Ask the Expert: How can I make time for self-care?
Making time for self-care can feel like a big ask, especially when you’ve got a lot going on. It’s these times, however, when you should lean into these practices more. Here, aromatherapist Louisa Pini answers your questions on self-care, and shares some healing aromatherapy tips to help you overcome the guilt of spending time on yourself.
I tend to feel guilty when I spend time on self-care. Do you have any suggestions for overcoming that guilt?
Feeling guilty is a big barrier to practising self-care and there are many reasons why you may feel guilty about putting your own needs first. In truth, you cannot keep giving without reaching burnout or developing serious health issues.
I find it useful to remember the cup analogy. Imagine yourself as a cup of water and you give some of your water to others when they need it. Self-care is always about keeping your own cup full. If you don’t keep your cup full, you’ll have nothing left to give. When you spend more time on self-care, you feel more fulfilled. You will have more to give to others and the things you do, feel and say will have a more positive impact on others. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
I’m really enjoying aromatherapy at the moment. How can I incorporate this into my self-care routine?
Consider using energising and uplifting oils in the morning and during the day. Place up to five drops of invigorating essential oils into an oil burner or diffuser on waking so you are breathing them in as you get ready for the day ahead. Good choices to create an energising and positive atmosphere are lime, grapefruit, peppermint or rosemary.
Pop a drop of your favourite essential oil on a tissue and keep it in your pocket so you can take it out and inhale when you need a quick pick-me-up during the day.
Later in the day, you may wish to add some oils to a bath to help you unwind and relax. Choose oils such as lavender, geranium, frankincense or chamomile and blend five to six drops with two teaspoons of carrier oil like apricot kernel or jojoba, mix well and add to running bath water.
I would like to try making my own skincare products. Do you have any pointers?
For ease, it would be good to try some oil-based products because if you introduce water then you need preservatives and it all gets a bit more complicated. A lovely oil for removing eye makeup is jojoba oil and you can blend this with some castor oil to create a natural all-over makeup remover. Castor oil is good for drawing out dirt from the pores and jojoba is a lovely softening oil and is good for sensitive skin and is very similar to sebum.
Another good place to start would be to make your own facial oil. Once you’ve researched what oils are good for your particular skin type, it’s a matter of blending them together and applying them to your skin overnight. For hydration, include oils like sweet almond, macadamia nut oil and avocado oil. For oily skins, consider oils like safflower, apricot kernel and grapeseed.
I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. What aromatherapy oils can I use to help keep me calm?
There are many aromatherapy oils that can help you keep calm due to their natural sedative properties. Frankincense has an affinity with the lungs and is a good aid to encourage deeper breaths and we all know that breathing more slowly and deeply stimulates our relaxation response. Jasmine, ylang ylang and neroli are good for settling nervous tension and anxiety and encouraging your mind to relax. Lavender is an excellent sleep aid, helping the mind and body to feel calm.
Remember, essential oils must never be applied directly to the skin (with the exceptions of lavender and tea tree). Always dilute them in a carrier oil first. If you are out and about, it’s good to have an oil with you so you can just take the lid off and take a few deep breaths. Or put a few drops on a tissue and keep that with you.
Do you have any tips for slowing down?
My top tip would be to take time to pause before saying yes to requests from others, be it work (within reason) or family and friends. Check in with yourself and see if you really do want to commit to that. How does it make you feel? It’s so easy to fill our days with busy-ness, whether it’s meeting friends, taking on more work or family obligations. It’s all about re-evaluating your boundaries
Try to spend more time appreciating simple pleasures, such as spending outside in nature. Take a few minutes out to reflect on what you love and what brings you joy. How can you incorporate more of this into your daily routine?
Top tips for those struggling to make time for self-care:
1. Start small. Begin by giving yourself just five minutes every day to do something you love! Singing, reading, painting, whatever it is that lights you up. Give yourself permission.
2. Bring self-care into your daily routine. This can make sure it happens at a convenient time for you and comes as easily as brushing your teeth. If it’s inconvenient, it can too easily become a burden.
3. Turn everyday actions into a self-care ritual. It’s too easy to rush through the day just ‘going through the motions’ like putting on your face cream or taking a shower. Turn these everyday activities into mini rituals. Take a moment to feel the contours of your face as you apply the cream. How does it feel? What does it smell like? In a shower, don’t just quickly cleanse your body, feel the contours of your skin, and spend time reconnecting with your senses and soothing touch.
Louisa is an aromatherapist who combines essential oils with massage and has her own line of organic aromatherapy skincare. Visit her website to try her free self-care quiz.
This article was updated on 17th October 2023, and was originally published in Happiful Magazine (September 2020). You can order print copies online, or read the e-magazine for free on the Happiful app.