What Is Self Care And Why Is It Important
Don’t grow up, it’s a trap.
Adulthood is overrated.
You must have heard one of these sayings at least once in your life. After all, the responsibilities of adulthood can be so overwhelming at times. There are multiple work deadlines, chores and obligations at home, and when you add in other social activities and engagements, you quickly forget to take care of yourself. Who would relish the opportunity to trade places with that toddler who has nothing to worry about? However, the only way to get through it is to embrace your numerous responsibilities and take some time to focus on what is important. And that includes self-care.
What Is Self Care?
Self care in the simplest form is making sure that you are deliberately doing the things that you need to do in order to stay healthy physically and mentally. As simple as it sounds, many of you pay little attention to self-care. This is why deliberately is so important in the definition. You have to actively prioritize your well-being before you can achieve true self-care.
Self care isn’t selfish. However you may feel that way because you’re accustomed to putting everyone else first. That’s ok. Keep at it.
Why Is Self Care Important?
Many people believe that you must always be productive - after all society expects you to work long hours and pass on vacation days. Meeting targets is the priority. This ultimately takes away from opportunities for self-care and comes with significant physical and mental health consequences.
Self care is important because it helps you establish and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself, which you can then extend to others. If you are not at your best, you will not be able to help others. You cannot give others what you don't have. Remember, you need love too.
What Does Self Care Look Like?
There are different categories of self care:
Physical Self Care
You are probably most familiar with this kind of self care. It involves getting enough water, food, sleep, and physical activity, or taking care of yourself when you’re sick. Physical self care also means caring for yourself by not doing anything that will hurt your body or make you feel crappy. This includes not abusing drugs and alcohol, binge eating, staying up late on social media, pushing yourself when you’re sick or not going to the doctor when you need to.
Another level of physical self care focuses on the things that make you feel good physically. These are doing activities like having a spa day, going for a massage or body scrubs, manicure, and/or pedicures. Letting someone else do your hair and makeup. If wearing certain clothes that make you feel good about yourself and your body, then wear it! Whether it’s yoga pants and a t-shirt or a new dress, wear it and feel like the goddess that you are.
Physical self-care also involves looking at your sexuality and the things that make you feel pleasure. Take time to explore sexuality, either with yourself or your partner or whoever gives you butterflies.
If it makes you feel good, then you should make time for it. Find your thing. Take long walks, listen to music or audiobooks or play video games. Swim. Do yoga or pilates. Belly dance! Play basketball or soccer, throw around a ball with your kids. There are so many options for you. Whatever you do, do it for you and it will be good enough.
Mental and Emotional Self Care
Mental self care means giving yourself a break from the worries and stresses daily life so that you can relax, clear your mind, and focus. Emotional self-care is about reacting to the emotions that arise from the stresses and worries in a healthy way, having good coping mechanisms, and cultivating emotional intelligence. How you deal with these reflects on how much you love yourself and is crucial to your happiness and your quality of life.
Do you feel like you are unable to deal with your mental and emotional health in a productive way? Do you feel like your emotions are in control of you and your life? On the opposite end of the scale, are you the kind of person that never lets anything bother you? Do you refuse to feel those things that hurt you? While you’re so busy pretending like you’re OK those feelings have a way of manifesting themselves in your life through chaos and self-destruction. If either of these sounds like you, then mental and emotional self care should be your focus. You will improve your overall well being.
So start right away by working on your self-talk. Make sure that you aren’t being abusive to yourself - no more calling yourself ugly, fat, stupid, or any other words you wouldn’t use to describe a loved one. Say no to requests for your time when it’s for your greater good. Stop guilting yourself out on every little thing you’ve ever done wrong. Remove the constant “should”s from your vocabulary. And most important, have good emotional boundaries - if something or someone triggers you, know when to step back. Create a support system of people that understand your emotional struggles.
Personal Self Care
Sometimes you become so tied up with how other people feel or what they think about you that you change yourself to make them happy. You become who someone else wants you to be, or do what they want you to do, so the true you becomes lost. It may be OK sometimes as we need to survive in daily life, but not to the extent where you don't know who you are anymore. This is a side effect of not loving yourself enough.
Personal self-care is about discovering (or rediscovering) your true self. It’s about discovering what you like to do and finding the true you when no one else is around. It also involves letting go of the negative self-beliefs that you were taught as a child and finding your own path - loving your quirks, qualities, and all of the ways and reasons you’re worth being loved.
Life is not about existing for other people solely. You should also be existing for yourself. Make time for hobbies and the things that bring you joy, you can never have too much of them. Try new activities to find new things to like and make you happy. Form your own thoughts and opinions instead of allowing yourself to be swayed by the expectations or thoughts of others around you. Know that you are a complete and whole person; you don’t need anyone to complete you. Spend lots of quality time by yourself - even if you are an extrovert. Set goals for yourself and go for it. Get what YOU want in life.
