set you up for prolonged health, happiness and success. Reward yourself for the progress that you make without encouraging self-destructive tendencies. Go out for dinner and drinks, book a vacation, buy a new t shirt for your healthier and leaner body.
- Make yourself accountable. If you are going to reward yourself for progress then there also need to be consequences to stop you from ignoring your new plan. You could hire a professional cage fighter and ask them to punch you in the face every time you mess up, or alternatively share the details of your plan with someone close and agree in advance that they can hold you to account, maybe minus the physical consequences.
Now pull all of this together into a written day planner so you have a physical or digital document that you can refer to for everything. It’s a very small amount of admin for a major potential benefit and having a tangible document greatly increases your chances of success.
Now that you have the framework for plan, it’s time to fill it and your life with the right activities and habits. Here are some self-care ideas to get you started:
- Start a passion project. Build something, design something or learn something.
- Listen to music. Something that makes you feel good or relaxed, depending on what you need at the time.
- Wear clothes that make you feel confident.
- Learn new skills. Up-skill yourself and counter-act your insecurities.
- Create a diet and exercise plan to get your body where you want it to be.
- Volunteer for something that you care about.
- Go for massages, cutthroat shaves, pedicures or anything else that helps make you feel good.
- Spend more time with people that make you happy.
- Try meditation and yoga. Check out warrior meditation techniques for inspiration.
- Go for run’s or walks somewhere inspiring.
- Take up sports or hobbies that you will enjoy. Make time for them.
- Read more – both for learning and inspiration.
- Keep a journal. It helps more than you think to write things down, particularly for your mental health.
- Create a vision board and put it somewhere prominent. Make sure it has pictures of things, people or places that make you feel happy.
- Start a skin care routine. You can read more on this at our skin care for men blog.
- Talk about how you feel. I know this is a tough one guys, but it makes you more masculine, not less.
- Make time for yourself. We all need our own space sometimes.
- Have inspirational quotes or affirmations close by. Just in case you need a little boost.
Self-care should be an important aspect of everybody’s lives and men are no exception. Ditch the stigma, build yourself a plan and start taking better care of yourself from today.