What Is Self-Care, And What Is Not Self-Care?
Anyone can participate in small helpful habits that improve their mental, physical, and emotional health on a daily basis, but what self-care means may be different for each individual. Here’s how you can determine whether an action may be considered as self-care, how these actions affect your general well-being, and what might not actually be self-care.
Self-care is the practice of taking action to help sustain or improve your own health. This can manifest in many ways. For example, taking care of personal hygiene, eating well, and getting quality sleep at night might be considered self-care.
Self-care is not limited to measures that keep you alive. Instead, self-care can be practiced to improve your physical health, mental health, emotional health, or spiritual health. Many people find it helpful to practice self-care during times of stress. This could include setting aside time for activities like:
- Reading a book
- Seeking the help of a healthcare professional
Self-care can be both preventative and reactionary. Depending on your circumstances, your own personal habits and self-care may change over time. When considering what constitutes self-care in your life, it’s important to consider the way it makes you feel, and what value it brings you. Content, healthy people can still benefit from putting energy into activities that fuel self-care.
The Seven Pillars Of Self-Care
According to the International Self-Care Foundation, self-care can be described by a framework of seven important areas.
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 linked to self-care, especially as it pertains to managing symptoms of a chronic disease like diabetes. Understanding what your personal goals are for maintaining your health can help you to both receive appropriate care for any chronic conditions you may have and advocate for yourself to healthcare professionals, which means you can directly impact the quality of your care.
2. Mental Well-Being, Self-Awareness, And Agency
Having strong mental well-being, self-awareness, and agency includes understanding your personal health status with things such as BMI, and blood pressure, and getting routine checkups to maintain good physical health. While mental well-being can be more difficult to define, it’s commonly thought of in terms of life satisfaction, self-esteem, and a sense of belonging.
Maintaining a level of awareness of your current state of health can mean knowing when it is appropriate to take more time for in-the-moment emotional self-care options such as taking time away from work or seeking medical care.
3. Physical Activity
Practicing regular exercises, such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or other aerobic activity, is thought to be one of the most effective physical self-care actions you can take to maintain health. Hence, the importance of incorporating physical activity into your self-care routine. Physical health is also linked to mental health—for example, WHO guidelines state that regular exercise can reduce one’s risk of dementia.
4. Nutritious Foods
Having a nutritious diet with an appropriate caloric intake can help maintain physical and mental health. What we put into our bodies can have significant impacts on our general health and happiness; research has found that a poorly balanced diet can lead to increased feelings of guilt, depression, and anxiety while a well-balanced diet can induce a deeper sense of well-being on the mental and physical levels.
5. Risk Avoidance Or Mitigation
To care for yourself can mean offering yourself opportunities to grow and improve, but it can also mean reducing the chances you have to be exposed to harm for both yourself and others. Risk avoidance and the mitigation of your involvement in potentially risky behaviors can be healthy practices, especially if done in conjunction with guidance from a professional healthcare provider.
For example, if you know that you are prone to staying up late and avoiding sleep, you can mitigate your risk for sleep deprivation by working with a professional to establish a healthy nighttime routine and sticking to it. Self-care isn’t only about what good we can do, but also what potential harm we can avoid.
6. Rational And Responsible Use Of Products And Services
It’s important when pursuing self-care to do so in a responsible way. For example, prescription medicines should only be made available with the help of a doctor. Various services, such as therapy or health programs, should only be sought from healthcare providers who have had their safety confirmed by medical professionals. The concept of moderation can be helpful to your self-care journey.
Physical Health And Self-Care
Strengthening your physical health can be as simple as starting with a daily walk. Research shows that walking outside can boost physical health, prevent disease, maintain mental wellness, maintain healthy weight, and control blood sugar. If you choose to walk in nature, this may also count as spiritual self-care. Research has shown that people who connect with nature tend to be happier and experience reduced symptoms of conditions like depression and anxiety.
Mental Health And Self-Care
For some, the status of your mental health can depend on how well you take care of yourself. There are many small actions you can take to help strengthen mental health. For example, you can try engaging in positive self-talk, managing or reducing stress, and staying connected to loved ones when facing challenging times.
If you’re struggling to integrate self-care into your daily life, or wish to improve your overall mental health, consider reaching out to an If you’re not sure where to begin on your self-care journey, online therapy can connect you with a professional to figure out where to start.
Additionally, online therapy has been clinically proven to be just as effective as in person therapy for many mental health conditions, including those affecting mood and self-image. This means that it is possible to find assistance in establishing an appropriate self-care routine through online therapy.
What Isn't Self-Care?
Practicing self-care takes effort, but also an awareness of your own needs. In addition to knowing what self-care is, it can be helpful to know what it is not.
Self-Care Is Not:
Constantly Putting Others Before Yourself
Your well-being matters. While helping others in need can provide a boost to your mood when done in moderation, it can be harmful if you aren’t prioritizing your own needs. Remember that you are equally worthy of care and consideration.
Equivalent To Self-Indulgence
As suggested above, moderation may be key to appropriate self-care. While it is usually not the case that you will spend all of your time on yourself and your own care, there will be times to treat yourself, and if you’re doing so responsibly, that may count as self-care. Self-care is not inherently self-indulgence, but rather self-preservation. Additionally, taking the time you need to rest and recuperate from daily life, especially if you live with a chronic condition that affects your health, is an appropriate way of maintaining self-care.
Setting boundaries can be an essential part of any self-care plan. There may be times when what you need and what another person needs conflict. It’s okay to put yourself first and communicate your needs to that person. Learning how to set boundaries for yourself and others, and maintaining them, can be tricky at first. You don’t want to neglect the people you care for. However, neglecting yourself will only make it harder to be there for them. (This may be a good place to put in a statistic relating boundaries/self-care to online therapy effectiveness).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How is self-care defined?
Self-care is any action that promotes your health and well-being. That may include getting enough sleep, eating well, and getting regular exercise. Self-care can also mean engaging in activities you find enjoyable, such as hobbies, to manage stress.
What are 5 examples of self-care?
Five examples of self-care may include:
- Taking a yoga class
- Journaling your feelings
- Participating in online communities to promote health literacy
- Keeping up with medical checkups
- Avoiding risky behaviors
Why is self-care important?
Practicing self-care can give you a better sense of well-being, prevent disease, improve overall lifestyle satisfaction, and lead to better emotional stability.
What are the 7 pillars of self-care?
The 7 types of self-care are:
- Knowledge and health literacy—having the ability and knowledge to take action to improve one’s health.
- Mental well-being, self-awareness, and agency—having the awareness of one’s health status, both physically and mentally.
- Physical activity—practicing physical exercise.
- Nutritious diet—eating an adequate and nutritious diet.
- Risk avoidance or mitigation—avoiding habits or occasions that present a high risk of harm.
- Hygiene—participating regularly in activities such as washing your hands, brushing your teeth, and cleaning produce.
- Rational and responsible use of products and services—being aware of dangers associated with certain products and services (and consulting professionals when needed) to ensure safety.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you define self-care?
What are the 5 types of self-care?
What are good examples of self-care?
How can I improve my self-care?
What is the most important thing in self-care?
What are the basic self-care skills?
How do you identify self-care?
What are the 3 benefits of self-care?
What are the self-care behaviors?
Can you do self-care every day?
How can I be kind to myself?
What is emotional self-care?
How do I love myself?
Why self-care is key to success?
Why do we need self-care skills?
- Previous Article
- Next Article