What Is Self-Care & Why Is Caring About Yourself Important?
By Katherine Hurst
Updated October 30th, 2017
Self-care is a popular topic these days, but it is often poorly explained. Perhaps you keep seeing it mentioned in self-help books or magazine articles and yet don’t have a clear sense of how you’re supposed to add it to your life.
It may seem wishy-washy or vague to you. Alternatively, maybe you aren’t convinced that you should practice regular self-care.
Maybe you think your resources are better saved for working and for looking after others.
So, what is self-care, and why is it so important? As it turns out, there are many different self-care practices, and not all of them suit everyone.
This guide will take you through the reasons why you need at least some sort of self-care in your routine, and will help you understand the specific changes you need to make.
What Is Self-Care? The Definition Of Self Care
Self-care is a broad term that encompasses just about anything you do to be good to yourself. In a nutshell, it’s about being as kind to yourself as you would be to others.
It’s partly about knowing when your resources are running low and stepping back to replenish them rather than letting them all drain away.
Meanwhile, it also involves integrating self-compassion into your life in a way that helps to prevent even the possibility of burnout.
However, it’s important to note that not everything that feels good is self-care. We can all be tempted to use unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs, alcohol, over-eating, and risk-taking. These self-destructive activities help us to regulate challenging emotions, but the relief is temporary.
The difference between unhealthy coping mechanisms and self-care activities is that the latter is uncontroversially good for you. When practiced correctly, self-care has long-term benefits for the mind, the body, or both.
Benefits Of Self Care
With a self-care definition on the table, we can now turn to look at what happens to us when we add it to our lives. So, why is self-care important?
As hinted above, there are many benefits of self-care. The most obvious relates to mood and energy levels. However, as it turns out, research shows wider-ranging benefits as well.
Top 6 Benefits Of Self Care
Better productivity. When you learn how to say “no” to things that over-extend you and start making time for things that matter more, you slow life down in a wonderful way. This brings your goals into sharper focus and helps you to concentrate on what you’re doing.
Improved resistance to disease. There is evidence that most self-care activities activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). What this means is that your body goes into a restful, rejuvenating mode, helping it to fortify its immune system.
Better physical health. Similar to the previous point, with better self-care often comes fewer colds, cases of flu, and upset stomachs. Less stress and a better immune system can surely help you feel more physically able and strong inside and out.
Enhanced self-esteem. When you regularly carve out time that’s only about being good to yourself and meeting your own needs, you send a positive message to your subconscious. Specifically, you treat yourself like you matter and have intrinsic value. This can go a long way toward discouraging negative self-talk and your critical inner voice.
Increased self-knowledge. Practicing self-care requires thinking about what you really love to do. The exercise of figuring out what makes you feel passionate and inspired can help you understand yourself a lot better. Sometimes, this can even spark a change in career or a reprioritization of previously abandoned hobbies.
More to give. When you’re good to yourself, you might think you’re being selfish. In truth, self-care gives you the resources you need to be compassionate to others as well. Giving compassion is a bit like filling a bucket; you can’t fill someone else’s if you don’t have enough of your own!
Types Of Self Care
One of the main excuses people make for ignoring articles about self-care is that they just don’t have time. The great news is that there are many different self-care practices, and none of them are especially difficult or require a lot of planning. The trick is to find some that you genuinely enjoy and that fit with your life and values. Once you start adding emotional self-care to your life, you’re likely to become fiercely protective of that time and wonder how you ever managed without it!
Here are the five main categories of self-care, along with explanations of how they help you. We’ll also look at specific self-care examples within categories, which should get you thinking about activities you’ll particularly like.
Sensory self-care is all about helping to calm your mind.
Attend a service, whether it is religious or humanistic.
Walk in nature and reflecting on the beauty around you.
Make a daily list of 5-10 things that make you feel grateful.
Be creative, whether through art, music, writing, or something else entirely.
Make a list of 5-10 things that make you feel alive, then ask yourself how you can better incorporate these things into your life.
Say affirmations that ground your sense of self and purpose.
Go on a trip with the sole purpose of photographing things that inspire you.
The importance of self-care definitely extends to purely physical aspects of your health. Physical activity is vital not only for your bodily well-being but also for helping you let off steam.
You might think there’s nothing fun or self-compassionate about going to the gym, but that’s far too narrow a way of thinking about physical self-care. Instead, broaden the concept by thinking about the following lists.
Physical Self-Care Ideas
Dance to your favorite songs
Do yoga. Even if you’ve never tried it, there are poses that are perfect for beginners.
Stop socializing with those who undermine or disempower you.
Strike up a conversation with someone interesting.
Join a support group for people who struggle with the same things you do.
Sign up for a class to learn something and meet new people at the same time.
40 More Self-Care Ideas
Practice replacing ‘should' in your vocabulary.
Take a different route to work or the shops.
Watch an episode of your favorite TV show. Then write 5 reasons why you like it.
Create a new, healthy, daily habit and schedule it in your life.
Unsubscribe from spammy emails.
Reflect on previous wins and achievements.
Take 15 minutes to soak up the sunshine.
Visit your local library.
Do a household chore you've been putting off.
Watch motivating videos and speeches.
Speak to a loved one about their own self-care ideas or routines.
Write a review for a business you have enjoyed lately (such as a restaurant or product you have purchased).
Make your bed.
Work on a puzzle you enjoy but challenges you. For example, a Sudoku puzzle, crossword or jigsaw.
Start a journal.
Write down a new affirmation.
Make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of water today.
Dance like no one is watching.
Learn how to give yourself a massage and do it.
Write a letter to your younger self.
Write a letter to your older self.
Do a 6-hour digital detox.
Go to the cinema on your own.
Do something for charity.
Clean out your car (if applicable), handbag, and jacket pockets.
Find a local therapist or counselor.
Do something fun you used to do as a kid.
Cook a meal you've never cooked before.
Research local history.
Set up daily reminders on your phone to remind you that you are awesome!
Clean your desk or workspace.
Watch a documentary.
When feeling particularly stressed, take a mental health day and call in sick to work.
Change your bedsheets and have an early night.
Reread your favorite book.
Consider joining a local support group.
Read inspiring quotes.
Make a self-care box filled with materials such as candles, essential oils, affirmation cards, self-care ideas, a book, etc.
Smile at yourself in the mirror!
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Table Of Contents
By Katherine Hurst
Katherine Hurst, is a Law of Attraction expert, best-selling author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on psychology, life design, structured thinking and emotional wellbeing.