Self-care has become a very commonly talked about expression. We hear about it in therapy; we see posts about it on social media; we hear workout instructors mention it during classes, and companies are now emphasizing its importance more than ever before. This study cites that google searches for how self-care increased during the COVID-19 lockdown. Unsurprisingly, there has been a surge in self-care talk and research in response to the last year, and findings seem to all agree in emphasizing its importance.
But, what exactly is meant by self-care? Despite it being a term thrown around often, many people don’t know its true meaning. Some worry that self-care is self-indulgence or that self-care is selfish. Some have a concern there isn’t time to make self-care a priority. Therefore, it feels paramount to break it down, describe what self-care is, what it is not, and why it is so important. Simply put, self-care is what it sounds like – it is taking care of oneself. There are many different ways one can do this, and I will mention examples throughout this blog, but first, it seems essential to elaborate on why self-care is vital to your well-being. Contrary to some notions, self-care is not selfish; individuals keep themselves healthy to feel mentally and physically fit and making good for themselves and others. Many metaphors articulate the necessity of self-care. Here are a few of my favorites:
- You can’t drive a car on an empty tank of gas.
- You cannot continue to withdraw money from a piggy bank that has had no deposits.
- You can’t fill someone else’s cup from an empty pitcher.
- On an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put on your face mask before helping a child or neighbor with theirs. It is because you need to be able to breathe to assist others and keep them safe.
- You can’t light yourself on fire to keep others warm.
Another common misconception about self-care is it’s just about the fun and relaxing things one can do to decompress. For example, many cartoons depicting self-care include pictures of the spa, animals, or yoga. A gratitude practice is another way self-care is often illustrated, for a good reason, as it has many proven benefits. Read more about gratitude here. While these activities certainly fall under the umbrella of self-care, it is important to point out often, self-care looks like hard work. For example, asserting boundaries and saying no is a beautiful example of caring for oneself, though it might not be as glamorous as getting a facial. Another facet of self-care is in the form of taking care of one’s physical health, which can include tasks people often dislike doing, such as visiting the dentist or scheduling an annual physical exam. Despite these things not feeling particularly fun or exciting, they are essential practices that do fall under the umbrella that is self-care.
Self-care looks can look different for everybody. For some, meditation is an essential part of one’s self-care routine because it is a practice to be present, decompress and reflect. However, for others, listening to upbeat music and dancing may be equally as valuable. Getting to know what gives you positive energy is a vital step to building your self-care practice. I often encourage clients to consider what things produce energy in their lives and which acts absorb their energy. Doing so allows them to make sure they are never quickly draining much more than they are replenishing. In other words, if a social event is very exhausting for you, being sure to practice self-care deliberately before and after the event can help refill your tank. Aiming to have a decently full tank at all times is going to improve your general sense of well-being.
Self-care is the umbrella term, and the different examples listed throughout this blog and countless others all fall nicely within the category. Take your time to consider the different things that are most nurturing for you, remembering that sometimes they are activities that can help you de-stress, and other times they are tasks that help you remain healthy. Self-care intends to take care of your entire self, including your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, to incorporate things that address each of these areas. Therapy in and of itself is an act of self-care, but it can also be a great space to work with a professional to figure out what else you can introduce to your routine. Read this blog to learn more about how to begin therapy at Gateway to Solutions and prioritize your self-care!