We all are familiar with the mantra “Treat yo self.” when it comes to getting that expensive avocado toast at brunch, hydrating sheet masks, and saying “No thanks” to obligatory social engagements. But, treating yourself to self-care is so much deeper than just R&R indulgences and self-pampering.
The act of self-care is actually the ongoing act of learning how to treat ourselves with love, understanding, and non-judgmental compassion – in whatever form that comes in.
So, no, “self-care” isn’t just some millennial buzzword. It’s actually disguised as essential mental health tending. It’s a way of setting healthy boundaries and priorities to keep us sane (and healthy) in a complicated world. Believe it or not, the skills we can learn from a self-care decompression routine can be utilized at work, in your relationships with loved ones, and the relationship you have with yourself.
In today’s age of social media and constant bombardment of bad news notifications – a lot of us are burnt out. Not to mention a lot of us are overworked. (Did you know at least 134 countries have workforce laws that dictate the maximum length of a workweek, but the U.S doesn’t?) We’re potentially overstimulated, overworked, and sick and tired.
Self-care is the necessary rest stop before you exit for the “burnt out” expressway to mental exhaustion.
What is self-care?
You can’t pour from an empty cup, self-care can help replenish you so you can continue slaying the day. Self-care can really be anything that “fills your cup” so to speak.
If you recharge by going for a run, that is self-care. If you find a spiritual practice that realigns you and helps you make more self-compassionate choices, that is certainly self-care.
Self-care can be:
- Talking to a friend
- Talking to a therapist
- Spending quality time with your partner
- Spending alone time
- Getting a massage
- Spiritual practices
- Cooking yourself a healthy meal
- Physical exercise
… to name a few.
6 reasons self-care is important
In this article, we’re going to outline 6 reasons why self-care is important for your wellbeing and suggest some ways you can show yourself some love. (It’s so much deeper than fuzzy slippers and lighting candles.)
1. Self-care can remind us to check in with ourselves
A regular self-care routine teaches us to work the muscle of asking ourselves “How am I feeling right now?” and inquiring what is needed to feel better.
This is difficult to do for many people. Busy people running from one task to another rarely come up for a breath. Self-care can teach us to stop to think about what we’re feeling, rather than being distracted by to-do lists or stimulating news feeds. When you do this, you might be surprised by what you find.
Try this: Deep breathing exercises are a simple, quick self-care habit that can be done anywhere, any time. We often breathe very shallowly, (not fully inhaling and expanding our lungs).
Take a minute and breathe slowly and deeply. Take 4 to 5 long and drawn out inhales and exhales before resuming your day. It is proven to calm and ground you.
2. Self-care can encourage boundary setting
Once you’ve been practicing self-care for a while, you tend to protect the calm and peaceful inner landscape you’ve created like a mama bear protects their cubs. You begin to start asking yourself, if [enter some task/event you don’t want to deal with here] is worth my peace?
Yes, sometimes we’ve just got to knuckle down and deal with the thing — but sometimes, we don’t. Self-care can work the muscle of encouraging a healthy boundary setting. This can be useful in all areas of your life -especially in interpersonal relationships. If someone crosses a personal boundary, it’s healthy to enforce that boundary and communicate.
This is hard to do if you don’t know what your boundaries are, and don’t know how to set them. Self-care can help draw the line in the sand.
3. Self-care can slow us down and encourage mindfulness
In order to check-in with ourselves and ask what we need to feel good, we must slow down first. When we slow down we’re able to become more self-aware and aware of the present moment.
Mindfulness is a tool that has been proven to improve mental health and lower stress levels. Self-care works the muscle of slowing down to become present. Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zin defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
Try this: The next time you are putting on a face mask or drawing a luxury level bubble bath, try to come into the moment as much as you can. What does the room smell like, what does your skin feel like, what does it feel like when you breathe intentionally? Investigate this and you are practicing everyday mindfulness like a pro.
4. Self-care can cause us to be mindful of what we consume
Self-care can be directly linked to what we whip up in our kitchens. Often, the easiest way to show ourselves some love and care is to nourish ourselves with fueling, nutrient-dense foods (and maybe, sometimes, ice cream). Sometimes going that extra mile to create a beautiful smoothie bowl, plant-based homemade pasta, or chocolate chip muffins can be that loving mindful experience you needed.
This can expand into a daily awareness of making sure our bodies have the nutrients, hydration, and physical activity we need to feel our best.
A self-care act could be:
- Getting a cute water bottle to remind you to drink more water.
- Remembering to take your vitamins.
- Moving your body in any way it feels good.
5. Self-care can remind us we are worthy of rest
Self-care can remind us that it’s okay (nay, encouraged) to take an entire weekend to just do nothing. (Yes, nothing – watching TV, laying on the beach, reading in bed.)
Pushing for constant productivity is unhealthy. To actually be productive and efficient (vs. just feeling like you are), you need to invest in rest.
There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with taking a mental health day from work. There’s even more guilt that comes with passing on a “girls night out” to lay on the couch instead. But self-care is here to teach us to invest in rest whenever needed.
Remember: It’s difficult to be actually productive when you trade chasing to-do lists for chasing ZZZ’s. If you’re the type of person who feels bad when you’re unproductive – challenge that. You’ll be more efficient for it.
6. Self-care can teach us how to healthily decompress
While a stiff margarita is a stellar addition to any Saturday night, it shouldn’t be the only way we know how to relax. Alcohol is widely socially accepted as the best way to kick back and let your hair down — but it can’t be the only way.
Self-care offers us a laundry list of ways to decompress and relax (and yes a stiff margarita is on that list). Having a wide array of relaxing self-care techniques can only help our mental health.
Want to relax? Try this:
Instead of a cocktail kick back with a relaxing herbal tincture. Passionflower has been proven to calm the mind, and even relieve chronic anxiety.
There is no one-size-fits-all to self-care
An interesting angle of self-care is looking through the lens of the five love languages invented by Dr. Gary Chapman. A love language is how we interpret and share love, either from a partner or from ourselves.
So while one person might be recharged by a day with a friend, someone else might be better served by the physical touch of a therapeutic massage. It all depends on your individual love language. There is no one size fits all to self-care.
Enhance your self-care by choosing self-care acts based on your receiving love language. It could be a match made in heaven.
Words of affirmation types:
Try self-loving, self-compassionate mantra affirmations or journaling to remind yourself of the good you bring into the world.
Quality time types:
Spend some fun rejuvenating quality time with yourself or your loved ones.
Receiving gifts types:
Go buy yourself that treat you’ve been eyeing. Stay simple and get yourselves some flowers to keep in your space.
Acts of service types:
Take time to create a special meal for yourself. Cleaning can also be an act of service, take the extra time to clean your space so you can feel centered.
Physical touch types:
Go and get a therapeutic massage. Try gentle physical movement like yoga. Ask your partner to give you a hand or foot massage.
The Key Takeaways
- Self-care is so much more than treating yo self.
- The act of self-care is actually the ongoing act of learning how to treat ourselves with love, understanding, and non-judgmental compassion.
- Self-care routines can teach us invaluable skills that can help in our day to day lives.
- Self-care is mental health tending that staves off burn-out.