What Is Self Care, And What Is Not Self Care?

By Sarah Fader |Updated October 4, 2022

Note: Articles from BetterHelp use information from only high-quality sources. The information is then checked by medical reviewers, including board-certified physicians and other healthcare professionals. That said, the information presented here is not to be considered professional medical advice, which can only come from your particular healthcare provider.

Self-care simply means doing those things which are necessary to promote good health and well-being. Self care activities are good for you and, ultimately, self care is for everyone. Adding self care techniques into your daily routine can improve all aspects of health. 

A self-care plan will cover all areas of health, including:

  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Spiritual health
  • Emotional health

You can’t neglect any one of these areas of health, or focus on one in favor of the other, because they’re all connected. Learn more about examples of self care. To really improve mental health with self care, you need to focus on all aspects of yourself. One of the best ways to learn about self-care is to spend time with yourself. That’s one of the most straightforward self-care tips and self care basics. When you spend time with yourself, you understand your emotions, leading to better emotional health and more self-awareness. This is important on self care day and every day.

When you have alone time to take better care of yourself with self-care, you will be reminded of your value. You will also recall what matters to you, and what hobbies you enjoy. Spending time doing things you love is self-care. There’s a lot of confusion as to what self-care is and isn’t. Some people believe that it’s selfish, or self-indulgent, but it’s not.

Self-care is not self-indulgence, but rather, honoring your basic needs.

The self-care definition is the act of nurturing your body and mind. When you are caring for yourself, you might make people upset. It’s a strange concept, but setting boundaries and caring for you can make others angry. Still, the importance of self-care is crucial for mental well-being. You deserve to be happy.

Here is what self-care is and what it isn’t.

What Is Self Care?

Better Mental Health Can Improve Your Overall Quality Of Life

Self-care means dedicating time to doing activities you love. Try to focus on activities that benefit your long-term health and well-being.

This could include hobbies like:

  • Reading a book
  • Engaging in physical activity
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Sleeping well at night
  • Joining a support group
  • Taking a class.
  • Seeing a mental heath specialist

There’s no wrong way to engage in self-care. You might look up self care articles to get inspiration. The only way that you would be doing it “wrong” is if you participated in things that you don’t enjoy, things that are boring. When you read related articles to self-care, you will learn about this concept.

Some people like to look at psychology news or watch movies that inspire self-care. When you nurture yourself, you’re focusing on what’s important. That is different for each person. One person could value going to support groups, while another may focus on getting enough hours of sleep. Some people don’t know how to practice self-care. But there’s always a way to learn.

What Isn't Self-Care?

Practicing self-care takes effort, but also knowledge. In addition to knowing what self-care is, it’s helpful to know what it isn’t. That way, you understand how to nourish yourself.

Self-care is not:

  1. Putting others before you

It’s about recognizing what you need. It’s essential to place your needs as valuable in your mind. You can’t look after the well-being of others if you don’t first do so for yourself. Only when you look after your own physical and emotional health can you properly care for others.

  1. Always Relaxing

Yes, Self-care sometimes doing things that are relaxing and make you feel good. It certainly isn’t engaging in activities that lead to undue stress. But self-care is also about doing things that help you grow, such as exercise, or setting a financial budget to control spending.

  1. Self-Indulgence

Audre Lord once said “self-care is not self-indulgence; it’s self-preservation.” Don’t feel guilty about prioritizing your own health and well-being!

At the same time, don’t use self-care as an excuse to lose control and gorge on junk food, stay up all night, and spend all your money wastefully! Do those things every now and then – just keep them in moderation! As mentioned earlier, take the time to relax when you need it, but don’t go overboard, or you’ll end up harming your physical, emotional, and mental health in the long run!

Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries is an essential part of any self-care plan. There are times when what you need and what another person requires contradict. It’s okay to put yourself first. Part of self-care means honoring what your needs are so that you don’t resent individuals afterward. If somebody asks you for something and you cannot give it to them, it is okay to set a boundary by saying no.

One important way to set boundaries is to stop obsessively checking emails at night.  Doing that can lead to more stress and anxiety. Of course, you don’t want to miss out on hearing from your friends or family, but you may get some correspondence from work and feel the need to respond to it. You don’t need that stress and anxiety when you’re winding down for the evening. For your own mental and physical health, healthcare professionals recommend turning all screens off at least an hour before bedtime.

You might be a very giving person, but you can’t give all of yourself to other people. You will end up with resentment, or even mental illness, neither of which is healthy for your well-being. Setting boundaries is one of the hardest things for some individuals to do, but it is a road to self-care.

