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How Do We Define Self-Care?

We think we know what it means...

Shot on the Empire State Building

Oxford Dictionary defines Self-Care as “The practice of taking action to preserve one’s own health.” The public seems to have coined an image of self-care that entails some sort of cleansing routine, taking a break from work, and for some, even a new diet. When the term “self-care” is used, social media seems to have convinced many to conjure up an image of ambient candles lining a bathtub filled with aromatic soaps and flower petals. While many who practice a fast-paced living benefit from this characterization of self-care, does it work for more than just those who are always on the go?

Self-care is just as much about self-awareness as it is doing what makes one feel refreshed. Whether it is concerning mental or physical health, self-care is understanding what is best for one’s body and mind in terms of work and daily life. If this is a core principle of the overall idea of self-care, then it inevitably varies from person-to-person. The entire population does not think and behave the same way, so obviously, self-care should mean something very different for each individual. In this spirit, while the general mood-music-fitting image the public has created in conjunction with the term “self-care” can be beneficial, it can also end up being less helpful for those who do not need to slow down, but adopt a steadier lifestyle.

Those who find themselves in a state in which they feel as though they cannot be productive may not benefit from the “slow down and take a bath” type of self-care. For many, self-care is doing the things that are necessary. Instead of curling up in sheets and taking a nap, it means stripping the bed and washing the sheets that may have not been washed for a while. As an alternative to skipping a strenuous morning routine, it means finding a routine that can be maintained while making one feel their best.

When experiencing the type of stress that is more mental than physical, self-care takes convincing the body to get up and do things that are not as romantic as putting on a charcoal face mask or dropping a bath bomb in the tub. It could mean waking up earlier than ever and exercising to maintain a healthy metabolism. Self-care could even simply mean finally following through on the pending doctor’s appointment for an annual physical.

It is natural for consumers to become caught up in the perception of self-care that seems to be the most widespread in terms of media. In those moments, it is essential to remember that “preserving one’s own health” may not necessarily mean taking time for themselves, but it could be just the opposite. Even someone who is constantly working may not feel as though they have time for the people they love and preserving their own health could mean spending leisure time with those very people.

So can one really define self-care? Is there one characterization that encompasses the variety of self-care methods beyond relaxation or slowing down? Perhaps there is one in the future, but finding this definition begins with expanding the public’s understanding of what it means to effectively participate in active self-care. 

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    - MARCUS AURELIUS

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