What does self-care mean to you? Self-care is a term that is becoming more and more popular, but it can be challenging to define what it actually means. In this article, we'll discuss what we REALLY mean when we use the term self-care and how to make it a priority.
What self-care is not
There are some negative associations with the term self-care, namely, that it's a self-indulgent luxury filled with spending sprees and pamper days. But self-care is actually the opposite.
Self-care is regular, consistent effort to take care of yourself emotionally and physically with the goal of maintaining your mental health and well-being.
Self-care should not be viewed as a reward that you receive for "being good." Self-care needs to be an integral part of your daily life. It is the foundation of your overall health and well-being.
What self-care really is and why it's important
The World Health Organization defines self-care as "The ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider."
Simply put, self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve your physical and mental health. It means performing daily actions—however small—that will help fortify your emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
According to PsychCentral.com, "the centerpiece of self-care is the promotion of health and well-being."
- Mental/emotional self-care: Self-care helps to ensure your emotional and mental needs are met. Do you feel safe? Do you feel connected and supported? Are you living according to your values? Do you feel enjoyment in your day-to-day experience? Proper self-care can help you reclaim and maintain your mental health. It can also help to promote emotional resiliency.
- Physical self-care: Self-care also includes a variety of approaches that can help prevent disease and sickness. A physically healthy body contributes greatly to well-being and improved quality of life. Self-care means making healthy decisions for your body.
- Spiritual self-care: There is a basic human need for meaning, purpose, and connection to something greater than ourselves. Spiritual self-care involves a number of practices focused on ensuring your spiritual needs are met. When your spiritual needs are met you will feel a greater sense of peace and a solid foundation to fall back on.
What are some of the benefits of self-care
What does self-care mean for you? Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. The benefits of proper self-care are profound.
Self-care can help you:
- Manage stress
- Reduce anxiety
- Lower your risk of illness
- Increase your energy and vitality
- Boost your mood
- Improve your focus
- Sleep better
- Boost your self-esteem and confidence
- Have better relationships
- Find meaning and purpose in life
What are some common misconceptions about self-care
We've already briefly discussed some common misconceptions about what self-care really means. Let's dig a little deeper. Here are five common misconceptions about self-care and the truth behind them.
- Self-care is selfish. (FALSE)
This is one of the most common misconceptions about self-care. People often think that taking care of themselves is selfish and that they should be focused on others instead. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. Caring for yourself is not selfish; it's necessary. To be there for others, you need to take care of yourself first.
- Self-care is expensive. (FALSE)
Another common misconception about self-care is that it's expensive. Again, this couldn't be further from the truth. There are plenty of ways to take care of yourself without spending a lot of money. Exercise, meditation, and healthy eating are all free or low-cost ways to care for yourself.
- Self-care is time-consuming. (FALSE)
Some people think that self-care is a lot of work and takes up a lot of time. While it's true that taking care of yourself can require some effort, it doesn't have to take up a lot of time. You can find quick and easy ways to fit self-care into your day without skipping out on important activities.
- Self-care is only for people who are stressed out. (FALSE)
Many people think that self-care is only for people dealing with a lot of stress or anxiety. However, self-care is for everyone. No matter what's going on in your life, you can always find time to care for yourself.
- Self-care is only for women. (FALSE)
Finally, some people think that self-care is only for women. This is simply not true. Men can and should practice self-care, too. Caring for yourself is not a gender-specific activity; it's something that everyone can benefit from.
We cannot emphasize this enough. Self-care is an integral part of overall wellness, and it's something that everyone should practice regularly.
How do you know if you're practicing self-care in a healthy way
There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. You are a unique individual with unique needs. You get to decide what self-care means to you. However, you can follow some general guidelines to ensure that your self-care routine is beneficial for your overall health and well-being.
First and foremost, healthy self-care should be something that you enjoy and look forward to, not something that feels like a chore. It's important to choose activities that make you feel good both physically and mentally, as this will help you stick with your routine in the long term.
In addition, healthy self-care should be sustainable and realistic. This means finding balance in your life so that you're not overdoing it or neglecting other important aspects of your life. For example, if you're spending all of your free time on self-care activities, you may want to reconsider your priorities.
Finally, healthy self-care should be adaptable. As your needs change over time, so should your self-care routine. This flexibility will help you maintain a healthy balance in your life, even when things are hectic or stressful.
What are some examples of self-care
Self-care looks a bit different for everyone. Here are a few examples for your to consider:
- Read/watch/listen to something inspiring
- Reflect on things you are grateful for
- Learn a new skill or hobby
- Practice positive affirmations
- Avoid comparing yourself to others
- Dance or move your body for 10 minutes
- Get 8 hours of sleep
- Eat foods that fuel your body
- Try a new look (ie. hairstyle, clothing, etc.)
- Indulge yourself with a massage
- Sit outside in the sun
- Meditate or pray for 1-5 minutes
- Focus on breathing deeply for 1-5 minutes
- Connect with nature and get some fresh air
- Talk to a supportive friend
- Do something nice for someone else
- De-clutter your home or workspace
- Practice self-compassion and forgiveness
- Read books about spirituality
What are some tips for incorporating self-care into your daily routine
How can you make time for yourself when you feel like there are never enough hours in the day?
Our answer? Start small.
Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact—it's called the compound effect.
"The Compound Effect is the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. Even though the results are massive, the steps, in the moment, don't feel significant. The changes are so subtle they are almost imperceptible. What most people don't realize is that these small, seemingly insignificant steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference." – Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect
That's worth repeating. Small changes done consistently over time will create a radical difference in your life.
In his book, Darren Hardy illustrates the compound effect with the story of two men—Scott and Brad. Both men started at the same weight. Scott decided to cut out 125 calories a day, while Brad increased his calorie by 125 calories a day. It doesn't sound like much of a difference, does it? However, after 31 months, Scott lost 33 pounds while Brad gained 33 pounds. Now Brad weighs 66 pounds more than Scott! That's pretty dramatic.
We encourage you to take this same gentle approach.
- Start by writing down six small, seemingly inconsequential steps you can take every day to improve your mental, physical and spiritual well-being.
- Next, write down six small, seemingly inconsequential actions you can stop doing that are negatively affecting your health and well-being.
- Finally, track your progress daily. Get a journal or download a self-care plan worksheet and get into the habit of keeping track of your new daily self-care commitments. As you keep your commitments to yourself and see your weekly progress, you will build confidence in your ability to change and create new healthy habits that will eventually become automatic and easy. And before long, you will have totally transformed your life.
It's time to make self-care a priority
Now you can answer the question, "what does self-care mean to you?" Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do. It sounds cliché, but it's true. Implementing these tips into your daily routine can help you live a happier, healthier life. What will you do today to make yourself a priority?