Once upon a time, the idea of self-care was a foreign concept. Then, it came into our consciousness and quickly pervaded our waking thoughts. Now, people point to everything they do for themselves as self-care. Doing so might be one incredibly broad way of looking at it, but it doesn’t define what true self-care is.
What Is Self-Care?
In very general terms, self-care is an activity in which we take part to soothe our mental, physical and emotional health. Proper self-care can improve our moods and help ward off anxiety.
In today’s society, self-care has become a vital part of many people’s lives. We deal with a lot of stress on a daily basis. For instance, a whopping 69 percent of Americans say that the nation’s future causes them stress. And current events push people to seek out self-care remedies. During the appointment hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, for instance, Google searches for the topic skyrocketed to a 14-year high.
Self-care can also be a refuge from the personal trauma and grief that we’ve faced over time. Seeking therapy and navigating such feelings is a prime example of the practice. Ultimately, doing so will help alleviate anxiety and allow a person to have a happier, more level-headed existence.
Looking inward can help self-care practitioners find a higher meaning in their lives too. Spirituality can be one avenue to traverse, and a belief system can help guide a person outside of their self-care sessions. Connecting with religion can give them purpose, clarity and calmness, all of which contribute to an overall sense of well-being. Plus, some of the reflection involved in self-care can help a person find their path and define what’s important to them. Pursuing what matters is a great form of self-care — no longer will people be chasing careers that cause them stress or unhappiness.
Meditation also falls under the umbrella of self-care in its original terms. A mind clouded by stress and racing thoughts doesn’t provide any feel-good benefits. On the other hand, if a person meditates, they can work to block such negativity from their head. Being present and mindful is an incredible embodiment of self-care. Plus, meditation gives one time to sit and reflect on their own. For many people, self-care equals time spent solo, recharging and refreshing themselves for what’s ahead.
Self-care might also mean helping others. If a person improves, they can share that improvement with the community at large. This is another area where spirituality and self-care seem to go hand-in-hand. A person shouldn’t need money or status to participate in self-care. It should be a universally accessible practice, and at its core, it is.
What Isn’t Self-Care?
Unfortunately, the wonderful truths about self-care have started to become enshrouded by what the media likes to pitch as self-care. Log onto Instagram and check out #selfcare. You’ll see a slew of images that show people soaking in bubble baths, luxuriating in face masks or having their nails painted. Sure, time to unwind is certainly a method of self-care. But the idea of taking care of one’s emotional and physical selves has, in some ways, morphed into purely commercial practice.
Ultimately, self-care is finding the root of what actually ails you. Sure, a 15-minute period spent soaking in a bubble bath can help reduce stress, but does it pinpoint why you feel agitated? Does it help you tackle such feelings in the future? The answer is no. As such, it proves how companies have taken the idea of self-care and run with it. They’ve made it seem like you need skincare remedies or apps or fancy workouts to improve your self-care. In reality, they just want to sell you something.
On that note, some people point to self-care as a negative thing — namely, they say it’s selfish for people to take time from a busy schedule and dedicate it to themselves. But ensuring you’re of sound mind and body will never be a bad thing. It makes you a better partner, parent and employee.
In fact, addiction specialists implore patients to participate in self-care so that they feel good and stay on track. Self-care will allow them to address the negative feelings that led them to addiction in the first place and overcome them. Even with less extreme issues pushing you toward self-care, you can use the practice to address your emotional and physical setbacks. There’s absolutely nothing selfish about that.
How Can I Care for Myself?
Self-care comes in endless shapes and sizes. It’s up to you to figure out which methods will work best in your life and give you the greatest benefit. Seek out self-care methods prescribed by experts rather than by companies. Something as simple as eating a healthy meal or getting enough sleep can be self-care. You’ll realize it too when you start feeling better after making such a simple change.
Ultimately, your practice doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. No matter how you pursue it, one thing’s for sure: You’ll be better for it, mind, body and spirit. And that’s what self-care is all about.
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, passionate freelance writer, and the blogger behind Mindfulness Mama. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.
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