While the past year has been a difficult year for many, one of the positive outcomes has been the increased focus on mental health and wellness. And we have certainly all been hearing more about self-care, and about how important self-care is, but what does all of this actually mean?
Self-care means, quite literally, caring for your whole self. It includes anything that we do to care for our physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional health.
Why is it important?
Self-care allows you to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself so that you can better relate to others. Some people may think of self-care as selfish, but it’s far from that. A great way this can be explained is that self-care means “me too”, rather than “me first”. Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to assist in reducing or eliminating anxiety and depression, reducing stress, improving concentration, minimizing frustration and anger, increasing happiness, improving energy, and so much more. From a physical health standpoint, self-care has been proven to assist in reducing risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. We need to look after ourselves if we are going to be able to provide care to anyone else.
How do we do self-care?
This is such a big question, and there is no one answer. Self-Care is more than just indulging in chocolate or a bubble bath (although this certainly might be a part of your self-care routine!). If you have never thought about self-care before, here are some simple steps to get you started.
- Physical Self Care – You need to take care of your body if you want it to run efficiently. Keep in mind that there’s a strong connection between your body and your mind. When you’re caring for your physical health, you are caring for your mental health as well. You will think and feel better too. Physical self-care includes how you’re fueling your body, how much sleep you’re getting, how much physical activity you are doing, and how well you’re caring for your physical needs. Attending appointments, taking medication as prescribed, and managing your health are all part of good physical self-care.
- Psychological – The way you think and the things that you’re filling your mind with greatly influence your psychological well-being. Psychological self-care also involves doing things that help you stay mentally healthy. Practicing self-compassion and acceptance, for example, helps you maintain a healthier inner dialogue.
- Spiritual – Research has shown that including religion or spirituality in your routine can contribute to a healthier lifestyle. But nurturing your spirit doesn’t have to involve religion. It can be anything that helps you to develop a deeper sense of meaning, understanding, or connection with the universe. Whether you enjoy meditation, attending a religious service, or praying, spiritual self-care is important.
- Emotional – It is important to have some healthy coping skills to deal with some of the emotions that we will experience from day to day. Emotional self-care would include activities that help us to acknowledge or express our feelings. This might look like having a partner or a trusted friend to talk to.
To help you carve out time for self-care, and to help you make yourself a priority, CMHA National developed a printable guide. Download it here.