If you are having difficulty setting limits, you can talk about these issues with a mental health professional. They can dig deep and find out why it’s difficult to set boundaries for you. It could have to do with traumatic experiences, or perhaps you lived in a household that was extremely codependent. It’s extremely important to find ways to set boundaries with others so that you feel good about yourself and your actions.

Self-care means being mindful of all aspects of your well-being. That requires attention to your mind and body. There is a mind-body connection. Part of good self-care is taking care of your physical health. That means seeing a doctor or medical provider regularly. It also requires physical activity and eating healthy. If you’re unsure of how to maintain physical health, you can always talk to a medical provider. They can address these concerns with you and run any necessary tests if you have symptoms of discomfort. They can offer advice diagnosis or treatment. When you take care of your body, it will benefit your physical and mental health.

Mental Health And Self-Care

There are many ways self-care helps your mental health. Caring for you will undoubtedly improve your mental well-being. You can find a therapist who understands the value of self-care. They can show you some reasons that will help you understand why putting yourself first matters.

It’s crucial for people who suffer from mental health concerns to find a therapist. That person is dedicated to helping you discover the best ways to engage in self-care. They can also help you help yourself. That means supporting you and learning a self-care routine for mental health. They can provide medical advice and mental health guidance.

When you find a therapist who “gets” you, they can adequately advise you on how to nurture yourself. When you suffer from mental health issues, self-care is crucial. Your counselor can help you find a support group if you need one. They can provide some useful self-care tips.

Physical Health and Self-Care

Conversely, you can engage in physical self-care by doing such things as getting good sleep and eating healthy foods. Exercise is another great way to practice physical self-care. This need not entail heavy weights or highly taxing cardio – simply going for a 15-30 minute walk or doing yoga can be enough. Research shows that walking outside can boost physical health, prevent disease, maintain mental wellness, maintain healthy weight, and control blood sugar. For these reasons, walking outside can be an important part of your self-care routine.

Journaling For Self-Care

You might be unclear about what your mental health needs are. One way to gain clarity is by keeping a self-care journal.

If you’re in therapy, your counselor may provide you with some self-care strategies. You can take note of these when you have a journal dedicated to your mental health. You may come up with your own self-care strategies. The journal is a place to note these down. Some of the techniques will work, while others will not be as effective. When you keep track of what self-care strategies you’ve tried, you can see what’s working and what isn’t. Then it’s helpful to report back to your therapist about your findings.

Meditation And Self-Care

Meditation has a variety of health benefits. It can calm anxiety, lower blood pressure, help with life stressors, and improve focus. It’s also an excellent way to engage in self-care. Meditation can be incorporated into your self-care plan. You don’t need to meditate for long periods of time either. You can choose a short session of 10 minutes. Even a one-minute meditation can help you. Incorporate meditation into your self-care routine, and you will feel more grounded during the day.

Addictions And Self-Care

Some people struggle with addictions. They find help at treatment centers. If you have an addictive personality, you might be challenged by self-care. If you are struggling with compulsive behavior, you might consider visiting a treatment center. Find a therapist who can refer you to a place that can assist with addictive behaviors. Join communities to promote health, such as 12-step group programs.

That is a form of self-care. You are taking care of your mental health by seeking treatment. It can be daunting to get help for addiction. But a treatment center is an excellent place to start. The individuals who work in these centers understand how powerful addiction is. And how difficult it is to break the cycle.

Better Mental Health Can Improve Your Overall Quality Of Life

Join a support group

Self-care means understanding what your mental and physical health requires.

A support group is an excellent place to get help for a variety of issues. Maybe you’re grieving from the loss of a loved one. Perhaps you have a partner who is addicted to a particular substance. There’s a support group for pretty much anything you can think of needing help within life. People who struggle with compulsive behavior or gambling have meetings they can attend.

One of the best things about a support group is that it gives people a place where they feel like they’re part of a community. They also help the ability of individuals’ families to feel like their loved ones are improving  their mental and physical health. When you feel less alone, it can contribute to your mental health. Support groups are helpful, but they may not be enough for your self-care. You might want to find a therapist.

The Seven Pillars of Self-Care

According to the International Self-Care Foundation, there are seven pillars of self-care:

1.      Knowledge and Health Literacy

The latest evidence-based research confirms the link between proper self-care and health literacy. The World Health Organization defines health literacy as “…the level of knowledge, personal skills, and confidence to take action to improve personal and community health by changing personal lifestyles and living conditions.”

