You spend a lot of time caring for others, your family, kids, parents, even friends, and no one ever questions it because it’s expected as human decency for you to care for others. But the one time you decide to take care of yourself by prioritizing your needs, everyone suddenly starts labeling you as selfish and self-indulgent. Perhaps, most people fail to realize that self-care is just as important as caring for others. While the latter builds, promotes, and maintains healthy relationships, the former promotes and supports personal health and the complex relationship shared between the mind and body.
The word self-care has been casually thrown around as a trend on the internet in recent years, but no one really understands its advantages for mental and physical health. This article includes:
- What is self-care?
- Mental health benefits of self-care.
- What can self-care look like?
- Creating a self-care plan.
What is Self-Care?
The World Health Organization (WHO) 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.” Self-care requires consciousness and active participation from individuals. One must learn to rely on him/herself and their judgment and consciously utilize their time and energy positively for the benefit of their short-term as well as long-term mental and physical health.
WHO adds that self-care is a broad term encompassing several elements of human life such as ‘hygiene (general and personal); nutrition (type and quality of food eaten); lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure, etc.); environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.); socioeconomic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.); and self-medication.’
Self-care is often disregarded as a luxury, however, that is not the case. It is an essential part of everyday life, even a priority as it equips one with the strength and qualities required to better navigate through everyday life productively.
Mental Health Benefits of Self-Care
It has been clinically proven through several studies and research that self-care activities are extremely beneficial for not only physical health but also a person’s emotional and mental well-being. Some common benefits that you can easily reap by incorporating simple self-care into your daily routine include:
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Work, study, and other kinds of stress are a part of everyday life. It can sometimes overwhelm you and interfere with your routine. Research in the past has shown that self-care can assist in keeping anxiety and stress in check, inspiring, instead, a calm and relaxed mental state.
Relieves Symptoms of Depression
Various studies have found that engaging in self-care activities regularly can help alleviate symptoms of depression. It can have a positive impact on your mental health in the long run, even encouraging improved mood and giving you a burst of energy.
Boosts Self-Esteem and Resilience
Self-care encourages you to be conscious of your bodily, spiritual, and emotional needs, enabling you to be an active agent in the process of improving the quality of your life. Ultimately, it positively impacts self-esteem and confidence in self, also building resilience.
Improves Social Life
How can you cultivate stronger relationships and focus on yourself at the same time? Easy. All you need to do is realize that part of focusing on yourself means also focusing on everything that’s attached to you, and that includes your relationships and social life as well.
The mind and the body share a much deeper connection than you think. As one improves in health, so does the other. When you have achieved mental peace through self-care, your body, too, feels rejuvenated and is in good shape to resist minor illnesses.
This is What Self-Care Can Look Like
Self-care is different for everyone because no two individuals have the exact same needs. Sure, they can be similar, but the method each person chooses to address their needs is specific to each individual. However, certain people believe self-care requires a lot of time and energy. That is not true. Self-care is pretty easy. Here are some examples of what self-care can look like if you’re not sure where to start:
- Being mindful while eating, like planning nutritious meals ahead, chewing slowly, etc.
- Being more active. Working out, walking, taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Reading books, articles, magazines, or anything else you like on a regular basis.
- Planning your day to suit your particular needs for the day.
- Doing yoga and meditation every day for a minimum 15 minutes.
- Journaling on a daily/weekly basis.
- Taking care of your personal hygiene.
- Practicing gratitude for the things that usually go unnoticed.
- Talking to a friend, parent, or child for a few minutes every day to maintain your relationships.
- Being kind to yourself and prioritize yourself.
- Taking up a hobby and spending some time cultivating new skills every day.
Creating a Self-Care Plan
Since personal needs differ from one person to the next, it is helpful to carefully curate a personalized self-care plan that addresses all your needs. A self-care plan can help you develop the qualities you need to cope with stress, anxiety, and everyday problems, along with helping you manage time. Here are some tips on how to create a self-care plan:
Identify Your Stressors and Needs
You cannot dream of living a stress-free life without first identifying exactly what your triggers are. First step in creating a self-care plan is to recognize your everyday stressors so you can devise a method to avoid them. At the same time, you must take a look inwards and determine exactly what your mind and body need.
Assess Your Current Routine
Once you have noted down the elements, you need to improve your overall life and the culprits that make it tough to achieve that, you can move on to the second phase, which includes assessing your current routine/schedule to determine whether you merely need to modify it or completely change it.
List Down Practices To Meet Your Needs
Step three includes making a list of practices and activities that you believe can assist you in achieving your self-care goals. For example, if a financial strain is one of the stressors you’ve recognized and you feel like you need to save more money, perhaps, you could list down activities that can help you achieve that.
Modify Your Routine/Schedule
At this point, you may weed through the list of activities you’ve created and choose the ones that you think will be most easily implemented and reap the best results. Now, this can seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. You can experiment with a practice for a while, and if it doesn’t work, you can try another one until something works. At the same time, you want to eliminate all practices from your routine that may interfere with your goals.
Take Baby Steps
Finally, you must tell yourself that this is not magic and you’re not going to witness change overnight. Everything happens at its own pace, the only thing you can do is provide the most suitable conditions for your goals to be fulfilled. Taking baby steps, experimenting, and adjusting accordingly is the key towards success.
Ultimately, no matter what anyone says, self-care is not selfish. It is a requirement, a necessity even. It does not only benefit physical health, it also positively impacts mental well-being in the short as well as long-term.