A self-care practice can be an incredible asset in a person’s life. However, no self-care plan can come into being from nothing. To develop your own self–care efforts—and reap the benefits thereof—you must consider your new wellness practice in terms of why and how you’re making this effort, as well as how it might affect both you and your friends and family members.
Types of Self-Care
Before you can dive into your new self-care practice, it’s essential to understand the various types of self-care you might be working with. Depending on the experts you consult, you’ll find an array of identified categories, including emotional, physical, mental, social, and spiritual self-care.
Each of these types of self-care has unique benefits, and every one of them requires unique kinds of effort. Of course, the particular iterations will vary on an individual basis, as with any sort of health care. However, the importance of your practice, whether it’s focused on physical self-care, emotional health, or another type entirely, remains firm despite the cultural beliefs, significant stressors, or ability of individuals.
1. Find your reason for practicing self-care.
At its simplest, your ”why” when it comes to a self-care routine can be a matter of wanting to treat yourself to a bit of self-indulgence. Self-care is arguably the single best way to manage stress and reclaim your quality of life despite that strain. Are you trying to offset long-time sadness or chronic conditions like PTSD? Or are you just trying to be better at meeting your own needs?
For some people, though, self-care seems self-indulgent—so much so that they avoid it at all costs. If this feels like the case for you, take a moment to confront yourself with concepts like those in the following questions to uncover a motivator that feels more authentic to you. How might your new self-care practice benefit the people around you, for instance? If you’re dealing with burnout or compassion fatigue, you won’t be showing up in an ideal manner when it comes to caring for your loved ones. When self-care for your own sake feels insincere, confront how it will help you better serve others. If a self-care practice feels selfish, it won’t once you realize the wide-reaching nature of its effects.
2. Enlist a health care professional.
Whether you’re struggling with individual physical health or spiritual self-care, one particularly great way to give yourself an edge is to meet with a mental health care provider and get some professional insight into your self-care practice. Your health care provider might offer medicine, for example, that helps you better deal with physical ailments that would otherwise hold you back. Or, a therapist or counselor might guide you through your daily stressors and help boost your emotional health in the process.
Self-care means different things to different individuals, but the practice of self-care inevitably overlaps with your physical and mental health. For some, a professional’s most significant impact could be having someone to talk to on a regular basis. For others, it might be tackling your overall health with a team of experts, from a trainer guiding your physical activity to a nutritionist helping you craft a healthy diet. You may even decide to embark on a therapy retreat, taking full advantage of professional insights with enough time and space to implement them. What matters most is that no matter your path, you seek out self-care strategies that work for you and practice proper adherence to allow this path to help you.
3. Improve your physical health.
While physical self-care is a crucial category, it’s all too often one that gets overlooked when it comes to meeting your own needs. After all, if you’re focusing on self-care, you’re far more likely to take up a journaling practice or daily gratitude and affirmations—meeting your emotional needs—than to work on crafting a healthy diet or exercise routine.
Nevertheless, physical well-being is just as crucial as emotional self-care. Moreover, research shows self-care interventions to be just as important to physical wellness as influences like environmental factors and genetics. The Journal of the American Heart Association even concludes that self-care strategies are integral to “building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” But, of course, with such a tight-knit bond, it should come as no surprise that the inverse is also true—your mental self-care directly impacts your physical health and vice versa.
4. Connect with your loved ones.
Social connection is, without a doubt, a critical aspect of your self-care needs. Better social habits can help you better cope with everyday life stressors and, by extension, help your physical and mental health alike. Put simply, healthy people have more fulfilling relationships, and those with better social lives—and the behavioral changes that come with them—have healthier lives and greater self-care skills.
Naturally, spending time with your friends and family members can be an integral part of your self-care routine. However, it’s not just in-person efforts that qualify towards boosting your regular self-care. Time “spent” with loved ones over platforms like social media can be beneficial, too. So, when you’re dealing with the inherent self-reliance of a global pandemic, or you’re bedridden while dealing with an acute illness or condition like chronic fatigue, you can rest assured that your regimen of connecting with friends over Snapchat and meeting new and different people through TikTok has its benefits, too.
5. Spend time in silence.
We all know all too well the strain of dealing with personal responsibility. From acting as a caregiver to a loved one and ensuring they get their daily insulin to managing your own health and hygiene, there are constant interpersonal, mental, and physical needs that must be met before you can even consider working on a new part of self-care—or so says this common misconception.
A lot of people overlook the fact that even a small change can revolutionize a self-care program. For example, consider learning to meditate or simply take a few deep breaths for a short time each day. These quiet leisure activities can seem minor in the grand scheme of more hectic daily activities and community involvement, but they make up an important aspect of self-care. Those who practice mindfulness find themselves with greater resilience and self-efficacy, a more stable emotional state, and even improved stress management in comparison to those who lacked these practices.
On its own, self-care is a broad concept, ranging from personal factors like the time you dedicate to a favorite hobby, the quality of food you eat, and whether you get adequate sleep to less conventional self-care matters, like how you manage both acute illness and chronic conditions like high blood pressure. From working with a therapist or other health care providers to connecting with a close friend over social media, there’s no limit to the activities individuals can implement to make up for lack of self-care. Whether it’s the positive effect of a therapy retreat or the long-term effect of aspects of physical self-care, like how much sleep or physical activity you get, you’ll find that the self-care strategies you may implement are as varied as the benefits they offer. And, with the support of a health care provider and the people you love, you’ll find those benefits to be wide-reaching.