It seems that “self-care” has become a popular buzzword in the past few years. But what is self-care, really? Is it doing whatever makes you happy, like eating a whole pizza by yourself? Is it doing something that you don’t want to do, but will ultimately make your life better, like going jogging? Is it finding a way to cope with illness or make our bodies healthier? Is it something we do for our mind, or is it something we do for our bodies?
The answer? It’s a little bit of everything.
Let’s take a look at what self-care means to you and how you can personalize your self-care experience to fit your needs.
The Basics of Self Care
Self-care has such a broad range of uses, so it’s difficult to pin down just one definition. People use the term to describe everything from taking mental health days, engaging in physical health care plans, or indulging in comfort foods.
For our purposes, self-care is engaging in activities that will improve your mood and well-being.
With this definition, going on a run and spending a night snacking with friends can both be considered self-care. You decide what “self-care” looks like for you at any given moment by assessing what your needs are.
Do you need…
- A release of stress and rush of endorphins? A workout is the best option for you.
- A detox from a stressful week? A bath with a good book might be what you’re looking for.
- A recharge and distraction from work? A night out with friends would be perfect.
Self-care is taking into account what you need in that moment, and understanding yourself enough to know how you can solve that physical and emotional problem. An introvert, for example, will not find clubbing a good method of self-care if they’re trying to relax. However, that might be perfect for an extrovert: someone who recharges by spending time with people.
Doing things that make you happy can promote health, prevent disease, and generally make your life more fulfilling. Your mental health and wellbeing is tied closely with your physical health, so doing things in moderation that bring you joy will ultimately be better for your health than a strict diet and rigid exercise regimen that you hate.
So no, while bingeing Netflix and wings every night won’t be healthy, but if letting yourself indulge everyone once in the while makes you happy, then it will be worth the extra calories in the long term.
Finding What Self Care Looks Like for You
Self-care doesn’t look the same for everyone, and it won’t always look the same for you either. This is because our needs are constantly changing, and self-care involves addressing the needs you have at any particular moment.
First, take into account how you are feeling physically, mentally, and spiritually. Getting in touch with how you feel is essential to recognizing what you need to bring yourself back to center. You need to assess your needs in each of these categories, but also recognize that they all work together much more closely than you realize.
For example, while anxiety will have your mind racing, it will also tighten your muscles, make your breath more shallow, and make you physically tired. You need to address all these symptoms however they manifest in your body.
How are you feeling physically?
Are you tense? Tired? Worn out? Sore? Aching?
Figure out how you are feeling physically, and once you find ways to address it, think if there are mental causes.
Here are some different techniques you can use to address physical concerns.
- Chiropractic visit. It’s amazing how much can go wrong with your body when your spine isn’t in alignment. Just one visit can help your physical health immensely. It’s a huge game changer for someone with a particular illness and disability who doesn’t want to or can’t be on medication.
- Rest. One of the best ways to recover from burnout is rest. Sleep does such wonders for the body, since we do a lot of our healing and recovery while asleep.
- Exercise. Self care also comes in the form of bettering your body for the future. Exercise, whether it’s a walk in the park, a yoga class, or training for a marathon, has a ton of medically reviewed health benefits, and is a great method of physical self care.
How are you feeling mentally?
Are you anxious? Stressed? Withdrawn? Overworked? Depressed? Weary?
Mental health care practices have the widest range of options, since it involves doing whatever makes you happy. One person’s idea of a mental health day will look very different from someone else’s.
Here are some options to explore for emotional self-care.
- Spending time with friends or family. Feeling connected to others is very important for mental health. We need to feel seen, heard, and loved to be happy.
- Spending time with yourself. Especially for introverts, emotional self care needs to involve spending time alone. Whether you enjoy reading, puzzling, painting, bathing, or video gaming, explore your passions and just relax.
- Trying something new. Doing something you’ve never done before can reignite your sense of adventure and get you out of a mental rut.
Regardless of whether or not you are religious, you need to take time to align yourself with what you believe your place in the universe is.
What are your guiding beliefs? What is your purpose? What is your calling?
If you’re feeling lost and directionless, try to get in touch with your sense of self.
Here are some techniques you can try to bring yourself back into center.
- Journaling. Writing is a very personal process that helps you unload thoughts that you didn’t even know you had onto paper. It’s a different way to dialogue with yourself to help you untangle your thoughts.
- Talking. While small talk has its place, you need to have people close to you that you can have those deep conversations with. Find someone you trust and talk about the big stuff.
- Reading. You aren’t the first person to wonder about the big questions of the universe. Research what other respected thinkers have written. Even if you don’t agree with them, they help you determine what you believe as you engage with their thoughts.
What Is Self Care? Everything in Moderation
There are many ways to engage in self-care. Individuals, families, and communities all have their own unique approaches to what self-care can look like. This care includes everything from physical activity to a wine night with friends.
What is self-care? Self-care is enjoying your life by having everything in moderation.
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