Social Self Care
The people you surround yourself with greatly determine how you feel about yourself. How you feel about yourself is determined by the people you surround yourself with. Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or something in-between, you need to know what socially fulfills you. It’s important that you honor your social needs. Do you need to make time with your sisterhood? Are you ready to try dating? Or do you find yourself committing to social situations when you really don’t want to?
Introverts recharge by spending time alone. Too long around other people and they begin to feel drained. Extroverts however, recharge by being around other people. But a lot of people are a mix of both at different times and in different situations and with different people.
Social self care means understanding the amount of time you need to spend around people and when for your happiness. And communication is key. Let others know how you feel. If someone hurts you, try to talk about it in a way that honors your feelings as well as theirs. It’s okay to let go of friendships if they are no longer good for your well being. It is important that you set boundaries.
Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and who inspire you to be the best version of who you are. Find a community that builds you up. If you need extra support, join a support group. These can connect you with people who understand your personal struggles and can help you deal with things that other people might not understand.
If you feel overwhelmed by life and you need some space, it’s okay to not take a break and not be social. Embrace the quiet and solitude at these times. If you decide, however, that a friendship is worth it, don’t be afraid to try to heal the relationship. You are allowed to work at relationships that matter to you.
Spiritual Self Care
Taking care of your soul is just as important as taking care of other aspects of your being. All parts of you work together to create a healthy life so understanding each part of who you are and allowing them to work together, is essential for happiness. Whatever you consider yourself, be it religious, or free spirited, ambivalent, or indifferent, taking care of spiritual self is part of the whole self-love experience.
Do things that make your soul feel good. Go to church, go out in nature, do yoga, or read a good book. Self-care for the soul also includes finding out what you believe. It is okay if it’s different to other beliefs. It’s also okay if it’s the same as other beliefs. Just do what resonates in your heart. Create a space in your home that is dedicated to worship. Be it an altar, or a special place for your Bible, where you do yoga or paint in peace. Just let it be sacred.
Other Forms of Self Care
Self care covers all areas of your life. These other forms of self care are more practical and include:
Professional Self Care
This is continuing to learn and advance in your field. Having a job that just makes you happy and having a healthy balance and boundaries when it comes to work and home.
Making sure that you’re in a healthy space or living environment free from danger and abuse. Doing those chores; don’t let them pile up.
Budgeting, paying bills on time and saving money as best you can.
Self Care and Wellness
So how does self care relate to wellness? According to Ferris State University,
“Self care is ... a way of living that incorporates behaviors that help you to be refreshed, replenish your personal motivation, and grow as a person. Wellness is an interactive process of becoming aware of and practicing healthy choices to create a more successful and balanced lifestyle.”
Therefore for each of the types or forms of self care identified in the previous section above, we have the equivalent in wellness.
Incorporating wellness into your life
Ferris University gives the following sets to incorporate wellness into your life:
- Awareness: Where am I unbalanced?
- Knowledge: What options do I have?
- Decision Making: What options should I consider?
- Planning: What is the most realistic plan?
- Action: When, where, and how can I take action?
Self Care Tips
1. Prioritize your physical health
Your body and the mind have a connection. It's hard to feel happy when you are not feeling good about your body. Research indicates that regular exercise will improve your mood and energy by significantly increasing the level of serotonin in our body. Make sure you choose a (physical) activity you love. You will feel extra fulfilled from doing what you love, which encourages persistence even when it seems you do not have time for it.
2. Get enough sleep
Too many people wear being sleep deprived as a badge of honor, where in fact it takes a toll on your physical and mental health. Research from sleep scientists recommend that adults need at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night. Your body needs time to rest and renew. Daytime naps are also good for renewing our body and improving concentration levels.
3. Eat healthy
Your diet is a major part of self-care. Most people would answer something like juicy steak, mounds of lasagna, or delicious cupcakes, when asked what foods make them feel good. However, eating these foods regularly is not good self-care. Make eating healthy, nutritious foods regularly. your preferred choice to build your body. You would be surprised how many tasty, healthy options exist!
4. Find what makes you feel good
Live deliberately. When the going gets tough, who do you know will be there for you no matter what? What mark do you want to leave in the world? Spend more time with those you love and live your life the way you want to be remembered. Keeping your priorities front and center will help you make decisions about how you spend your time.
5. Change your mindset / Practice Gratitude
We too often focus on the negatives while not appreciating the beauty all around us. Show gratitude and appreciation for the little gifts in your life. Take time to be still; meditate more. Having a gratitude mindset takes you on your way to achieving the highest level of self-care.
6. Learn to say No
Do you often say yes to requests in order to not hurt others feelings? If yes, then you are doing this at the expense of your own peace or health, which goes against the principles of self-care. Realize that you're only human and you can't possibly make everyone happy. Saying yes all the time predisposes you to burnout. It's also bad for your physical and emotional health.
Make Living Your Best Life Your Priority
There is no one principle that will work for everyone. What motivates you and inspires you differs from the person next door. Find the things that make you feel alive. Keep the commitment you make to yourself - be it to work out or just some quiet time to meditate or be alone. By being healthy about self-care, you will be more equipped to help others. Now go live your best life.