Self-care is anything you do to take care of yourself so you can stay physically, mentally, and emotionally well. Self-care is the practice of individuals looking after their health using the knowledge and information available to them. It is a decision-making process that empowers individuals to look after their health efficiently and conveniently, in collaboration with health and social care professionals as needed.
Let’s clear up one common misconception: Self-care is not synonymous with self-indulgence or being selfish. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, can do your job, can help and care for others, and can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day.
Self-care involves making healthy lifestyle choices; being physically active and eating healthily, avoiding unhealthy lifestyle habits, making responsible use of prescription and non-prescription medicines, self-recognition of symptoms, self-monitoring, and self-management.
Several organizations and researchers take a health-oriented approach when defining self-care. 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.”
What are the benefits of self-care?
These are some benefits of caring about yourself:
- Can improve your physical health.
- Can reduce stress and anxiety.
- Can boost your self-esteem.
- Protects your mental health.
- Can lead to better relationships.
Types of self-care
There are a few different categories of self-care:
- Emotional self-care, such as self-talk, weekly bubble baths, saying “no” to things that cause unnecessary stress, permitting yourself to take a pause, or setting up a weekly coffee date with a friend.
- Physical self-care, such as prioritizing sleep, adopting an exercise routine you can stick with, and choosing healthy and nourishing foods over highly processed ones.
- Spiritual self-care, such as attending a religious service, spending time in nature, meditating, incorporating regular acts of kindness into your day, or keeping a gratitude journal.
Also, we can put self-care into two further categories: temporary and enduring.
An example of temporary self-care is going to dinner with a friend. You’ll benefit from the social connection, but it won’t last for very long after you part ways.
Enduring self-care, on the other hand, has more permanent effects than practicing mindfulness regularly.
How to start a self-care routine
To get started with a self-care routine, you can try these ideas:
- Determine which activities bring you joy, replenish your energy, and restore your balance.
- Build up to practicing that behavior every day for one week.
- Reflect on how you feel.
- Start each day by paying attention to your breath for five minutes and setting intentions for the day.
- Eat breakfast.
- Reflect on what you’re grateful for each night.
- Put your phone on airplane mode for a half hour each night and release yourself from the flurry of notifications.
- Take up a relaxing hobby.
- Pick a bedtime and stick to it.
The bottom line:
Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy, but it requires a commitment or intention to invest in your well-being.
Note, if you read this and feel a sense of demoralization or sadness from challenges mounting or establishing a self-care practice, it’s best to get help and support. Seek support from trusted counselors and behavioral health providers (like therapists), a trusted primary care doctor, or a close friend.