We often tend to put ourselves last and feel guilty when we make time for ourselves. But practicing regular self-care is one of the best things you can for yourself and others. Here’s why.

Think of your inner voice – have you ever talked to yourself in a way you would never dream of talking to a loved one? Are you more supportive and encouraging of your friends than you are of yourself when going through a rough patch? For many of us, the answer is, sadly, yes.

In light of International Self-Care Day, on July 24, we asked one of uOttawa’s mental health and wellness counsellors, Monica Dobie, to share her advice for establishing a healthy self-care routine and maintaining your emotional well-being.

Learn how to practice self-compassion

Self-compassion can be split into three pillars. The first one is being kind to yourself rather than critical and judgmental. In other words, treating yourself as you would your best friend. It’s not a pity party—it’s an opportunity for growth. A little encouragement, and gentle reflection on how you can do better, will go a long way.

The second one is common humanity. Remember that you are not alone. When reflecting on your struggles, knowing that many others have lived them too will help you realize that there is nothing wrong with you. It’s a good reminder that the way you feel is normal and human. 

The third pillar is mindfulness. It’s taking time to focus on the present, in a non-judgmental way. Taking stock of what you’re feeling without running from it, or spiraling into negative feelings. Being mindful can help counter automatic thoughts and unhelpful response patterns. Breathing techniques such as belly-breathing and circular-breathing are examples of ways to relax and focus on the present. To help you master meditation and mindfulness exercises, virtual sessions are offered weekly.

Self-care includes being kind to your body too. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind and spirit. Maintaining an active lifestyle, a balanced diet as well as regular and restorative sleep habits are, of course, top tips to promote a positive mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and support healthy living.

Carve out time for yourself and invest in healthy personal boundaries to get the time and space you need to look after your best friend: YOU! You can prevent resentment and burnout by prioritizing your needs, communicating them clearly, maintaining healthy boundaries and saying no—go ahead, it’s okay to do so.

Remember, self-care is not selfish

A wonderful byproduct of self-compassion is that it cultivates empathy for others, making you better at relationships. It promotes connection, trust and healthy attachments, which are vital to maintaining emotional balance and developing the loving support system you’ll need to navigate life’s many winding roads.

Just like any new habit, it takes practice and becomes more natural over time. So, why not share your self-care project with someone you trust and love? They’ll be there to cheer you on, and to put you back on the right track when needed.

There are also professionals who can help and support you in taking these steps toward self-compassion and wellness.