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I think that “self care” is a phrase that has a really interesting place in our society. It means something different to everyone, yet the word has been used so much that its true purpose has been dulled out. Face masks advertising themselves as “an essential part of a self-care routine” and content creators pushing health products (and often times disordered eating) as all you need to do to practice proper self care has made the concept feel more like a marketing device, rather than an important practice. My personal self care journey first started with beginning to break down that perception, and find what self care means to me.
In my experience, there are a few types of self care that people practice. The first is the one seen everywhere; the physical pampering and healthy lifestyle. Many people feel that this is what self care is, and that by doing this their mental heath will suddenly improve drastically. Granted, any form of self care doesn’t automatically work after one time; it is a journey to find what works for you. People also use journaling and meditation to take a step back from life and focus on themselves and their thoughts for a little while. Others exercise or cook a healthy meal. There is nothing wrong with any of these practices, as all are focused on improving how you feel, either physically or mentally. Self care is about taking time to do something for yourself that makes you feel good, getting in touch with who you are so that you can be the best version of yourself.
For me, self care includes a lot of these different aspects. It has certainly been a journey to find what works for me, and I went through a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms that I thought (or pretended) was self care. This was really hard to overcome, as the line between what makes you feel happy and what is actually good for you is thin. It’s difficult to identify, as something that releases some serotonin and makes you feel good for a little can be hurting you in the long run. Though my mechanisms didn’t involve drugs, alcohol, or any really dangerous behavior, there were still things I did that harmed me. Finding healthy, positive practices that genuinely brought me joy were an essential part of my mental health journey.
Currently, I am making an effort to set aside Saturdays as a “self care” day, where I can give myself a break and focus on me. I am trying to balance my practices for both physical and mental health. I will certainly put on a face mask, do my nails, and take a long shower (who doesn’t love a spa night?), but I will also try to do things that make me happy or recharge my battery. A lot of times I will be absolutely drained after a long week, so setting aside a day to reset is really important for me. I try to listen to myself and my body to supplement whatever aspects of me that may be lacking. If I had a busy week and not a lot of sleep, I try to allow myself to physically relax, or even take a nap if I feel I need one. Sometimes constantly being around people can be exhausting for me, and especially after a period of constant socialization or relationship stresses, I will take time to be alone and in the company of myself; I find that this not only makes me feel better, but it also makes me more patient and caring towards others if I am not burned out from socializing.
In my opinion, self care is something that needs to be prioritized in our world. Taking time to tend to yourself and become more in touch with your body and mind is important to being your best self. Self care can reduce stress and provides some time to let yourself unwind, which a lot of people (including myself) find difficult. Being in a better place with your mental and physical heath can also change how you treat others. Stress can cause us to be irritable and lash out, creating tension that just creates more worry; self care can help to relieve some stress and make it easier to socialize. For me, it has been a lifesaver in terms of trying to avoid total burnout. While the routine is ever-changing, learning about myself and spending time to take care of both my mind and body have made a significant improvement for my mental health.
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