Self Care 101
What is self care?
Before I started to write this post, I was thinking about how best to define the phrase "self care." But I couldn't. Because the thing about self care is that it's different for every individual.
A lot of times when people hear the phrase "self care,” they think of some trippy therapist sessions that involve a couch and plenty of boxes of tissues. I'm not really about that. (Well, the couch part, yeah, especially if it involves a lengthy Netflix binge.)
To me, there is no definition for "self care" because it can be whatever it is you need, at any given time.
Self care is taking time for yourself when your mind says you should be doing something else.
It's putting yourself first.
It's loving yourself enough to invest in YOU so you can then invest in others.
Love yourself enough to learn yourself—what your heart craves, where your mind lives, what grips your soul. Learn that and repeat it daily.
5 Key Elements of Practical & Intentional Self Care
1 | Self Love
I believe self care comes from a place of self love. You can't really practice something if you don't fully believe it. In the same way, you can't take care of you if you don't believe you're worth the time and effort.
You're worthy of having every good thing. You deserve it. It's okay if you don't believe me right now. Maybe you're just beginning on your own self love and self care journey. Everyone has to start somewhere.
For starters, one of my favorite self care rituals is taking time for myself, and this comes from a place of learning and understanding that I have the right to be cared for—even cared for by me. I love spending a day here and there catching up with friends, taking extra long in the coffee shop because I have no place to be, indulging in an extra long shower, or watching my favorite t.v. show—Gilmore girls.
See? It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated.
Self care comes from a place of learning and understanding that you have the right to be cared for—by yourself and others, too.
Self care is different for everybody, and it can be the simplest things—even reading or chatting with your best girlfriend. You just have to remember that it's about how it makes you feel. If you're doing what makes you happy, what makes you feel cared for and loved, you're practicing self care.
2 | Health
Our health is the most important thing about us that we take for granted the most often. After seeing close family members struggle with so many different diseases and ailments, I've come to appreciate my healthy state—and I want to keep it that way.
Self care is a daily lifestyle that includes: eating wholesome, nutrient-rich foods, exercising, getting adequate rest, and maintaining good mental health.
Self care is about being responsible for your mental health and clarity just as much as it's about caring for your physical and spiritual wellbeing, if not more so. When one deteriorates, the rest follow, so make sure you're doing what it takes to live a long life with a strong and capable body.
3 | Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be defined as:
"the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something"; "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique."
But similarly to self care, it's going to look different for each person. Don't think you have to assume a standard yoga pose, focusing on your "OM" to achieve mindfulness or mental clarity. That's where some people find their awareness and presence, which is awesome. Seriously, I'm a little jealous that you're able to bend your body into crow pose. You have enviable skills. But for others, awareness is found elsewhere, and that's fine, too.
I recently downloaded the (free) app Headspace to start becoming more intentional with mindfulness and meditation. Honestly, this is something I really struggle with. We live in a fast-paced society, built on instant gratification, rushed lifestyles, and multitasking our little hearts out.
Where does that leave time for a self care ritual of daily mindfulness? Oh, right—it doesn't.
We have to make that time happen. Again, I'm not talking anything crazy here. Self care can (and should) be simple and straightforward. Mindfulness can happen anywhere if you're willing to go there in the moment. According to the Headspace website:
"Recent studies show meditation and mindfulness can have a positive impact on stress, anxiety, focus, creativity and even relationships."
The app helps you to lessen stress, jump-start creativity, become more focused, conquer anxiety, and improve relationships.
4 | Personal Development
If you've spent any time at all on this blog, you probably know that I'm obsessed with anything to do with personal development—and seeing others form a passion for it, too.
I've always loved learning, and over the years, I’ve become a fairly adept self-teacher. Name just about any subject, and I'd love to know more about it. I love that learning can be a life-long endeavor, even though there's literally no possible way that we can learn everything there is to know. But it's a fun journey along the way.
The best way to jump into personal development is to start with your interests.
Do you love to draw or paint? Take an art class at your local community college or recreation center. Splurge on a new set of pencils or acrylics. Research your favorite artist online.
Or maybe you love to volunteer within your community. That in itself is a form of personal development; you're developing character, patience, and compassion for others, among many other skills. Look into partnering with brands and organizations that facilitate that process on a national or even global scale.
Before I move on from personal development, I want to mention one more thing.
Again, I love working on myself and facing new challenges. But it's easy to feel like you'll never be "good enough" when you're constantly working on bettering yourself. You don't have to run a 5k, or lose 10lbs, or be the perfect sister or friend before you feel like you're "good enough.”
There's nothing wrong with self improvement, but there's no specific standard we need to reach before we can love or accept ourselves, or allow others to love and accept us.
You already are.
If you never did anything else for the rest of your life, you're still enough. Just be proud of yourself for how hard you're trying.
5 | Necessity
Above all else, self care is 100% necessary.
"Health should not be considered a privilege or even a luxury, but as a necessity and a right."
It's necessary for our sanity. It's necessary in order to live our best lives. And it's necessary because the way we treat ourselves is how we teach others to treat us.
Be gentle and loving with yourself. You deserve it.
What Self Care Isn't
Self care isn't selfish.
A common idea when discussing self care is that it's somehow unimportant or selfish. Self care is not selfish.
If you're becoming a more content, happy, improved version of yourself, that is all that matters. How could that possibly be a selfish or bad thing? Unfortunately, there are those people who won't understand your desire to improve your lifestyle. These kinds of people may seek to drag you back down to their level; they don't want to see you improve. But that's okay.
You know why? Their thoughts and feelings on the subject of your self-improvement don't matter.
Leave them in their negativity. They'll either recognize and check themselves, or they won't. But you'll be long gone on your own personal journey before then. In the meantime, it’s important to set up healthy, personal boundaries with those who don’t yet understand how essential self care is to living a healthy life.
Self care isn't complicated.
Self care can be anything you want, whatever you need in the moment as long as it's healthy for you (and others, of course).
Buying those new shoes you've been eyeing for weeks? Self care.
Taking time to catch up with your mom over coffee? Self care.
Enrolling in a new yoga class at your local gym? Self care.
Working on improving your resumé and job skills to land that new position? Self care.
Don't put too much thought into it; just do what works for you.
How you make time to care for yourself is what makes you, you. It's part of what makes life enjoyable. It's how each of us keeps on going day after day. I'm making a commitment to myself (and to you) to do one thing everyday that helps me grow as a person and makes me happy. Anything from reading a new book to giving my all in a new blog post or lending a compassionate ear or shoulder to a friend in need.
It's all too easy to say we're going to work toward something or set goals for ourselves. It's another thing to actually do it.
Love yourself enough to learn yourself—what your heart craves. Learn & repeat it, daily.
What does self care mean to you? What are your favorite ways to practice self-care? I’d love to hear them!