1. Self-care is a lifestyle
When we think about what self-care means, we often equate self-care with self-indulgence. Some think that self-care means engaging in rare and often costly activities, such as, going to the spa for the day, taking a vacation, or treating ourselves to a coveted clothing item. While it is completely fine for your self-care routine to include activities such as these, a good self-care practice is not limited to doing one-time or occasional nice things for yourself that involve you spending money. When practiced properly, self-care becomes a lifestyle orientation in which you prioritize and protect your mental wellness in all aspects of your life. Self-care should inform the way you treat yourself, the way you interact with others, and the way you respond to the chaotic world around you on a daily basis. Self-care means “taking care of yourself” but of course doing so in a mentally healthy way that does not violate the rights of others.
2. Self-care is not static
The world is ever-changing. Your friendships and relationships with others will continuously grow and evolve and sometimes dissolve. Your needs and desires as an individual will change as you transition through different phases of your life and encounter new experiences. Because life is not static and is in constant motion, it is crucial that your self-care practice is also not static and is ever-evolving to fit your needs. You might find that the self-care habits that are currently critical for you no longer serve your best and highest interest 5 years from now. That is ok and that is normal. Self-care should not be thought of as a hard and rigid list of dos and don’ts that you abide by from now until the end of your life. Instead, self-care should be thought of as a collection of fluid principles and practices that stretch and bend and grow across your lifespan. You should regularly evaluate these principles and practices, add new ones if need be, and readily discard or revise those that no longer serve your best interest.
3. Self-care sometimes involves elimination
Often when we think about what self-care means, we automatically think that it means adding things to our lives that will increase our mental wellness such as, starting to do yoga several times a week or making an effort to get more sleep. While self-care certainly can involve introducing new habits into your life, it also must involve eliminating emotionally toxic people, practices, and things from your life. For example, an important part of my self-care routine that I implemented many years ago was to start being highly selective of the music videos that I watch. I did this because I realized that the misogyny and colorism that appeared in many videos was not uplifting to my mental wellness. On my self-care journey, I’ve also had to reevaluate relationships and at times sever ties when those relationships were not contributing to my greater good. When creating your own self-care lifestyle, it’s critical that you also think about what people, places, things, and habits you need to eliminate to protect your mental wellness.
4. Don’t compare your self-care
Your self-care practice should be as individual and as unique as you are, so if you are comparing how your self-care routine matches up to others, just, stop it. What is right and good for someone else’s mental wellness may not be right and good for you. For example, my older sister finds hiking, camping, and immersing herself in nature to be highly relaxing. I on the other hand, am camping averse. The closest I’ve come to roughing it in recent years was buying single ply toilet paper one time in a pinch. If I compared my self-care practices to my sister, I would feel as though I did not measure up. Since I treasure my individuality however, I can still honor, find value in and enjoy those self-care practices that are most fitting for me, regardless of what value others place in them. It is crucial that you do the same. Identify what your needs are and craft a self-care practice that is reflective of you.
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