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Although it seems like self care has been a hot topic for years, many of us have a ways to go in our own practices. Self care statistics show that 80% of Americans are looking to be more mindful about regular self care practices after the pandemic. If you’re also ready to reinvest in yourself, read on to learn about the importance of self care, self care tips you can start implementing today, and plenty of practices for carving out time for you. 

What Is Self Care?

There are a lot of ideas out there about what self care is, so before we get into how to practice it, let’s get on the same page about what we’re really talking about.

Self Care Definition

While Instagram ads would have you believe that self care is about indulging and “treating yourself,” it’s actually a lot less luxurious than that. Self care is any activity that nourishes your health and well-being—both physically and mentally. That means self care isn’t selfish at all, but something necessary for survival and happiness.

Self Care Examples

nd dog walking across bridge
Source: Camylla Battani
Self care strategies can be as simple as going on a walk, staying hydrated, or spending time with loved ones.

Because self care is simply about, well, taking care of yourself, there are lots of ways to put it into action. While we’ll talk later about some more advanced self care strategies you can incorporate into your days, there are some foundational self care practices that are good to have a handle on first:

  • Physical self care: Are you taking care of your body by getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, eating healthy meals, getting in some movement regularly, and taking any meds that you and a doctor have agreed will help you?
  • Emotional self care: Are you regularly connecting with and processing your emotions, such as talking to a friend or going to therapy?
  • Mental self care: Are you creating enough time for activities that mentally and creatively engage you, while also building in time for mental breaks so you don’t burn yourself out?
  • Social self care: Are you regularly spending time with the people you love?

While you may already be doing a lot of these activities, the practice of self care involves regularly assessing where you could use extra support in your life and carving out the time to attend to that.

Why Is Self Care Important?

Why should you care about self care? While it’s easy to feel like this is something you can indefinitely push to the backburner, the importance of self care can’t be emphasized enough. And yet, self care statistics show that 1 in 3 people feel guilty for taking time for themselves. Read on to learn more about why self care isn’t selfish and you shouldn’t feel bad for carving out time for it.

Benefits of Self Care

No matter what’s going on in your life, practicing regular self care can help you stay healthy and happy, better understand and be kinder to yourself, put your best foot forward in the world, and have more energy to show up for others.

Self care becomes especially important when facing challenging situations in life, such as: 

  • Self care and stress management: Stress and self care are a match made in heaven. Whether you’re dealing with general stress or in the midst of a hectic situation, having a self care practice can help you recognize when it’s getting out of hand and have self care strategies to turn to for taking a break. (For instance, self care statistics show that regular exercise can help you self-regulate emotions when the going gets tough.) 
  • Self care for depression and anxiety: If more chronic mental health challenges like depression or anxiety are part of your life, knowing what you need to care for yourself—and carving out the time for it—can help in making them feel more manageable. And yet, especially when it comes to depression and self care, even attending to your basic needs can feel impossible. Develop self care strategies when you’re feeling well so that you don’t have to expend energy figuring out how to take care of yourself when going through a bad mental health period.

Consequences of Lack of Self Care

Still not sure about the importance of self care? Let’s look at the flip side: Self neglect can lead to:

  • Fatigue, burnout, or insomnia
  • Feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem
  • Irritability or low energy around other people
  • Lack of focus or creative energy
  • Less excitement about life
  • Poor health and lower immune response

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Self Care Practices

Ready to up your self care game? In addition to the basics above, here are a few self-care activities you may want to try incorporating into your calendar. Remember: Everyone’s needs are different, so experiment until you find what works for you!

1. Self Care Journaling

writing in journal
Try writing affirmations in your journal, like self care teacher Jonathan Van Ness does here.

Journaling can be a powerful way to connect with yourself, tap into your needs and dreams, process emotions, and so much more. When journaling for self care, you can either free write whatever is in your head that you need to get out or use a journaling prompt to get you going. Whatever you do, don’t put pressure on yourself for your writing to be “good”—remember, this journal is just for you!

2. Self Care Meditation

Many have turned to meditation as a way to calm the mind, quiet negative thoughts, and connect more deeply with themselves—all valuable aspects of self care! Even just five minutes of quiet breathing can do wonders, or you can use different guided meditations to tap into different feelings you’re trying to foster.

3. Creative Self Care

tree rings drawing
A low-pressure daily creative activity—like these simple drawings from teacher Neha Modi—can be a powerful self care practice.

Regularly integrating creative activities is a great way to engage your mind and find joyful purpose. Try to keep at least one as a casual hobby and avoid sliding into side-hustle territory so you don’t accidentally add more stress to your life.

4. Self-Care at Work

people chatting at work
Source: Brooke Cagle
Enjoying downtime with your favorite colleagues can be another way to practice self care tips at work.

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t just be paying attention to your needs during your free time. Work can be an incredible source of stress for many, so finding ways to integrate self care practices—such as by setting healthy boundaries, taking regular breaks, and avoiding biting off more than you can chew—can help you avoid burning out.

Self Care Tips

If you’re still struggling to integrate self care into your life, here are some tips that could help.

1. Start Small

Don’t try to add tons of new activities at once—that will probably end up stressing you out more! Pick one or two simple self care practices to start with, and only add more once those feel well integrated.

2. Build a Self Care Routine

As with many habits, you’re more likely to keep up your self care practices if you build them into a routine. Put it on your calendar, tie it to an existing routine (e.g., journaling while you sip your morning coffee), find an accountability buddy, or do whatever else you need to help make self care a regular part of your life.

3. Remember That Self Care is Not Selfish

Hopefully you’ve realized by now that self care is critically important to your health and well-being, so it’s time to let go of the limiting belief that you’re being self-centered by creating this time for you. Sometimes you have to say yes to yourself by saying no to others—which in turn will give you the energy you need to show up for your life as the best version of yourself.

How to Start Self Care

Ready to get started on your self care journey? The simplest way is to take a deep breath, think about your life and emotions, and ask yourself: Where could I use the most support right now? Pick a self care practice that you think could help in that area, and make a promise to yourself to use it as often as you think you need. 

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