This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Self-care may be something of a buzzword, but the practice itself is actually rooted in decades of mental and physical health studies urging the general public to take charge of their health. With many a promotional article suggesting that acts of self-care occur through purchases and expensive care packages, people can be quick to deny the practice of self-care and dismiss it as frivolous or unnecessary. The simplest definition of self-care is not frivolous or foolish, but instead focuses on embodying self-love and supporting health.
So what, exactly, is self-care?
The True Definition of Self-Care
Self-care is often identified as “treating yourself,” or engaging in things like spa days, shopping sprees, and other extravagant interventions when you are feeling down or stuck. While these practices can be useful for some people, the definition of self-care is often far less exciting and glamorous than these would have you believe, and involves truly taking care of yourself, the way you might take care of a child or loved one.
The basics of caring for a child or a loved one and the basics of self-care are typically one and the same: making sure the person in question has adequate rest, nutrition, a sense of safety, and a sense of purpose. When you are searching for the best self-care practices to initiate, these baselines are often a great place to start: making sure that you are sleeping enough, getting enough healthy foods, creating a space that feels safe and comfortable, and delving into what brings you life and gives you a sense of peace and purpose.
Unexpected Ways to Practice Self-Care
Although these are the basics of self-care, there are other ways to engage in self-care that are not covered by the basics of providing for yourself in the simplest and most basic of ways. Some unexpected ways to practice self-care include:
● Scheduling regular health visits. Making sure that you are on top of yearly health check ups, twice-yearly dental visits, and any other specialist visits that you may require is an unexpected but important part of self-care.
● Giving back to others. Whether you donate to charity, volunteer in your community, or teach something you love, giving back to others can help boost your mood and maintain a healthy mental state.
● Cleaning your surroundings. Clutter and messes can negatively impact your mental state, so making sure that your surroundings are clean and tidy is an act of self-care. This particular form of self-care often differs drastically from person to person, as some people find an almost sterile environment ideal, while others need surroundings to feel lived-in and at ease.
● Talking to a mental health professional. Whether you chat with a mental health professional, meet with a professional in an office setting, or attend an online support group led by a mental health professional, talking to someone to address your mental health is an important part of maintaining your health and practicing self-care. Learn more about chatting with mental health professionals.
● Getting creative. Learning how to tap into your unique version of creativity can be an act of self-care, primarily because it is an act of self-expression free from guilt or guile or pressure. Creativity does not need to be engaged in in a way that is performative or on display for others. Creativity can mean painting, writing, or sculpting, or can just as easily mean dancing around your home, creating a collage, or rearranging a bedroom. Creativity is a powerful form of self-care, though it is often an unexpected source of care.
Self-care can be a difficult practice to initiate, particularly if you have never truly cared for yourself before. Starting with the basics can help establish a greater sense of self and an ongoing commitment to health and wellness, before delving into some of the more unexpected forms of self-care available. No matter how self-care is expressed, the ultimate goal is to create a practice that cultivates nourishment and safety in order to more effectively regulate your nervous system, promote health, and embody self-love and care.