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.

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, engaging in psychotherapy” (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 (often with the recommendation or agreement of a doctor or mental health therapist), 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 your life has been shaped by painful trauma. But it is possible to participate in your own healing and wellness, even if you’ve lived with addiction, abuse, or acute grief.

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.

Prayer is a simple 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. You can also get help developing your self-care routine from a mentor, therapist, doctor, psychiatrist, or a leader you trust in your faith community.

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.

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