According to peer-reviewed studies, health literacy is intricately linked to proper self-care, especially as pertains to managing symptoms of a chronic disease like diabetes.

2.      Mental Well-Being, Self-Awareness, and Agency


3.      Physical Activity

All healthcare providers agree, getting regular exercise, such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or other aerobic activity, is one of the best self-care practices you can do to maintain health. Physical health is also linked to mental health – for example, WHO guidelines state regular exercise can reduce one’s risk of dementia.

4.      Eating Healthy Foods

Having a nutritious diet with appropriate caloric intake is vital for maintaining good physical and mental health. It’s important to eat primarily whole foods in order to reduce your chance for over-eating, which can lead to obesity.

5.      Risk Avoidance or Mitigation

This means not engaging in unnecessarily risky behavior, such as smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, doing hard drugs, or having unprotected sex.

6.      Good Hygiene

One of the best ways to ensure good health and practice self-care is to practice good hygiene. Examples of this include such things as brushing your teeth and washing your hands before eating, as well as washing your food (such as produce).

7.      Rational and Responsible Use of Products and Services

This pillar ties together all the others. It’s important when pursuing self-care to use health products or services, or engage in healthy habits, in a responsible way. For example, prescription medicines should only be used in consultation with a doctor. Various services, such as a certain therapy or health program, should only be used once medical reviewers confirm their safety. Physical exercise should be rigorous and regular, but be sure to also give yourself breaks.

Moderation is one of the most important self-care practices.

Find A Therapist And Care For Your Mental Health

Mental health is crucial to your overall state of mind. You can find a therapist who understands the value of self-care and can show you different techniques to help you feel better. Everybody views self-care differently, and it’s essential that your therapist knows what you believe is important. Don’t let anybody tell you what makes you feel grounded.

As long as you are not hurting yourself or others, it is okay to engage in anything that you believe is self-care. If you’re unsure about it, you can run it by your therapist. There are many ways to find a therapist, including private practice or working with one online. When you connect with a mental health professional, it’s a wonderful feeling. The counselors at BetterHelp want to support you and your journey to self-care. You can find a therapist on the site who will support you in learning techniques to help yourself feel better.

As long as you are not hurting yourself or others, it is okay to engage in anything that you believe is self-care. If you’re unsure about it, you can run it by your therapist. There are many ways to find a therapist, including private practice or working with one online. When you connect with a mental health professional, it’s a wonderful feeling. The counselors at BetterHelp want to support you and your journey to self-care. You can find a therapist on the site who will support you in learning techniques to help yourself feel better.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you define self-care?

Self-care means taking action to do all the things you need to do to promote your physical, mental and emotional health. That includes everything from getting enough sleep to keeping a good diet, to getting plenty of exercise. Self-care also means engaging in things you find enjoyable, such as hobbies, in order to manage stress.

What are 3 examples of self-care?

Three examples of self-care practices may include:

  • Taking a yoga class.
  • Going to a religious service.
  • Spending time outside, in green spaces.

What does self-care mean to us?
What is self-care and Why?

Why is self-care important?

Practicing self-care can not only bring on a sense of well-being, research shows it can help with emotional regulation, promote health, prevent disease, and lead to a longer life.

What are 5 self-care strategies?

Five self-care strategies include:

  • Getting good sleep on a regular basis
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Spending time outside
  • Being with loved ones
  • Engaging in regular exercise

What are the 6 types of self-care?

The 6 types of self-care are:

  • Emotional self-care – Emotional self-care practices could include seeing a therapist, playing music, doing yoga, or anything else conducive to good emotional health.
  • Practical self-care – This means fulfilling responsibilities in your daily life in order to avoid stress later on (ex: organizing your room, paying your bills on time, cooking for the week ahead, etc).
  • Physical self-care – Physical self-care includes healthy practices like keeping a good diet, getting regular exercise, staying hydrated, sleeping around 8 hours per-night, and anything else conducive to one’s physical well-being.
  • Mental self-care – This means doing things to promote a healthy mind, such as playing chess, practicing a foreign language, listening to music, or other activities. It can also mean using coping strategies for managing the symptoms of any mental illness.
  • Social self-care – Social self-care includes things like seeing friends, going to classes or clubs, and simply being among people.
  • Spiritual self-care – This may include things like attending religious services, being in nature, meditation, or spending time in deep reflection.

What is the best self-care?

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