The term “self-care” has become a hot topic thrown around a lot, particularly in regards to mental health. But do we really understand what self-care is and why it can be needed?
I was introduced to self-care a few months ago when I was facing a difficult week and was speaking to my therapist about it. At the end of the session she encouraged me to be intentional about practicing good self-care for the next week.
The term self-care describes the actions that an individual might take in order to reach optimal physical and mental health. Self-care can include anything from getting a haircut or a massage, to going to the beach or eating at your favorite restaurant. But even more than that, it means being mindful of and tending to your own daily needs. The most basic example might be: don’t be a workaholic. Take time for a lunch break. Take time for hobbies, family, and friends.
Really, though, self-care takes on so many appearances because it is about taking the time to refresh and re-center yourself, and everybody does that a little differently. For me, when I was having that difficult week, self-care looked like buying myself peonies. They’re my favorite flower, and they brought brightness into my day. As much as we don’t want to be controlled by the things in our lives, it’s worth paying attention to the positive effects small “treats” – items, food, exercise, whatever – can have when we use them well for self-care. Knowing how to practice good self-care can be vital in dealing with depression, anxiety, or even just the pressures of day-to-day life that can so frequently feel overwhelming
Often, when we attempt to meet the needs of family, employers, kids, friends, or society before meeting our own needs, we impede our self-care routines and actually make ourselves less able to be positive influences in the lives of those around us. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish — in fact, it will allow you to show up for the people you love in a more real and impactful way.
Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish — in fact, it will allow you to show up for the people you love in a more real and impactful way.
Self-care is more than just taking time for yourself; it’s about knowing yourself. Knowing when you are being strained mentally and emotionally, and seeing that you can intentionally step back to replenish yourself.
Sometimes the topic of mental health can make us feel a little squirmy, but mental health (just like physical health) needs to be tended to. When we ignore our mental health out of fear of stigmas, we’re harming ourselves. Your body can tell you when it needs to rest. Your mind can let you know when it needs to be refreshed. The trick is listening and not ignoring it.
Perhaps next time you are feeling worn down, try practicing your own version of self-care and see if it helps to relax, re-center, and refresh yourself both mentally and emotionally.
What does healthy self-care look like for you?
Images via Michelle Madsen