Text reads: Children and young people with disability.

Self-care is prioritising your needs and values

brown tree trunk with different coloured bubbles to form the tree, with the silhouette of a woman kneeling near the tree with her hands upturned.



Written by Charlotte Young.

I used to be someone who considered self-care another thing on the to-do list, a burden of sorts. I desperately wanted self-care to “work” so that I could get on with my life. It was almost clinical.

I have distinct memories of laughter from exhaustion during that time. I was tired of mentally holding the stress of ‘needing’ to do self-care, but no matter how many helpful lists or Instagram posts I read online, nothing seemed to work. 

However, over time, I have begun to appreciate how important it is to keep self-care slow, simple, and sweet. I slowly learnt to shift my thinking of self-care from being something urgent to be ticked off a list, to a mindset where I prioritise the values that I feel serve me the best over long periods of time in everyday actions. 

For example, I had an opportunity arise where I was offered a great casual job for all of 2023. Yet, I found that one of my values – being truthful and kind with myself – was a higher priority than ‘achievement’ (in this context, the achievement of developing professional experience). 

When I reflected, I knew that I would burn out trying to juggle that job with everything else I wanted to do; study, friendships, etc. I knew that being kind to myself in this situation meant that I had to say ‘no’. This is honestly harder than it sounds when you’re used to saying ‘yes’ to everything and you’re passionate about the work you do. 

I knew I wanted to allow myself more time to explore and experience things that allow me to grow (especially as I enter into my 20s!) with fun and a sense of being present. I know that, over time, this will allow me to see the results of self-care again and again in moments of laughter of pure silliness or contentment. 

So, instead of picking up another casual job in 2023, I decided that I would use the time spent on that job to have time to allow myself to appreciate life; a few extra hours to read a book, moments of reflection on what matters to me, sitting in the sun, or getting physically active. I might have to sacrifice a few of those luxuries that the income from that job would’ve brought, but ultimately, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

It is important to acknowledge that, for those with disability, our communities have a large impact on our self-care. We sometimes can’t control who or what situations we may be thrown into without a moment’s notice due to the volatile nature of our health conditions. So, for us, our top value may always be ‘survival’. 

I like to use the metaphor of our emotional states in these situations of being a branch of part of a larger tree. The energy and attitude that a physio or a psychologist can give to you can drastically change how you perceive your condition and your expectations for the future, so be mindful of these situations. 

I hope you can take the time to reflect on your true needs and honour them as you see fit. It’s never easy, and honestly, it takes a village to grow sometimes and know what you need to do. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! We’ve all been there, and we’re all still figuring it out. I don’t know if there’s ever such a thing as a perfect “balance” but more something of a tilt – tilting to prioritise some needs during some stages of your life, and other activities during others.