Ahh, “self-care” – this may bring up visions of pampering yourself to temporarily escape from the busyness of daily life. But in reality, self-care is so much more than this. True self-care is taking care of your total well-being by intentionally engaging in activities that help to achieve or maintain overall optimal health.
While it can sometimes be dismissed due to being misconstrued in pop culture as negatively indulgent, self-care is essential to mitigate the negative impact of stress on your health. With stress on the rise, the ability to manage stress, build stress resilience, and prevent burnout is all the more important. Chronic stress can lead to issues like increased fatigue, hormone imbalances, immune system challenges, and digestive dysfunction.
Practicing self-care is essential to improve one’s ability to manage stress by prioritizing one’s own well-being. This can lead to a greater sense of overall satisfaction and fulfillment in life.
True well-being is an integration of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of health. So there are several different types of self-care to support each one of these dimensions.
Physical self-care is perhaps the most critical self-care, since all other aspects of our health are greatly affected by our physical health.
Practicing physical self-care can provide the benefit of increased focus and energy to fuel all that you want to accomplish each day. It can also help to improve physical health and decrease the potential risk of health issues.
Emotional self-care is supporting your ability to regulate your emotions and cope with challenging feelings when they come up.
Practicing emotional self-care can help you understand why certain emotions arise and how to cope with them so that your emotions can support you rather than hinder you. Emotional self-care can enable you to truly love yourself for who you are.
Since emotions are what often leads to our behaviors, learning emotional intelligence and how to manage one’s emotions can support healthier and desirable behaviors.
Although self-care does indeed support your own self, it can also include spending time with others. Social self-care involves building and maintaining supportive interpersonal relationships and connections with other people.
Humans are meant to connect, and social connections positively correlate with better physical and mental health. Regular social connection can help our communication skills, give us a sense of belonging, develop compassion for others, and even help us understand ourselves better as we relate with those around us.
Everyone has unique natural interests and passions. Intellectual self-care involves engaging in activities to foster understanding, learning, and curiosity.
Engaging in intellectual self-care can help to expand your knowledge and foster a growth mindset. Learning can lead a person towards self-actualization, which is the realization and achievement of one’s full potential. This can help a person find meaning in life. Intellectual self-care can lead to open doors to new paths that we may not have considered before.
Spirituality can be defined as “seeking a meaningful connection with something bigger than yourself,” according to the University of Minnesota’s Taking Charge program. Spiritual self-care involves practices that enable a person to find hope, peace, and purpose in life.
Practicing spiritual self-care can help a person garner a sense of hope, belonging, and peace in the midst of the inevitable difficulties in life. These practices can help a person reckon with big questions about the meaning and purpose of life.
Perhaps one of the less recognized forms of self-care, practical self-care involves taking care of the ordinary yet essential aspects of daily life that keep life running smoothly. These often include activities that support taking care of your finances, making time for chores and running errands, and keeping your home in order.
Practical self-care, although it might seem mundane, can help create a healthy structure that makes all other types of self-care possible. For example, allocating fruitful time for prayer and meditation is often only possible if the practical needs of the day are able to be met with prior planning. Planning ahead can help anticipate needs and make space for things you desire with less distractions taking you by surprise.
Although there are several types of self-care and many ways to engage in each type, you can start with just a few things.
Starting a self-care routine takes time and effort, but it's worth it in the end. By prioritizing self-care, you can improve your physical and mental health, reduce stress, and increase your overall sense of well-being.