What Self-Care Really Is

Self-care is a term you see everywhere these days, but what does it actually mean? You might be thinking, How do people make it look so easy when I can hardly get out of bed?

There are a few concepts central to the definition of self-care. Some might be obvious, and some you might not be aware of. Self-care itself is simply that, taking care of oneself. Because that’s such a vague definition, the internet is filled with opinions on what it could be. Dictionary.com says that self-care is: “care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.”

The problem with that is that without at least doing a bunch of research, you might find yourself feeling disappointed, and in a worse place emotionally than you were before. Why didn’t that expensive spa day work?

I define self-care as: little things you do for yourself on a daily basis that help you not just survive, but thrive. Notice I say “little things” and “on a daily basis.” At the end of the day, you need to find an activity that is personal to you.

I believe that self-care should be 4 things for it to be effective:

Duplicatable

Affordable

Restorative (vs. pleasurable)

Free from a toxic environment

Let’s use the expensive spa day example.

Is it duplicatable? Maybe. If you’re rich. But for the average person, this is not a relaxing activity that you can do often to restore your emotional state.

Is it affordable? For most, no. If you have to save up for it, with some exceptions, I would not call the activity adequate self-care.

Is it restorative? Or just pleasurable? I love spa days! They are definitely relaxing in the short term. But for an introvert like me, they don’t satisfy my innate need to be alone (as you have nail technicians and masseurs making small talk with you the entire time.) This is where the “making it personal for you” comes into play.

Is it toxic? For example, maybe you’re going to the spa with a friend that does nothing but gossip, and complain, and criticize you. That pretty much cancels out any benefits that the spa day has.

Self care is vital for managing stress levels, physical symptoms of depression and anxiety, and restoring balance in a chaotic life. I recommend starting with 15 minutes a day with the ultimate goal being 60+ minutes. You can do it in the morning if that works best for you. I prefer at night, after a long day. That way, I don’t have a negative day erase the benefits of the morning self-care.