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What Self-Care Really Involves

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What is self-care?

Self-care is carrying out an activity that is aimed at improving and maintaining our overall health and sense of well-being.

It seems to be a bit of a buzzword. I find it appearing on my social media feeds, in magazines and on TV. Yet a lot of the information relating to this doesn’t usually explain the full concept of self-care. It can often be implied that reading positive memes or “taking a bath” will make everything in our lives feel so much better. However, there is so much more to it than that. It’s such a big subject that whole books have been written on the topic. In this article I would like to give you a brief overview of the more rounded concept of what self-care can involve.

Self-care is often misunderstood

Self-care may be thought of as taking a spa day, reading a book, going on holiday. Activities that are often thought to be relaxing and enjoyable. This can be part of self-care but it can also involve more challenging tasks. Tasks that may not be fun, relaxing or interesting but ones that will give us a sense of relief to get them done. Finishing a difficult project may be more beneficial than procrastinating on it by, say, having a day out. It is possible the day out won’t be as relaxing knowing that the project is still outstanding.

I was going through a busy period a couple of years ago. A few months prior to then I’d made an advance booking to attend a relaxing group sound bath. I debated with myself on the idea that I “should” still go. After all, it is a relaxing activity, especially when I’m so busy. However, I noticed myself feeling stressed as I considered the idea of attending. I considered the amount of time it would take to travel there and back and the duration of the sound bath. In that same time I could be caught up on all the pressing tasks on my list. I realized it was actually better self-care for me to get my “to do” list reduced then it was to spend the afternoon relaxing. I wasn’t neglecting “me” time as I still ensured I maintained my daily meditation practice and yoga … yet weighing up what would give me a better sense of well-being was to stay at home and get caught up on things. As I made the decision to not attend the sound bath I felt a wave of relief. Deciding not to go also meant my week ahead easier as I wasn’t needing to play catch-up.

Another misconception is that it is selfish or self-indulgent to engage in self-care. Yet there is a saying that “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” If we neglect ourselves it will impact other aspects of our life. We may be less productive, have less patience and empathy for others and so on. If we take good care of ourselves this has a positive impact on not only us but potentially on our interactions with others or tasks that we perform.

What can be considered to be self-care

Self-care will be different for each of us. It is about finding what activities improve your mental and physical well-being. For me it was a matter of gaining more self awareness, learning to set boundaries and finding what activities suit me as a person. We are all unique and as such have different needs. For example, someone may see self care as spending time alone to recharge their batteries, yet someone else may feel more energized by being around others.

Here are some other thoughts on what self-care may involve:

  • Figuring out what is important to us and making time for it
  • Being able to set boundaries and say “no”
  • Realizing that taking care of our own needs is as important, if not more so, then meeting the needs of those around us
  • Completing tasks that may not be fun or interesting, but will give us a sense of relief to get them done and out of the way
  • Taking care of our physical health
  • Having a good social network
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Taking on a new challenge

Self-care seems on the surface a simplistic concept, yet it can involve anything from pleasurable tasks to more challenging ones. It might involve facing activities you would rather put off or doing something that is outside of your comfort zone. Self-care can be about looking after yourself in the present, but balancing that with what you need to do to benefit you going forward. Being kind to myself can at times mean relaxing with a cup of tea, but at other times working through my to-do list.

I hope this article inspires you to reflect on your own self-care and what, if anything, you can do to improve it.

Photo submitted by contributor.

Originally published: September 6, 2021
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