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Self-Care: What It Is and What It’s Not

Let’s get one thing clear: self-care is not heedless splurging.

When done right, self-care can enhance your health, decisions, and day-to-day actions.

So, if self-care is not about overspending on pamper days, what is it exactly?

Self-Care in a Nutshell

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines self care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”

The WHO further asserts that self-care involves personal factors such as autonomy, self-reliance, empowerment, personal responsibility, and self-efficacy.

Emotional Self-Care

Self-care’s centerpiece is the promotion of your health and well-being.

Emotional self-care focuses on ensuring that your emotional needs are met and protected.

A 2014 study of self-care among doctors and palliative care nurses indicated some of the effective strategies they used for emotional self-care include:

  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Socializing
  • Taking a hot soak
  • Maintaining positive relationships

Moreover, emotional care also involves making time for important activities that you find meaningful. 

Physical

Physical self-care is a vast term that refers to a range of practices.

Physical self-care can include essential daily life activities that many people tend not to follow through during a physical or mental health episode. These basics can include:

  • Skin care
  • Washing and putting on fresh clothes
  • Dental hygiene

Self-care can also include various tasks that can help prevent sickness and diseases. 

Self-medication and seeking care from medical health professionals when required are some of the examples of physical self-care that can help prevent illness.

Other aspects of physical self-care can include the following:

  • Eating a balanced and nutritious meal
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Following health practices that can lessen your risk of disease (i.e., getting vaccinated, wearing sunscreen, not engaging in unprotected sex, avoiding heavy alcohol consumption and smoking, etc.)

Spiritual

Spiritual self-care involves practices that are focused on connecting with your inner being. 

Methods you can use to meet your spiritual needs include:

  • Visiting places of worship
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Reading from religious or spiritual texts 
  • Community involvement
  • Finding joy and seeking peace

How to Start Practicing Self-Care

Starting your self-care practice can be overwhelming at first.

For starters, it can be a bit tricky to figure out what self-care methods can benefit you best or what areas of your life you should focus on first.

There is one foolproof method that can set you off the right path: writing.

Many studies have proven the value of taking pen to pad for mental health.

Writing your thoughts down can be:

  • A therapeutic tool that can give you more perspective into yourself and others
  • A healthy hobby
  • A conduit for personal health and development

The author of the New York bestselling book “The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time,” Cheryl Richardson recommends starting your self-care practice by identifying where you feel most deprived.

Answering the following questions should get your efforts off to a great start:

  • Where do you feel most deprived?
  • What do you need more of right now?
  • What do you need less of?
  • What do you want right now?
  • What are you yearning for?
  • What or who is causing you to feel resentful, and why?
  • What are you starving for?

Richardson recommends that you should be as specific as can be in your responses. 

Being specific can help ensure you can clearly identify what you lack and need.

Richardson also suggested creating a “No List.”

Knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important as knowing what you do want.

Examples that can be included in your No List include:

  • Not rushing
  • Not gossiping
  • Not holding on to things and people you no longer love or need

Your No List will make it clear what you refuse to deal with in your life.

This list can also help you feel safe and protected.

When to Fit in Your Self-Care Practice

While there is no recommended time for your self-care practice, the idea is to ensure you are consistent and you conduct your self-care practice around the same time each day so it’s easier to build the habit.

Over to You

Self-care is not something you should do when you have time. Neither is it a reward that can be gained once you have accomplished all the other things you have set out to do. On the contrary, self-care should be seen as the foundation of your overall health and well-being. Lastly, self-care is not an indulgence. Rather, it is an essential ingredient in the prevention of impairment, burnout, distress, and disease.