What Does Self-Care Actually Mean? Practical Self-Care Advice from a Licensed Therapist
If you were to tell your friends that you're embarking on a self-care journey, how would they respond? Would they be supportive or confused or a bit of both? Why is this? To be honest, self-care is a subject with a lot of gray areas and ambiguity. The true meaning of it has been twisted to fit into modern-day trends and corporate interests. So today, I want to have an honest conversation about where the term self-care actually comes from, what are healthy ways to practice self-care, and how to reclaim it and define it for yourself.
The term 'self-care' has been around since the 1950s, but its radical beginnings are often overlooked. According to Teen Vogue: The Black Panther Party was one of the first to popularize the concept - Angela Davis and Ericka Huggins, two of its trailblazers, adopted mindfulness techniques and movement arts such as yoga and meditation during their incarceration. This term was later incorporated into the works of authors like Audrey Lorde as she dealt with cancer and was searching for ways to advocate for herself and navigate the American healthcare system as a Black and openly queer woman. In the modern age, the self-care hashtag on social media has become overly associated with fashionable activewear, likes, and trends. However, I’m here to tell you that self-care is so much more than that - it is an act of radical resistance. So when reclaiming self-care for yourself let’s take a deeper look at what it is and what it is not.
What self-care is:
- Taking a break from all obligations and responsibilities to focus on yourself and your needs.
- Saying “no” to people and activities that do not nourish or enrich you.
- Taking time each day to reflect on your emotions, experiences, and relationships.
- Engaging in activities that bring you joy and happiness, such as yoga, art, music, or nature.
- Making time for yourself to rest, relax, and recharge.
- Practicing mindful self-compassion and self-love.
- Prioritizing your mental and physical health.
- Learning how to set boundaries for yourself.
- Creating a safe space for yourself to relax and be open with your thoughts and feelings.
- Practicing gratitude
Not only is Self-care an act of taking care of oneself, both physically and mentally. It is the practice of taking an active role in one’s own health and well-being. This includes things like eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, managing stress, going to therapy, and finding mindful ways to relax. It can include being mindful of your needs and ensuring you have time to take care of yourself. Self-care gives you the agency to value your time, your body, and peace.
What self-care is not:
- A Trend
- Neglecting your needs to make others happy
- Over-indulging in drugs or alcohol or partying to escape the realities of life
- Feeling shame about your body
- Doubting your self-worth
Self-care is not about indulging in unhealthy habits or activities. Self-care is also not about adapting mindsets that make you doubt yourself, like only being able to practice self-care if you buy the latest trending activewear, or if you work out at trendy fitness studios. Self-care is also about managing negative behaviors like overindulging in food or alcohol, smoking, or engaging in any other activity that is detrimental to your health. Self-care should not be used to escape or avoid your problems, but rather to take care of yourself and find healthier ways to cope with stress or difficult emotions.
No matter what form self-care takes, remember when you practice it you are taking a powerful and active role in your own well-being. This is your own personal journey, so whether you choose to share it with your friends or the world, remember that your well-being is more than a trend.
If you’re looking to define more ways to center your well-being, let’s connect. Together, we can work on understanding and managing your needs so that you can start a healthy and intentional self-care journey. Click below to book your free consultation and start your journey toward healing.