You’ve probably heard the term “self-care” tossed around, but you may have no real concept of what it is. If so, you are not alone. What self-care actually is – versus what society insinuates it should be – are two different things to many of us.
Self-care can be defined as broadly as “care for oneself” (Merriam-Webster) or as specifically as “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress” (Oxford English Dictionary). I would argue that most of the time when people hear self-care, they think that it should be something like meditation or exercise; that is not necessarily the case. Self-care can be anything that is beneficial for your overall well-being, meaning it can look different for everybody.
Cultivating a self-care practice is important for maintaining your mental, physical, and emotional health. It can have an impact in many areas of our life; for example, social, financial, spiritual, and occupational. Self-care is not a distress tolerance skill for intense emotions. Rather, it allows us the ability to keep our stress manageable and prevent us from burnout. In addition, self-care has the ability to decrease anxiety and depression, lower the effects of stress, increase energy, and improve mood (NAMI).
Exploring self-care for yourself
If you’ve never consciously practiced self-care and aren’t sure what it looks like, think about the following:
- When do I feel the best?
- Where do I feel the most comfort?
- When am I calm and grounded?
- Is there a time or thing that acts as a mental reset for me?
- Is there something I like to do that relaxes me and allows me to focus?
While it may not be possible for everyone to take a break when they’re feeling overwhelmed, try to take a self-inventory.
- What am I feeling?
- What do I need at this moment?
- What am I able to do for myself at this moment?
Most importantly, self-care also includes giving yourself compassion. Recognize that self-care is beneficial for you and those around you; it is not a waste of time or unproductive. Give yourself permission to do what you need in the given moment.
- Exercise (i.e. going for walk, yoga)
- Connect with yourself (i.e. journaling, meditate, self-reflection)
- Engage your mind (i.e. reading, puzzles)
- Do something creative (i.e. coloring, painting, doodling)
- Start small. You don’t have to practice all things health and wellness at once (or ever).
- Your self-care routine may begin with making your bed or doing a puzzle… and that is OK.
- What works for one might not work for all.
About the Author: Jessica Marcacci, M.S. is a psychotherapist at River Wards Wellness Collective located in Philadelphia (Fishtown). She sees both individuals & couples, focusing mainly on life stressors, relationships, emotions, self-worth, and anxiety.