These days, it seems as though we are hearing so much about self-care. One quick search of the hashtag "self-care" will get you tons of posts (to be exact, 39.9 million on Instagram!) dedicated to just about anything from practicing yoga and trying a new face mask, to ways you can improve work-life balance and implementing a new sleep routine. According to Google Trends data, the term "self-care" has popularized in mainstream culture over the last five years, and was searched at an all-time high in April of 2020. The pandemic has certainly shed a particular light on wellbeing; forcing people to think introspectively and work on healing parts of themselves. But what exactly is self-care and better yet, how do we do it?
The Oxford Dictionary defines self-care as the "practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress." Feel free to read that definition once more and say it aloud for the people in the back. Consider the following points below to learn what self care is NOT, and how to begin to practice it for yourself.
Self-care does NOT make you selfish! Rather, it is about self preservation. The great civil rights activist, Audre Lorde wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Before mainstream culture became fascinated by it, it was something training clinicians learned about to help them avoid burn-out or "compassion fatigue".
Self-help and self-care are NOT the same thing. The latter is more solution focused and action oriented. It is about protecting your wellbeing; not striving towards an idealistic self.
Self-love, self-compassion, and self-awareness are all forms of self-care. Practicing these concepts on a regular basis can help us to feel more whole.
There is no right or wrong way to practice self-care. For some, practicing self-care constitutes taking a bubble bath or indulging in some dessert. Some people would say it consists of using a mental health day at work, or starting a consistent exercise regimen. Whatever the practice is, the purpose is the same.
DO NOT consider activities of daily living self-care practices! I hear far too many people exclaim that they "took a long shower" or "got all the errands done" on their "self-care Sunday". No, no no! Please stop calling these things self-care. People - you deserve more than this! If you think you are going to preserve your happiness and well-being with a shower or some folded laundry, you are all wrong; a cup of hot chocolate and a bath bomb on the other hand, well... maybe.
Think about the things you do that create a sense of restoration or rejuvenation. Consider the things that help you to really connect with yourself. These are the things you want to do to amp up your self-care game. Consider the following realms: emotional, physical, social, spiritual, financial, professional and personal. Making lists for each of these categories can be helpful in establishing short-term goals that can turn into long-term practices. Remember, self-care is not about being selfish; it is an investment in your wellbeing that has significant long-term benefits to you and the people around you.
Are you tired of term self-care yet? ;-)