You've probably heard the phrase "self-care" quite a bit by now, as the movement to focus on personal wellness grows. While it's great that the importance of self-care is trending, many of us aren't sure what self-care even means, let alone how to practice it on a daily basis.
It's crucial to learn what self-care means for you, specifically, in order to really benefit from it! Let's discuss the impact and importance of self-care in your relationships, both with yourself and others, and take a look at some specific self-care practices.
Self-Care: What Does It Mean?
If we dissect the term itself, it's easy to surmise that the definition of "self-care" is caring for one's self. However, the concept of self-care is a little deeper and more complex than that.
Self-care is not just one thing. There are many different types of self-care, such as physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social, financial, and creative self-care. Each type of self-care has its own purpose and, because we are all unique, can look different for everybody.
For example, if you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you might benefit from taking a relaxing bath or reading a book. On the other hand, you might prefer a more active method of stress relief, like doing yoga or running.
Obviously, there are many more examples, and we'll get into specific self-care practices next. But before we do that, it's important to keep in mind that you don't have to wait until you're sick or stressed to start practicing self-care. In fact, self-care is often most effective when you work specific practices into your daily or weekly routine.
Ultimately, self-care isn't about doing something good for yourself once in a while. Rather, think of it as a way of life — a collection of actions that can improve your overall well-being. And yes, this can and does often mean putting your own needs first, which can be one of the toughest parts of committing to self care. Many of us have been conditioned to put our family, lovers, friends and careers above our personal well-being, and that's not always the healthiest way to go.
Remember: when you're taking care of yourself, you're better equipped to care for others and make healthy decisions. Let's take a look at some of the benefits of prioritizing personal wellness through self-care.
Why Is Self-Care Important?
A consistent practice of self-care can benefit you in many ways, including physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. The specificity of your self-care routines can depend on which facet of your life you're trying to reaffirm and focus on. Overall, though, the benefits of self-care habits affect every part of your life (hopefully for the better!).
Physical Wellness. Prioritizing your physical well-being is a great way to keep yourself healthy and ready for the day ahead. Incorporating regular exercise into your lifestyle is a tried and true way to keep endorphins flowing and boost your immune system. Exercise can also improve circulation, strengthen muscles, reduce stress levels, and increase energy. All of these things combined makes physical wellness a cornerstone of self-care!
Mental Wellness. Consistently checking in with yourself and your own mental health is vital when it comes to self-care. When you feel balanced and happy, you're more likely to make healthy decisions and support those around you. Going to therapy, prioritizing "me time," seeking medical help when needed, and maintaining safe boundaries within your relationships are all great ways to keep your mental wellness in check.
Emotional Wellness. If you've ever felt depressed, you know how difficult it can be to find the motivation to practice self-care. That's why focusing on emotional wellness can feel like a bit of a Catch-22! But sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to let yourself be. Feel what you need to feel, and allow yourself to cope in the ways that feel good to you. You can pick up your self-care practices again when you're feeling up to it. Reciting words of affirmation can be an easy and effective way to practice self-care even when you're not at your best.
Financial Wellness. You're more likely to make healthy choices of all kinds when make self-care a priority. Keeping track of your spending, saving money for future vacations and things that spark joy, and treating yourself to special self-care items are all examples of personal financial wellness.
While this list doesn't reflect every type of wellness, it does serve to show how self-care and wellness are inextricably linked. Now that we've learned a bit about why self-care is important, let's look at some specific examples of self-care practices you can try now.
Building A Self-Care Plan
Whether you're gearing up for a stressful event or you just want to maintain personal balance, having a set of self-care strategies can be very helpful. Let's talk about how to start a self-care routine, and look at some examples of self-care practices you can try.
Remember: we're all different, and self-care doesn't look the same for everybody. Don't feel compelled to try everything on this list, but do focus what makes you feel good.
Interview Yourself. When building a self-care strategy, ask yourself questions. What kinds of things spark joy for you? Which of your hobbies relieve stress? What time of day or night do you feel the most calm? Are there certain scents that make you feel happy?
By asking yourself these kinds of questions, you're effectively mapping out your own self-care plan. In my experience, it helps to write everything down or pin it on a vision board so you can clearly piece your self-care routine together.
Start Slow. Once you've determined the kinds of things you'd like to incorporate into your self-care plan, pick one or two items from the list. If, for example, you choose meditating, set a goal for yourself. Maybe you aim to meditate once a day for a week, then 2 weeks, and so on.
When you feel like you've successfully integrated meditation into your self-care routine, go ahead and add another practice. The point here is to not overwhelm yourself by adopting an entirely new lifestyle overnight. When it comes to practicing self-care, it's totally fine to start slow!
Short-Term Vs. Long-Term. Some self-care acts can be worked into your daily or weekly routine over a long period of time, while others are more temporary. For example, reciting words of affirmation to yourself can be a long-term habit you practice every day, while meeting up with a friends for dinner and drinks is a temporary act of self-care that might not be as regimented. Both forms of self-care are valid, and are especially effective when balanced together.
Reflect. A the end of each week, take a moment to reflect on how you feel. Did your self-care routine go according to plan? If not, what do you think needs to be adjusted? Are there things you'd like to do more or less? Remember: your self-care plan can evolve just as much as you do! So feel free to make tweaks and changes as you see fit.
Support People. Talk to the support people in your life! By consulting with friends and family about their self-care routines, you might uncover some ideas of your own. Additionally, chatting with the folks who know you best can be a great way to gain outside perspective on the ideal self-care strategies for you.
Examples of Self-Care Practices
Take a look at the list below and see if any of these self-care practices appeal to you!
- Evening walks
- Weekly bubble baths
- Morning jogs
- Arts and crafts (drawing, painting, scrapbooking, etc.)
- Reciting words of affirmation
- Reading for leisure
- Sleep tracking
- Taking a break from social media/your phone
- Catching up with friends & family
- Spa day!
- Making your bed
- Treating yourself to something special
- Scheduling health appointments
- Talking to your therapist
- Writing in a journal
- Making a list of 5 things you're grateful for
Feel free to add to this list with self-care practices you'd like to try. Remember that self-care can mean anything that works for you. Just be sure to be mindful as you practice self-care, and do your best to map out the strategies that work best for your unique self.