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What is Self-Care and What Does it Look Like?

The term "self-care" is used often, and there are many definitions and ideas about what it is. At its core, self-care is the act of investing time into acts that nurture you. One definition is "the practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress" (from Oxford Languages). This definition makes the point to highlight the importance of engaging in self-care when stressed, but it is also important to point out the importance of engaging in self-care in every day life, whether feeling stressed or not. The more self-care becomes a part of your everyday routine, no matter how small the act is (like taking a 2-minute break from work to just breathe), the more likely you will be prepared to also take care of yourself in times when you are experiencing stress or difficulty.

One of the other benefits of engaging in regular self-care is that it can impact multiple areas of your life in positive ways. I like to think of self-care as an investment not only into yourself and your own well-being, but also into your relationships: the more you nurture yourself and your well-being, the more capable you will be of nurturing your relationships with others.

What does self-care look like?

Self-care is not just bubble baths and face masks (although those can be great options if they fit for you!). There are various types of self-care, some of which we often don't think of as even being self-care. Below are some of the types, along with examples. Which areas do you nurture yourself in well, and which areas could you invest more time in?

  • Mental & Emotional: Journaling, going to therapy, engaging in fulfilling hobbies, doing something creative, spending time alone to recharge, scheduling short breaks into your work schedule, organizing your space, spending time in nature, meditation, practicing mindfulness

  • Physical: Getting a good night's sleep, regular exercise (going for a walk, yoga, etc.), deep breathing exercises, maintaining a nutritious diet, stretching

  • Social: Spending time with people who inspire you and help you recharge, setting healthy boundaries in your relationships and on social media, joining a local group, taking a class to learn a new skill

As you think about the above examples, remember: the quality is what is important. If you are unable to take an entire day to focus on self-care, start small by trying to find little ways to incorporate it into your day, even if for 2 minutes here and there. You may have also noticed how some of the above examples could fit into multiple categories - that's because one of the great things about self-care is that one act can enhance multiple areas of your life!

If you are wanting to incorporate more self-care into your life but are finding it difficult or are unsure where to start, therapy can be a great place to begin this journey. A therapist can help you create a plan for yourself to invest in your self-care, as well as explore potential barriers that may interfere in this plan, setting you up for greater success. Working on your self-care in therapy can not only be an investment into your current self, but also into your future self. Best wishes on your self-care journey!


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