What Is Self-Care, Anyways?

While many of us are of the mindset that we should be engaging in self-care on some level, what exactly is it, anyways? We are here to break it down for you.

Defining Self-Care

By definition, self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health; this includes your physical health, mental health and emotional health. There is even spiritual self-care and professional self-care.

Self-care is about you. It can be hard for some to justify taking time and other means for themselves, but rest assured, self-care is not a practice of selfishness, but rather a practice of necessity to be the best version of you. Not only does your physical, mental and emotional health rely on you being your best you, but so does your family, your friends and your community. In actuality, self-care is a  practice of selflessness

So how do you determine if your favorite morning coffee ritual or nighttime routine is technically a practice of self-care? The rule of thumb when determining if something is self-care is to ask yourself, will this benefit my health in any way? If the answer is yes, congratulations! You are officially in the self-care game.

So what are all of these self-care categories? Let's take a little walk down self-care lane.

Types of Physical Self-Care

Sleep: Establishing a regular sleep routine with enough hours of sleep best for your body and needs is a self-care practice that most of us are not practicing. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults 18-64 years old need 7-9 hours per night.

So how does one get into a better sleep routine? Here are a few simple tips that can be easy to implement:

  • Establish a "lights out" time. This time may differ for weekday and weekend nights, but make sure it is a time that will allow you to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep based on your average wake-up time for weekday and weekend mornings.
  • Establish a "technology off" time. If you find it hard to put your phone down, put time limitations on certain apps and social media through your phone's settings.
  • Establish accountability with your partner, if you have one. If you are flying solo, tap in a parent, a sibling or good friend who will help to hold you accountable while you get into your new bedtime routine.

Rest: You might be wondering, isn't rest the same thing as sleep? The short , perhaps surprising answer: not at all!

Rest falls outside of sleep, as this is time spent during waking hours taking the opportunity to rest your body as needed without sleeping.

Examples of rest include:

  • Taking sick days when you are sick.
  • Taking a lunch break to have a moment of rest during work.
  • Taking a meditation or breathwork break.

Diet + Eating: People often refer to a glass of wine or indulging in their favorite "junk" food as their self-care or stress relief at the end of a long day, but given the nutritional value and/or negative health side effects of the food or drink of choice, this would not classify as physical self-care.

If a food or drink does not improve your health, consuming it is not considered physical self-care. Eating in excess or limiting calories is also not physical self-care, as it does not improve your health.

Bottom line, if a food or drink does not improve your overall physical health, it is not self-care (it might just be a practice of enjoyment instead!).

Movement: This can range from walking your dog to attending a high-intensity interval training class 6 days a week. Everyone’s bodies respond differently to different physical activities; so as long as the activity physically makes you feel good, then it is considered physical self-care.

If the physical activity becomes something you begin to dread or you have physical adverse reactions during or after the activity, it is no longer considered self-care. It is important to recognize any negative emotional or physical reactions to a practice and adjust accordingly. 

Types of Mental and Emotional Self-Care

This type of self-care is classified as any self-care activity that is not physical in nature and promotes intellectual or emotional engagement in a positive way.

Examples of mental and emotional self-care include:

  • Journaling and writing
  • Personal care practices (i.e. massages, facials, etc.)
  • Engaging in a non-work hobby such as photography or cooking
  • Technology-free time
  • Socialization time

Contrary to common belief, self-care does not have to be something you do alone. Developing and maintaining positive, supportive friendships and relationships are notably important in one's overall mental and emotional wellbeing.

Is It This or That? The Gray Areas of Self-Care

Some self-care techniques may fall into multiple categories and that is a-okay. Self-care does not have to fit into a box and sometimes the best things in both self-care and in life are in the gray.

For example, meditation is something practiced during rest but has incredible mental and emotional benefits and can even be spiritual for some.

Yoga is another example; while it is a physical self-care practice, it can also have great mental, emotional and spiritual benefits as well.

The Net Net of Self-Care

Overall, when approaching self-care, it is not about the type or category of self-care that you are practicing but instead if it benefits your health and if you enjoy it.

Stay tuned for next week's blog on why self-care has a place in everyone's life.

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