Self care has been a buzzword for a few years now; search for the #selfcare tag, and you’ll see what I mean! If you haven’t heard of it, here’s a quick and easy definition: “any activity we intentionally do that benefits our physical, mental, and emotional health”. Sounds good, right? But why is self care important?
In a world where financial success drives ambition, both relaxation and personal well-being take a backseat to productivity. Fortunately, society at large has suddenly experienced an a-ha moment regarding the importance of self care. The realization is that this actions can help you achieve your goals and improve your chances of “winning” in life.
What is self care?
Self care is the act of improving or preserving any aspect of one’s health through an intentionally beneficial activity. We’ll go into the different types of self care in a later section. As with many other topics, self care means different things to different people; there is no one-size-fits-all definition.
Some people associate this term with facials and bubble baths—each of these a valid form of self care. Interestingly, the concept as it is known originated in the 1950s and applied to the tasks performed by institutionalized patients to help give them a sense of self-worth, including activities related to personal hygiene (though I’m not sure bubble baths were among these).
Over the decades, the term self care has taken on different meanings. In the humanitarian and first responder field, it became widely known as a means to counter post-traumatic stress disorder. Self care began to encompass an individual’s physical, emotional, psychological, and even spiritual needs.
Among the African American community, self care was widely encouraged in response to racism and discrimination. In the 70s, the Black Panther Party urged Black citizens to prioritize it to stay resilient in the face of systemic oppression. In the 80s, activist Audre Lorde described self care for Black women in the following way, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
We’ve barely scraped the surface of why is self care important or has been to diverse groups of people. How do you think self care might relate to your life?
Why is self care important
By now, holistic health is a household word, or, at least, it should be. It is the notion that your overall health depends on your physical, mental, spiritual, and social state and that, if you’re not well in one area, it will affect you in other areas.
Similarly, self care is essential for maintaining and improving your physical health and emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being. It is a strategy you can use to achieve holistic health.
It is vital because it makes you put your own health first and, by doing so, you’re more likely to have the right attitude and be a better team player (whether in your home life or at the office). It facilitates a more positive outlook and better energy levels for experiencing happiness and achieving the short- and long-term goals you set.
Types of self care
Self care can be as simple as getting enough sleep or drinking enough water. The unfortunate truth is that many of us are obsessed with productivity, work, other people—pretty much anything except our basic daily needs and overall well-being.
Self care addresses this by reminding us to dedicate time and thought to our health. Here are a few examples broken down into the categories mentioned earlier: physical, mental, spiritual, and social.
Physical self care:
Are you treating your body well? Physical self care refers to prioritizing proper nourishment, rest, exercise, and hygiene. What does this look like in real life? It could mean turning off your phone two hours before you head to bed to ensure proper rest, getting a massage, or taking a relaxing bath.
Mental or psychological self care:
Taking care of your mental and psychological well-being can take the form of establishing a healthy morning routine, going to a therapist, journaling, or doing something playful that brings you joy.
Spiritual self care:
When it comes to this type of self care, your options are plenty. Consider treating yourself to a vipassana retreat, making time to meditate, spending time in nature, or engaging in acts of selflessness like volunteering at a local charity.
Social self care:
We need to feel connected to experience happiness. Make sure you prioritize your relationships with friends, partners, and family. Participate in group activities, meet new people, and push yourself outside your comfort zone.
How is self care important to you? What are some ways you’ll begin to prioritize self care in your own life?