The topic of self-care is one that has been discussed openly and often over the past decade. But for many, the concept of self-care is one that is still a bit mysterious, if not downright confusing.
What Is Self-Care?
First, self-care is a practice and a commitment we make to ourselves. It is any activity we do deliberately to support our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Not only does the right kind of self-care improve our health and life, but it can also improve the relationships we have with others.
Some examples of self-care might be:
- Creating better habits
- Eating right
- Getting plenty of quality sleep
- Spending quality time with loved ones
- Making time to enjoy a hobby
- Learning something new
Self-care isn’t always fun or easy, but you do it anyway because you know that the activity is what is BEST for you. In this way, self-care is a bit like acting as your own parent, making sure you do the things you don’t necessarily feel like doing because it is what your mind, body, and spirit need.
What Self-Care Isn’t
Self-care isn’t necessarily about making yourself feel better.
Person A has had a very bad day. They practice proper self-care and, when they get home, they change clothes, go for a 3-mile run, then cook a healthy dinner that refuels their body.
Person B has also had a very bad day and practices phony self-care. On their way home, person B stops at the store and gets a 6-pack of beer and a gallon of ice cream, then spends the entire night on the sofa drinking and eating the whole gallon in an attempt to make the bad day go away.
This phony style of self-care may feel good in the moment, but does not provide the mind, body, and spirit with the nourishment they need when they become depleted. This can create a pattern of long, tired, bad days and moments of pampering in excess! If the parent insists you eat your veggies because they are good for you, the child will eat only candy bars when the parent isn’t looking. Avoid wrestling with yourself like the parent (shaming yourself for imperfect self-care choices in the past or cravings in the present), or “sneaking around” yourself with phony self-care choices like the child. Create a physical or mental list of realistic activities, daily needs, and hobbies or practices to engage in for self-care that each balance practical nourishment with in-the-moment joy.
Remember–self-care is about making decisions based on what is good for you, not necessarily what you might FEEL like doing at the moment.
Self-care should also not be confused with pampering. While there is nothing wrong with getting massages and pedicures, these again tend to be quick fixes we give ourselves to make ourselves feel better in the moment. It takes mindfulness, practice, and, yes, regular self-care to know when we need to “just endure the moment” and “treat ourselves” as we let the feeling pass, and when we need to meet our comfortable edge and invest in our long-term growth and sense of serenity.
At the end of the day, self-care is a commitment to yourself to live, grow, and evolve in healthy ways. It means making choices mindfully that will lead to your best self and greatest potential.