Over the past several years, the term “self-care” has been gaining popularity—according to Google Trends, the number of searches for “self-care” has more than doubled since 2015. But what, specifically, is self-care? The term is over- and misused, meaning many people don’t quite understand exactly what it means. Does it mean you have to spend money—whether that means flying somewhere luxurious or visiting a spa in your city? Given the number of Google searches, we can assume that people either want to know what it is, how to get it or both. As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s a great time to demystify what self-care means.
To be clear: self-care is not synonymous with self-indulgence or being selfish, although sometimes it will require thinking of yourself first. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, be well, do your job, help and care for others, and do all the things you need and want to accomplish in a day. Self-care is living a life you don’t need a vacation from.
Now that you know what self-care is—and that you need to practice it—where do you start? Practicing self-care does not need to cost money. I practice self-care through my morning and night routines. In the morning, I say my prayer, say a personal mantra, practice creative visualization, write my intentions in my intention journal, and exercise. In the evening, I simply wash my face and say my mantra.
In addition to my morning and night routines, I set my watch to remind me to take deep breaths throughout the day. Weekly, I have tea with a friend that helps me strengthen our relationship. See? Simple acts of awareness and kindness—to myself.
Practicing self-care can benefit you in many ways: It can help you sleep better, improve focus, and strengthen your relationships. My routine helps me to be my best for myself, my family, and my friends. I tell everyone, “I live a life I don’t need a vacation from,” hoping that it inspires them to do the same.
An article published in January 2020 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states that longevity in the 21st century depends on abiding by healthy practices such as exercising, not smoking, and following a healthy diet—and embracing an all-around positive lifestyle.
Practicing self-care can also have remarkable effects on our self-esteem. I always say you need to teach people how to treat you. When we take care of ourselves, it shows others how to treat us.
Now that you have decided to practice self-care, look into organizations that can help you. There is a great nonprofit organization that is focused on silencing the shame around mental health called “Silence the Shame.” It has been doing “Self-Care Saturdays,” which feature free virtual wellness activities, such as meditation, aerobics, and yoga. If you aren’t ready to jump into a daily routine, perhaps this free option will work for you as a weekly opportunity to practice self-care.
If you or anyone you know needs mental health support, please contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline at 800-950-NAMI. If experiencing a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741.