Around the same time that Retta first urged you to "treat yo' self" on "Parks and Rec," the idea of self-care began to creep into the larger conversation before permanently entering the mainstream lexicon. Though Retta's advice is eternal, PsychCentral defines self-care as "any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health."
What your needs are and how you meet them constitutes a whole lot of different things to different people. However, no matter who you are or how you self-care, this simple change in mindset might just be your savior from burnout and all the mental aftermath that comes with it.
Think of self-care as another form of nourishment, but instead of feeding your body with food, you're feeding yourself with (don't laugh) love. This type of self-love really boils down to prioritizing yourself when you need to do so or moving your own physical health and mental well-being up the totem pole so it doesn't always rank below the needs of everyone around you.
If the idea of self-care sounds dangerously close to mumbo jumbo, rest easy knowing that it does have some hard backing. In the Love2Care clinical trial, a sample study of 50 participants started by Dr. Ivel De Freitas and psychotherapist Stefan Deustch in 2016, preliminary results show a reduction in burnout markers, less emotional exhaustion, less stress perception and greater professional satisfaction through regular self-care.
Take Care to Self-Care
Because the idea of making your own physical and mental health a priority casts a pretty wide net, self-care can be tough to nail down. Here are a few basic self-care habits to help you lay a solid foundation, as recommended by therapist Robyn E. Brickel at PsychAlive:
- Saying "no" when your schedule is already overwhelming (and not feeling guilty about that "no")
- Asking for help when you need it
- Putting up a boundary between you and someone who regularly asks too much of you
- Practicing mindfulness, like meditation and yoga
- Shuffling your schedule to allow for more personal relaxation time
- Getting regular exercise and adequate rest (even if sleeping a little more in the morning means you have to turn down an obligation)
- Taking the time to eat right
- Going to therapy
On a more macro level, you can act out those big-picture steps with a virtually endless selection of little-picture activities. If taking a long bath, going on a mellow stroll, reorganizing your bedroom, starting a journal, cooking some pasta, getting a dog or even taking a little trip by yourself sound appealing, you might already be a fan of self-care without even knowing it yet.
While therapeutic treatments are often temporary or have a particular end date, self-care is meant to be a lifestyle change and something that permanently becomes a part of your regular routine for the better.
What Self-Care Isn't
Knowing what self-care isn't can be just as important as knowing what it is. Self-care is not an excuse to be inconsiderate or cruel or to procrastinate recklessly, all of which are things that can end up taking a hard toll on your well-being in the long run. As licensed counselling psychologist Raphailia Michael writes at PsychCentral, self-care "is not only about considering our needs; it is rather about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves."
At its core, self-care is a broad but straightforward way to treat yourself kindly without condemning yourself. Although it's easy to confuse self-care and selfishness, keep in mind that regular self-care ultimately empowers you to take better care of those around you. You have to help yourself if you want to be able to help others.
- Medium Thrive Global: Revolutionary Approach to Overcoming Inner Resistance to Caring for Oneself
- Love2Care: Home
- PsychAlive: What Is Good Self-Care, and Why You Deserve It
- Wright State University Division of Student Affairs: Self-Care
- Forbes: Practicing Self-Care Is Important: 10 Easy Habits to Get You Started
- Psychology Today: Self-Care: 12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself
- PsychCentral: What Self-Care Is – and What It Isn't