REAL Self-Care: Beyond the Superficial
Updated: May 26
Self-care has become quite the buzz-worthy concept within recent years. According to Google, self-care became a popular term in 2016, possibly in response to a rise in political discord and societal tensions. For some, the sudden desire to take care of one’s own needs was a new phenomenon and for some this represented a renewed interest. Not surprisingly, strategies for self-care have become even more sought after during the 2020-2021 year.
So, what is self-care? A bubble bath and a relaxing cup of tea? A soft blanket and a foot massager? A glass and a half of wine? Such easy and minimally enjoyable activities have recently become folded into the definition and have unfortunately masqueraded as good self-care. However, remembering that pop culture rarely does a meaningful and value-driven concept justice, we would do well to take a step back before we can delve more deeply and intentionally into this idea of accurately caring for and meeting our own needs.
Who better to offer a broad-based definition than the Global Self-Care Federation? They define self-care as a general concept of individuals, families, and community systems learning to care for themselves, medically and otherwise, without the need for professional interventions. This could pertain to everything from managing one’s own prescriptions to seeking social support during times of sadness. In this way, self-care is seen as a necessary set of proactive steps that might prevent injury or emotional pain rather than simply mask those with scented candles, hot chai lattes, or bubble baths (as pleasant as they might be).
With the benefit of a broader and more enduring concept of self-care, we can begin to personalize it so as to accurately meet the needs of each individual. For so many of us, we first need to stop engaging in the same perpetual cycles of behavior that tend to contribute to our disconnection, dissatisfaction, and loneliness and…Slow.Way.Down. If you feel totally “seen” by this description, then mindfulness might be the self-care strategy for you. Check out an app like Headspace or others, which provide guided meditations and tutorials. After all, we have to notice ourselves, our quirks, and our triggers before we can ever hope to understand or change them.
So, what else constitutes “real” self-care and how can each of us find a strategy that feels effective? Glad you asked!
Consider the following:
· Feeling disconnected and alone? How much of your interactions are happening through texting or social media? Make the choice to no longer consider those “conversations.” Call a friend! Take a walk with one. Buy a pack of funny postcards, mail them out, and use them as an excuse to engage with old acquaintances!
· Feeling completely overworked? Consider what your own self-expectations are as well as where you’ve placed your boundaries (and yes, you need those!) Boundaries can pertain to your time or types of tasks but can also pertain to how you allow others to treat you and what you decide you cannot stand for any longer.
Self-care can be multi-faceted but hopefully, after reading this blog, you’ll be inspired to choose a sufficiently deep and meaningful array of self-care activities. If you are not sure where to get started, have trouble identifying your needs, or are feeling overwhelmed, therapy might be very beneficial. Taking the step to identify a therapist for yourself can be a self-care activity, too! Keep in mind that therapy does not have to be long term to effectively understand and address your needs. As described above, mindfulness, social skills, boundary setting, and assertiveness training all fall within a therapist’s purview.
So, whether you decide to commit to your own self-care or reach out to a therapist for added help and support, we encourage you to deepen your relationship with yourself, to identify what your brain and body might actually need, and to change your habits to be more conducive to your well-being!