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What Is Self-Care and Why Is It Important?

A white sign with black text reading “You are worthy of love” stands next to a wooden pole off a forest trail.

Self-care has been given a variety of different definitions over the years, however, it generally boils down to a few basic concepts. Self-care is the deliberate choice to engage in a variety of different activities that are all aimed at promoting and maintaining your own wellness. While this includes your physical condition, it also takes into consideration emotional, mental, spiritual, and social health as well.

This type of personal care has become an increasingly important priority for many people in recent years for several different reasons.

The Importance of Self-Care

The modern world is filled with distractions, notifications, and a perpetually bustling atmosphere. Our lives are often crowded out by a plethora of obligations and responsibilities that fill our schedules.

While these are often legitimate day-to-day cares, they can have the collective effect of unintentionally blocking out our concern for our own wellbeing. This can be okay for a period of time, but when it becomes the norm, it can lead to chronic issues with our own personal health.

Self-care is important not just because it allows us to tend to our own wants and needs. It’s also essential to a well-lived life because it recharges and enables us to then effectively reach out to those around us who are in need as well.

An excellent illustration of this is the classic example of oxygen masks. Before a flight takes off, the flight attendants take time to explain that, in the event of an emergency, you should put your own oxygen mask on before you help someone next to you. This isn’t because you have more value or are a higher priority. It’s simply because if you try to help others around you first, you could pass out due to a lack of oxygen.

If you have a heart to truly help others, often the first step is learning how to tend to your own needs first.

The Benefits of Self-Care

While self-care sounds like a fun time for yourself, it has a large number of important benefits that come along with it, especially in the area of reducing stress. Self-care may help to manage:

While self-care isn’t a panacea for all ailments, simply taking the time to consider your own body, mind, spirit, and soul can allow you to properly manage an array of concerns and keep their effects to a minimum.

How to Practice Self-Care

There isn’t a general consensus on precisely how to practice self-care. Often it boils down to what you need in order to remain healthy in your own unique situation. However, there are a few main themes that it tends to focus on:

Eat a Nutritious Diet

While the thought of taking care of yourself may inspire images of decadent gelato or late nights spent in enjoying wine and chocolate, true self-care should incorporate a balanced diet full of nutritious foods.

The occasional splurge is fine, but try to focus the majority of your culinary self-care efforts on regularly eating well. This can have the important effect of improving your mental state and can help you with things like maintaining healthy skin or losing extra weight.

Exercise Regularly

It’s easy to shove regular exercise to the back burner when you feel overwhelmed. However, self-care can encourage you to bring it back into focus. You don’t need to dive right back into that college workout routine from a decade ago or start by training for a marathon, though.

Take baby steps. Go for a walk every day. Ride your bike on a regular basis. Look for any reasonable ways to get moving. If you find that you are self-conscious while doing physical activity, you may even want to consider getting surgery like a tummy tuck or breast augmentation. These surgeries can help alter areas of the body that physical exercise may not be able to fully impact. Once you start exercising, it can be easier to work on general physical maintenance than to achieve all your fitness goals from square one.

Get Adequate Sleep

A healthy diet and regular exercise are fairly common candidates for good self-care. However, an easily-overlooked factor that can make a world of a difference is getting good sleep.

On average, adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Even if you can’t do this, though, you can still take steps to make sure that your sleep is of the highest quality possible by:

  • Sticking to a sleep schedule.
  • Creating a space that is dedicated to sleeping.
  • Avoiding naps, eating, or exercise too close to bedtime.
  • Turning off electronics well before going to sleep.

Listen to Yourself

While you can follow suggestions all day long, at a certain point you’re going to need to take the time to figure out what it is that your body, mind, and soul are lacking.

If you feel your body crying out for rest, listen to it. If you find that your mind is itching for something creative to do, look for a new hobby. The same goes not just for short-term wants and needs, but satisfying pervasive ambitions. If you’ve always wanted to change the appearance of your nose — or adjust any other facial feature, for that matter — consider why you’ve put it off and whether it would help improve your confidence, or simply achieve a long-held desire.

Whatever the particular situation is, the important thing is that you listen to yourself. Don’t let your own needs be crowded out by the opinions and expectations of everyone around you.

Self-Care Ideas & Tips

Self-care isn’t an exact science. At the end of the day, you’re going to need to find what works best for you. However, it can help to have a few ideas to get your imagination going. Here are a few common self-care activities:

  • Meditation and prayer.
  • Playing with your dog.
  • Reading your favorite book.
  • Binge-watching your favorite show.
  • Taking a bath.
  • Going for a walk.
  • Visiting a coffee shop alone or with a friend.

Whether you choose to use these as a launching point or you already have your own self-care techniques in mind, the important thing is that you set aside some time to devote to self-care. Come up with a plan to take care of yourself so that you’ll be refreshed and recharged the next time someone needs you to come through for them.

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