By: Corinne Santiago, writer & Professor of English at SUNY Purchase
The first definition of self-care the Internet offers us is, “The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health,” with the example sentence referencing insulin administration.
The second – and in my opinion more appropriate – definition says, “The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”
The introduction of words like “well-being” and “happiness” make this definition particularly important. This is because all too often, we as humans forget (or choose to ignore) that our health is more than just physical.
It is unfortunate that mental health is still stigmatized in our society, but it is something we must consistently combat with fact-based evidence and messages of honesty and acceptance.
According to the American Psychological Association and the National Institute of Mental Health, “An estimated one in four adults has a diagnosable mental illness… and people often avoid treatment due to the all-too-reasonable worry they’ll be found out and discriminated against.”
If every one of those one in four were just as open and honest about their mental health as they were about a broken leg or struggle with chronic migraines, the stigma would no doubt begin to dissipate.
It is because of this that the ins and outs of self-care need to stretch beyond only “diet and exercise.” While eating and drinking what’s right for our bodies and staying active should be an important part of our lives – we must remember that it is just that – one part.
Forbes.com tells us, “Self-care is important to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself as it produces positive feelings and boosts your confidence and self-esteem. Self-care is necessary to remind yourself and others that you and your needs are important.”
Self-care doesn’t happen by accident. While it may feel good to get an extra-unexpected hour of sleep, self-care is more than that. It’s about making deliberate choices that contribute to your own well being. Physical self-care is taking the time to get your hair or makeup done and can do wonders for your sense of self. Emotional self-care means allowing yourself to feel whatever you need to feel, whenever you need to feel it. It means not judging yourself and practicing activities that promote positive feelings.
Nothing feels as good as letting out tears that you may have been holding back, re-reading your favorite book, or putting on your favorite movie for the hundredth time. Something as small as giving yourself a compliment when you pass by a mirror can be the little nudge you don’t even realize you needed.
Self-care can and should be practiced in all areas of one’s life. It is crucial to make your physical and emotional needs a priority in your home, your workplace, and anywhere else you spend time so that you’re able to function as your best self.