If you look around at the people in your life you might notice one thing: everybody seems to be stressed out, a lot. In fact in the U.S. alone, more of us are feeling an overwhelming sense of stress due to rising inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and global uncertainty.(1) Self-care can help us deal with these stressors but first, we have to understand exactly what it is, and what it is not.
What is Self Care?
The idea of self-care seems to be on trend, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. I believe a lot of us realized we needed to change how we’re living our daily lives when everything shut down because we didn’t realize how rushed and stressful our lives really were.
The World Health Organization 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.”(2)
I agree with this definition, but I would add mental health as well. To me, self-care includes everything related to staying physically and mentally healthy—including hygiene, nutrition, stress management, and seeking medical care, therapy, and counseling when needed. It’s all the steps an individual can take to be proactive in taking care of their own health and well-being.
Self Care Myths
It’s encouraging to see the wellness industry take off because I believe there is a huge need for education around how to really take care of ourselves. On the other hand, the popularization of wellness can lead to misinformation and the desire to profit from it. There’s even a term for it called “wellness washing.”(3)
While taking a luxurious bath can feel great, real self-care goes far beyond that. Self-care is quite literally taking care of yourself. Your whole self. Here are some common myths I see and hear about when working with clients:
Myth #1: Self-care is an optional indulgence. Self-care is not something you can cross off your list and consider “done.” If you stop paying attention to yourself once you feel better, that good feeling is likely to go away because life happens. I like to think of self-care as a practice, something you always need to do like take a shower or brush your teeth–these aren’t indulgences, they are part of basic care and maintenance. Checking in with your body and mind regularly is also part of this practice to ensure you’re getting what you need to thrive.
Myth #2: Self-care means making a choice between yourself and others. When we are not taking care of ourselves, we end up depleting our energetic and emotional reserves. We become frustrated and cranky–basically, we’re not nice to be around. Ironically, too much self-sacrifice makes us vulnerable and sometimes physically ill. When we’re taking care of our needs, we have more energy to give to others.
Myth #3: Self-care is time-consuming. I see this as the same myth about “not having time to exercise.” You don’t need a lot of time to care for yourself nor do you need to dedicate two hours to a high-intensity workout. Five minutes of meditation, a 15-minute workout, a quick movie or a phone call with a friend are often all you need to reset and refuel yourself.
Myth #4: Self-care is only needed when you’re stressed out. Self-care is not a “break the glass in case of an emergency” tool. It’s proactive prevention and sustainable practices that help us to live life to the fullest. And when there is a crisis, the hope is that consistent self-care enables us to handle it with equanimity—instead of being completely debilitated.
Myth #5: Self-care is something you have to earn. Taking care of yourself is a basic human right, and you are worthy of that. Period. Our culture emphasizes the notion that we can only take good care of ourselves after we’ve accomplished certain goals. But it’s self-care that gives us the energy and nourishment we need to achieve great things.
Simple Self-Care Ideas
These are some of my self-care practices as well as others I’ve seen people use. As you can see, it doesn’t take much and there’s no one-way-fits-all. Self-care is a personal and individual endeavor so always do what feels best and right for you.
- Listen to guided meditations
- Take walks in nature
- Drink lots of water (sometimes I’ll add strawberries, oranges, lemons, or herbs)
- Talk to a friend or meet a friend for coffee/tea
- Schedule important doctor appointments
- Keep up with paperwork/bills (keep clutter to a minimum)
- Plant flowers or a vegetable garden
- Move every day (walk, do yoga, dance around the living room, stretch)
- Cook most of my meals during the week
- Practice random acts of kindness
- Eat mostly plants and nutritious food (stay away from junk
If you’re really serious about making your self-care a priority, try a few of these simple practices and see if it makes a difference in how you feel body, mind, and soul.
1 – https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/news/20220310/americans-report-overwhelming-stress-poll
2 – https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/what-do-we-mean-by-self-care
3 – http://www.wellnesstourismworldwide.com/wellnesstourismnews/what-is-wellness-washing-why-is-it-i mportant
Dana Leipold, Wellness Coach, supports women over 45 with proven, stress-busting programs that help them lose weight, gain energy, and feel more calm. She holds certifications in Holistic Nutrition, Meditation, Yoga Instruction, and is a member of the Women's Wellness Exchange.