What is Self-Care?
Self-Care can be defined as…
According to The National Institute of Mental Health, self-care means “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.” It may include partaking in steps to stay physically healthy, such as working out, hygiene, and nutrition. Individuals may utilize self-care as a way to cope with difficult life events, while others may use self-care as part of their daily routine. Self-care involves reflecting on how you are doing physically, mentally and emotionally and then taking steps to address any areas in need of improvement. It is important to note that the definition of self-care is not universal – it may look different for everyone.
The difference between avoidance and self-care …
In addition to being a part of the answer on how we can all better cope with daily stressors, self-care is important in our daily lives to cultivate order. Thus self-care may take the form of completing tasks such as cleaning the house, making the bed, going to the gym, creating a budget to meet long-term goals, studying rather than partying, and having difficult conversations to reduce misunderstandings and resentment. Making the time to complete these important tasks or learn these skills, in addition to taking breaks or engaging in hobbies or sports allows one to maintain order in their life and to create a balanced life which one does not need to escape. Completing these important tasks is a way to cope with and address stressors in life, not simply avoid their realities. Self-care strengthens our ability to cope better and do more of what we want to (e.g. help others, perform better at school or work, enjoy life and stress less).
In short, self-care can be relaxing/entertaining and it can be task-based leading to progress. The key is that it helps you to create a life you enjoy more (rather than one you want to run away from).
Feelings of Self-Care Guilt
Self-care is Selfish myth…
Self-care guilt is the misconception that self-care is synonymous with selfishness. Many individuals believe that by practicing self-care and putting themselves first, that they are engaging in indulgent behaviour. In actuality, self-care ensures that you maintain wellness to be productive and in turn are able to care for others. As the writer Eleanor Brown exclaimed, “when you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
Further, it may be difficult to feel like you are neglecting responsibilities when engaging in self-care. However it is important to remember that your quality of life is important, and investing in your well-being will create a balanced lifestyle, which optimizes your productivity.
Some traditional self-care ideas include…
Emotional self-care: setting boundaries; taking the time to acknowledge your own thoughts and what you are experiencing; processing and addressing both positive and negative feelings; confiding and engaging in deep conversations with friends or family
Physical self-care: engaging and committing to a workout plan; healthy eating; completing daily chores such as making your bed; practicing good hygiene; get a restful sleep
Spiritual self-care: taking time for self-reflection; enjoying nature; engaging in mindful activities such as yoga or meditation, journaling
Review the Self-Care Assessment
The following assessment, adapted from Therapist Aid, is intended to assist you in learning about your self-care by helping you to draw attention to areas that need more recognition. Self-care activities are divided into five categories: physical, psychological/ emotional, social, spiritual and professional. There are no right or wrong answers within this assessment.
(adapted from © 2018 Therapist Aid LLC Self-Care Assessment | Therapist Aid)
Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Caring for your mental health. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health
Schuldt, W. (2018). Self-Care Assessment (worksheet). Therapist Aid. https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/self-care-assessment