What is Self-Care & How To Practice It

When you’re suffering from pain, illness, trauma, or loss, self-care must be a priority. If you want to heal, grow, and move forward after a painful experience, it’s important to understand what self-care really is and why it’s necessary.

Self-care is also important in the stress of everyday life.  It is easy to get overwhelmed with busy schedules and keeping up with people’s expectations of you and the expectations you put on yourself and you may be running your emotional tank down to empty.  Following some self-care practices can give you the fuel you need to keep going and enjoy life more fully.

Self-care will look different for everyone. Taking care of yourself starts with discovering what fills your tank. What helps you refuel? And then making sure you do that.

For some that may be quiet time, while for others it may be time spent with other people. For some it may be dancing it out to your favorite song, and other people may need to watch an hour of their favorite show. What activity makes you happy? But self-care goes deeper than just doing what makes you feel good.

The True Meaning of Self-Care

Since caring for someone often involves making them feel better or happier, it’s easy to think that self-care could include any behavior or habit that makes us feel good. But self-care is not self-medicating (using drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances to alter your mood). And it isn’t overindulging in behaviors that self-soothe or numb your pain (with anything from shopping to sex to hours of screen time in front of the TV or smartphone).

Instead, self-care is a process involving “choosing behaviors that balance the effects of emotional and physical stressors [,including]: exercising, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, practicing [healthy] relaxation techniques, abstaining from substance abuse, pursuing creative outlets.” (according to mental health experts at Psychology Today).

You Aren’t Being Selfish

Self-care is any and all of the daily decisions you make to care for your physical health, your emotional well-being, your self-esteem, and your spiritual life so that you have the energy and strength you need to meet your responsibilities, pursue your goals, and achieve personal growth in your relationships.

Since healthy self-care includes committing to numerous things that promote mental health and emotional balance, it’s important to understand that self-care is not selfish.

Just as a flight attendant would tell you to put on your own oxygen mask during a flight before helping someone else in an emergency, caring for your own needs means you will be in a much better position to help others when they need you.

How to Make Self-Care a Habit

A healthy self-care routine can be difficult. If you’re not sure where to start, try making a list of unhealthy behaviors you want to decrease, and another one that includes healthier habits you can replace them with.

For example:

If your screen time is too high, make one goal to decrease it, and another to read for at least 20 minutes a day.

If you eat too many unhealthy snacks, don’t restock on your next shopping trip. Instead pick up things like dried fruit, nuts, granola, yogurt, and fresh veggies, and snack on those in between meals.

Other basic places to get started:

  1. Give up what drains you
  2. Care for yourself physically – this may include making overdue doctor appointments, getting enough sleep, good hygiene, good diet and exercise
  3. Decide who you should hang out with – surround yourself with positive people. Not people who drag you down.
  4. Stop Overthinking – If you start to over-think, haul out a journal and write your thoughts down.  Acknowledge what is on your mind and now they are out and you don’t need to dwell on them anymore.
  5.  Prayer is a way to care for your spiritual well-being. Even when you don’t feel like you have the time, energy, or faith to pray, asking others to pray for you still has an impact.

Since you’re here, you’re already making good choices for your self-care. Just reach out if you need more guidance and we’ll do whatever we can to help.

Want to do more research? Browse our library of blogs, podcasts, and ebooks to learn things like:

  • How can I quit cutting for good?
  • How can I live a balanced life with food?
  • How can I forgive the person who hurt me?
  • How can I manage my anger?
  • How can I live life on the hard days?
  • What's my purpose?

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