Many times when we hear the phrase self-care we think of massages, shopping sprees, relaxing by a pool, and completely emptying your mind and schedule of all responsibilities. However, what if I said this can be really limiting and only a tiny portion of the healing of self and your ability to be productive in all aspects of your life.

Here are some definitions out there on what self-care is:

The World Health Organization 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.”

– The Global Self-Care Federation defines Self-care as “the practice of individuals looking after their own health using the knowledge and information available to them. It is a decision-making process that empowers individuals to look after their own health efficiently and conveniently, in collaboration with health and social care professionals as needed.”

– The Journal of Counseling defines it as “a multidimensional, multifaceted process of purposeful engagement in strategies that promote healthy functioning and enhance well-being.”

So why do we so often associate self-care as self-indulgence and not more often like self-rehabilitation?

We often think of self-care as a luxury, something to be enjoyed only if one had an extremely hard day at work, home, school etc. We wait until were burnt out, exhausted, and failing to perform in multiple areas of our life before we engage in self-care. We tend to think of self-care as emergency surgery instead of our daily vitamins. This severely harms the concept of self-care because it not only warrants this idea that, we must work and suffer in order to receive reward or healing and it also suggests this idea that self-care must be grandiose and extravagant.

Another way we misconstrue this idea of self-care is we view is as a feel good activity or a pick me up. As mentioned in our title when you think about the phrase “taking care of yourself” verses the phrase “self-care” it seems like a lot more work and effort, however when we look at the definitions they are the same thing. Self-care that is a lot more beneficial and healthy can look like setting boundaries, hard conversations with those closest to us, and engaging in physical exercise to promote healthy living. Many of these things don’t necessarily “feel good” in the short run, however they can all set the pace for healthy living.

Another thing we often believe in regards to self-care is that there is the perfect and ultimate self-care routine that yields the optimum benefit of relaxion. This is so false. As humans, we are all incredibly unique and all have different strengths, weaknesses, responsibilities, desires etc. What works for one person probably won’t work for the other.

For example someone who is a stay at home mom of 4, taking 2 hours a day to read and self reflect probably won’t be possibly or at least effective. Whereas delegating older siblings to take responsibility and ensure roles are shared with her spouse may be more effective. This does not appear to be glamorous or yield immediate satisfaction, however, it will allow her to be a better and healthier mother and wife. Whereas, a single young man who doesn’t have many family responsibilities, delegating roles etc. may not be as helpful but finding time to workout a couple times a week to reenergize and promote a healthy physical body and thus limiting the amount of health problems can bring much more benefit to his daily life. The goal is to be gracious to ourselves in finding what works for us and being okay with trying something and it not working. As long as it is challenging, healthy, and promotes rehabilitation. I am not saying stay clear of the more glamourous and aesthetically pleasing self-care routines but finding balance between the two and not settling for immediate relaxation.

Personally, I like to try and work out with my fiance, in which I get showed up every time, reading books that a little bit harder grammatically and linguistically, and setting work life boundaries. This feels like self-care to me because not only does it activity my body in working out, but it engages my brain in reading, which I personally prefer pairing it with a cup of tea before bed. but it also helps me create a bedtime routine that helps teach my body and my brain that it is time to wind down and go to sleep, ensuring I get a good nights rest before work the next day. Lastly, and this is something that is the hardest for me especially in the field that I work in is the work life balance. Creating boundaries at work, including truly clocking out at the end of the day and not overcommitting to events and seminars can sometimes create feelings of guilt. However, in having boundaries with work, I am able to better enjoy time off work and be better prepared to come back the next day thus making me a better roommate, friend, fiance, and ultimately a better employee.

These three daily practices help me because often times when I become stressed and near feelings of burn out, I become very passive and lazy, I struggle to fall asleep at night, and I try to wear every hat at the same time. These practices help prevent me from getting to that point and function better instead of negating these and treating myself to a spa once a month.

To reiterate the goal of self-care is not to be an all encompassing “spa day”, if you may, but a way to find little ways everyday to reenergize your mind, body, and soul to help you be your most present and productive self in whatever roles you are currently in. I hope this post encouraged you to find some small every day activities to take care of yourself and challenged some myths we as a culture may believe about self-care.

Happy self-care awareness month!

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