What Self Care ACTUALLY Is (And What It’s Not)

Self care is commonly defined as is any activity that we seek out in order to take care of our mental, physical, and emotional health.

I’m all for self-love and self-care, and I love that more people are taking a voice online and advocating for how important it is to take care of our whole selves.

However, self-care is not as simple in practice as the concept may seem. Self-care is often associated with pampering yourself, treating yourself, and otherwise indulging in relaxing activities.

While that’s a big part of it, I want to discuss more of the intricacies of what self-care actually is. But first, lets start with what it’s not.

What self-care is not:

Self-care is not…

  • Only confined to pampering yourself; relaxing, energizing, or validating activities (bubble baths, spa days, massages, lazy days, etc.)
  • Always enjoyable, easy activities that make you feel good
  • An excuse to indulge in bad habits or irresponsible spending. In other words, treating yourself is great, but using “self-care” as an excuse to impulsively spend money on items out of budget or over-eat junk food on too frequent basis is not taking care of yourself. That would be using it to justify harmful behaviors.
  • Grand gestures that occur only once you’ve reached your breaking point.

What self-care ACTUALLY is:

Self-care DOES include…

  • All the small, daily acts that contribute to your long term wellbeing
  • Consistent actions you do for yourself, day in and day out
  • Activities that are relaxing, relieving, validating, energizing, liberating BUT also activities that can feel
    • Daunting
    • Hard
    • Like a chore
    • Heavy
    • Scary

Examples of self-care:

  • Setting boundaries for yourself
  • Prioritizing spending time with people who matter to you, family and friends, positive influences that make you happy
  • Exercising regularly
  • Loving your body for what it does for you, at each stage in life, not only on days where you look “skinnier” or are satisfied with the number on the scale
  • Nourishing your body
  • Regularly cleaning & tidying up your space
  • Saying NO
  • Journaling and paying attention to what’s going on inside your head
  • Prioritizing getting enough sleep
  • Staying on top of chores and responsibilities, rather than letting them pile up
  • Spending time outside EVERY day, even if it’s just a quick walk, or sitting outside in the fresh air during the evenings
  • Reading a book/article/blog that makes you feel good, stimulates your mind, or inspires you
  • Sitting with and embracing your feelings, rather than avoiding them
  • Hydrating yourself
  • Showing kindness to a stranger
  • Journaling about all the thing you’re grateful for in life
  • Taking breaks when you need them
  • Revisiting your life goals and reflecting on your satisfaction with life on a regular basis
  • Do something creative
  • Dance, sing, blast music
  • Accepting that you might do all the necessary self-care activities, yet still feel overwhelmed, lost, sad, burnt out, stressed, anxious etc. This happens. Your actions don’t always have immediate effects, but the habits will prevail.
  • Being courageous enough to try again and commit to self-care for the long run.

No, self-care is not always easy. Taking care of ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally can feel really really hard. It requires discipline, focus, and hope (in addition to all the more enjoyable, empowering and relaxing activities).

But like any continuous practice, you get better at it the more you do it correctly. The more consistent you are.

What are some of your favorite self-care activities — the difficult, the fun, the relaxing, all of it?

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