"Self-care" is a popular buzzword these days.
I see bloggers talking about it all the time, and for better or worse, it's increasingly a topic of discussion. A lot of disagreements have stemmed from the idea of self-care and whether or not self-care is actually a selfish, entitled attitude in need of an adjustment. (Think upper-middle class women getting massages and pedicures every week and labeling that "self-care.")
But, like most arguments, this too stems from an unclear understanding of what "self-care" actually means. By definition, self-care is "the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health." And within that definition, six domains of self-care exist to comprise a holistically healthy person, including: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, relational, and professional. So, by definition, self-care is more than just a trendy buzzword - it's a practice that is vital to our health and well-being.
What Self-Care Is NOT
Although self-care is real and 100% necessary for our health, it's important to be careful about how we prioritize it. Yes, we need take care of ourselves based on these six domains, but our care shouldn't stop there. Do what you need to do to do in order to balance out all aspects of your health - absolutely! But if you never go on to check on anyone's needs other than your own, then yes - your version of self-care is selfish.
Because everyone's individual needs are different, it can be hard to clearly define which activities can be considered appropriate "self-care" practice. I think the key is drawing a line between unnecessary luxuries and things/activities that will actually benefit your health.
Now, let it be said that ya girl loves a mani-pedi! I would get one every single week if I could! But alas... we're on a budget. And that's okay! I don't need a pedicure. I want one. Some people may need a massage every week due to health circumstances. I'd love one, but I'm not one of those people. For me, a weekly massage would be a luxury, not self-care.
Whatever you're classifying as self-care should be improving your health and thereby enabling you to be the best you can be for the people around you.
How to Practice Self-Care (Without Spending a Dime!)
I think the term self-care makes certain people cringe because it sounds expensive. But there are TONS of ways to improve your health in each of the six domains without spending a dime. Here's a shortlist of ways to practice self-care for free:
- Go for a run or walk
- Stretch before bed
- Make a healthy meal that tastes good and makes you feel good
- Take a warm bath
- Read the Bible
- Take notes on the sermons you hear in church
- Practice meditation
- Write in a journal
- Listen to comforting music
- Read a good book (or blog!)
- Listen to a thought-provoking or inspiring podcast
- Go to bed early
- Make a schedule for your week
- Practice mindfulness
- Say "no" when you need to
- Practice affirmations
- Take time off from social media
The list could go on, but you get the point. Self-care doesn't need to be fancy, expensive, or steal you away for hours at a time. You can care for yourself in the simplest of ways just by knowing your own needs.
Fill Your Cup to Better Serve Others
You can't pour into others from an empty cup. If you're weak in any of the six domains, you will not be properly equipped to help those around you. If you feel like you've been completely deflated and apathetic lately, it could be due to a lack of attention to one of your most basic needs.
When I walk closely with the Lord, read books and listen to podcasts that encourage and challenge me, and nourish myself right, I am a better wife, no question. I take constructive criticism better, I make steps toward improving my attitude, and I actually enjoy doing small, mundane tasks for my husband, simply because I have the energy and motivation to do so when I'm at my best.
It's sort of like the safety demonstration the flight attendants give right before a flight. When the oxygen masks come down, the instruction is, of course, to secure your own mask before helping your child. In this scenario, you need to be strong and clear-minded for the ones who depend on you, and that's why this instruction exists. Self-care is knowing what you need to be the best version of yourself and going after it; in doing so, you're showing up for your loved ones in the best way possible.