23 August 2013

What is self-care and why is it important?

23 August 2013
For some, the term "self-care" sounds uncomfortably close to "self-help," which carries a bevy of judgments with it. But I would argue that far from being only for busy moms or those who need serious help, self-care is something that everyone should practice.

But what is it?

via Roost

Self-care is anything that you do to take care of yourself and to cultivate a healthy body and mind. Maybe it's meditating or getting enough sleep. Or it might be eating clean. It could be implementing technology-free days, going for long walks, or journaling. It can be any combination of activities and habits that make you feel balanced, happy, and healthy.

But other than making you feel good, why is self-care important?

Quite simply, I believe that self-care allows for a fuller life. How can we find the motivation to get out and explore new opportunities and experiences when depression or anxiety is holding us back? How can we focus on the present if the pain of the past or the uncertainty of the future takes up too much space in our heads? How can we be better friends, spouses, parents when we don't take care of ourselves first? 

I'm not saying it's easy. It can be extremely difficult to recognize and change unhealthy habits, behaviors, and thoughts. Many of us rely on loved ones to get through difficult times and no doubt, it's great to have a support system and it can even be part of your self-care routine. But the truth is, no one can take better care of you than you. So even if you rely on your friends, a therapist, or your spouse for support, I would challenge you to be in the driver's seat of your own health. To seek out those activities and habits that make you feel like your best, healthiest you. To recognize that maintaining a healthy body and mind can help you live more fully.

But before I sound too preachy, I'd like to offer my own self-care experience.

It has definitely been a journey. I've realized, after much difficulty and unnecessary stress, that I am my healthiest me when I exercise and go to counseling regularly. There are other things, like writing and eating healthy that help, but counseling and exercise are the big ones for me.

When I'm practicing self-care, I feel like I can stay on top of my emotions instead of letting them control me. I feel strong, balanced, and connected. When things are going poorly, sure, it still sucks, but I'm able to keep them in perspective. I spend less time focused on what's running through my mind and more on just living my life. It's incredibly liberating.

And yet, it's still hard. I sometimes feel embarrassed about seeing a therapist and about needing to see one (even though I truly believe that everyone could benefit from talking to an unbiased third party at least once) and body image and exercise have long been a source of stress and anxiety for me. But I've found that by framing it as living healthy and taking care of myself, the focus shifts from what is "wrong" to what I can do about it, which is empowering. It's not fool-proof, of course, but I see enough of a difference in my personal happiness and in my relationships that I'm sold on the value of self-care.

But I want to know, what's your relationship with self-care? How do you cultivate your healthiest you?


diane {a spot of whimsy} said...

Seriously - GREAT post and a great topic for discussion. With how "busy, busy busy" we all are, self-care is not only crazy important, but it needs to be the part of your daily or weekly routine that you do not compromise on.

Exercise is definitely my #1, and a close 2nd is my need for time at home to organize my life and my mind. As a classic introvert, I crave the time to "recharge." I may be getting other projects done at the same time, but if I've been out and about too much, all I want is to be back home. It totally affects how I feel about myself and my patience with others ;)

Amber Barnett said...

Needed this post today- thank you. I often become so consumed with the need to work all the time that I forget to take care of myself and then my family. Getting the balance is hard but worth it. If you are taken care then the rest seems to falls in place and with that brings much more harmony and peace.

Lena said...

This is such a wonderful, honest post.

Last night I found myself so irritated by something that I was squeezing the hell out of John's hand, and I thought, "Okay, time to do some yoga and sit quietly." As an introvert, I know I need to get time by myself, and that's the most important self-care I practice.

lexi said...

I needed this, and definitely need to try to focus on me a little more. Thank you!
xx lexi @ glitter, inc.

ashley nicole catherine said...

I'm so glad to hear it was helpful, Amber! Part of it is just remembering to pause to see how you're doing, but you're aware of it, which is always the first step :)

Rachel said...

So many people don't take time to practice self care. I try to get enough sleep ( even if it means less time blogging or doing fun activities). And cutting ties with negative people helps a ton, too!

Mimosa Lane said...

Good topic! and an important one! I need a good amount of hours to sleep, I need to eat well (all three meals) and get some quiet me time to read and unwind...I got these and I'm good to go...and some running as well!

Short and Sweet Blog said...

This is such an important message. I need to eat healthy, and get exercise (both my body and my mind).

Annie said...

Agreed on all counts. There's nothing really to give if you're running on empty. Also, my dad's a psychologist, and so I grew up with the thinking that therapy is the most normal thing in the world, and that, even more than that, it's actually the sanest people who see one, not the craziest. It just makes sense and is so beneficial to talk to someone who has an outside perspective on your life.

Jessica Marquez said...

Great post. So important and such a great reminder. I always struggle with being the 'best' me and letting the little things go.

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