Ways to practice self-care when life and work are getting you down

Image: Fabio Formaggio/123rf

Self-care was a term I came across when I was exploring vast regions of the Internet in my late teens. It’s known for being a simple way to help anyone with depression cope better, by making the act of caring for oneself as basic of a necessity as possible. The idea is that by breaking it down into steps, it requires little thought in order to accomplish each step.

Of course, taking care of yourself isn’t a new concept, but the act of remembering to do that can sometimes be difficult.

With Singapore being the “unhappy” and overworked country that it is, it seems only fitting to devise some coping mechanisms for when you’re having a bad time with work or when your life appears to have spun out of control. So if you’ve been feeling like complete crap as of late, here’s your reminder to practice a little self-care!


#1 Are your basic needs are taken care of?

Hungry? Thirsty? Feeling ill? Getting too little sleep? If you’ve ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, this should be familiar to you. Our basic human needs are physiological ones, which are simply things like food, warmth, water and rest. That last one might be tricky for anyone dealing with a mountain of work, but all of it contributes to you taking care of yourself. So if you haven’t had a breather all day, get some water. Eat something if you haven’t in the last four hours, and take a power nap if necessary. You might find yourself surprised at how simply fulfilling your basic needs can impact your mood.

#2 Seek support from loved ones

Safety and security are next on the hierarchy of needs, followed by relationships and a sense of belonging, which is why it’s important that you have people you can turn to who make you feel safe. Whether you need space to relax and destress or a place to let out your emotions or friends who are going to cheer you up, having a support system is key for your psychological health. It can be tough keeping up with social activities when you’re stressed out or tired, but making the time to hang out with people you love will benefit you in the long run.

#3 Treat yourself to something nice

Feeling like you’re living to work instead of working to live can be really frustrating. It feels like you’ve thrown yourself into an almost endless cycle of needing to make money in order to survive, but all that work leaves you without any time to enjoy your life. Treating yourself to something nice is a good way to throw a wrench in the negativity, and burst the bubble of work you’ve been enclosing yourself in for a while. Whether it’s treating yourself to a gadget you’ve always wanted or a holiday you’ve been dreaming of, or even just taking a day off to enjoy a book. Do it for your sanity.

#4 Acknowledge your accomplishments

Above the need for relationships and love on Maslow’s hierarchy is the need for esteem, whether that’s in the form or prestige or accomplishment. It can be quite overwhelming when it seems like everything in your life is going sideways, especially if your to-do list of tasks never seems to get any shorter. The reality is that you are completing and accomplishing things, but the fear of the unfinished far outweighs the hurdles that you’ve already overcome. To bring a more positive balance to things, try creating a list of things that you’ve actually finished or done over the week or month instead.

#5 Aim for personal growth

If this sounds like a fairly tall order, it probably is. Think of it as the last step in your journey to happiness and satisfaction. On a more basic level, the concept of personal growth is more about always improving yourself, and trying not to become stagnant. You might have goals that are pretty long term, like what job title you want in 10 years, but in order to not get static in your progress or disappointed with where you are at the present, you need to remember that everything is a work in progress. Work on yourself, whether that’s taking a course on the side, or volunteering for causes you’re passionate about. Any time spent bettering yourself is time well spent.