Self-care is one of those terms that has gone viral in the past few years. Typically, self-care is attributed to caring for the physical self, and seems to be marketed more toward women. Self-care seems to mean skincare, haircare, fancy baths, fluffy things, etc. While those things are important and certainly can be a part of self-care, they are only one aspect of true self-care.
True self-care means caring for the whole self. Yes, bubble baths and perfume and skin- or haircare are lovely and important, but they feed the physical. Can they feed the emotional or mental aspects of a person? Of course they can. But they cannot do the job as completely as other things can.
True self-care does mean working on the physical person. It means eating well, moisturizing, washing, exfoliating, exercising, and doing all those things that are wonderful for your body. It also means checking up on the body, with regular doctor appointments, nipping possible problems in the bud, and listening to what your body is telling you. It means setting up a sleep schedule and sticking to it.
Another area of self-care is mental. It is important to exercise your mind as well as your body. While I myself can revel in gossip sometimes, I also make sure to listen to news podcasts every morning to keep up with current events. If I want to know more about a certain issue, I research it so I can form a better-informed opinion. I listen to Ted Talks, podcasts, read books by authors with backgrounds like mine and backgrounds that are very different, and watch YouTube videos about anything and everything about which I want to learn more. I have friends with whom I can discuss current events and philosophy, to hear differing ideas and/or arguments. I sit and think about things, ruminating on things I have read or heard. I have always lived very much in my mind. I’m rarely ever bored, because there is so much to consider in the world and beyond it. I write, draw, and play piano. I try to challenge myself in some way every day, to help keep my mind sharp. I love to learn.
A now little-talked-about aspect of the self is the spiritual. Being in tune with the spiritual aspect of self does not necessarily mean joining or practicing a religion. Religion is an excellent means to teach and enforce morals, and to encourage tuning into the spiritual. Self-care in regards to the spirit means realizing that there are truths, whether moral or scientific or otherwise. It means realizing that some things are bigger than we are, but also means realizing our (and others’) power and importance. It means realizing that there is a common human connection that spans generations and centuries and languages and social classes and any other divide possible between individuals or communities.
The social aspect of the self is of paramount importance. As humans, we all long to be loved, accepted, understood, and to make and maintain connections with each other. Friendships, romantic relationships, and familial relationships are the best ways to care for the social self. Frequently romantic or familial love is considered the most important, but platonic love can be easily as rewarding and fulfilling as both romantic and familial love. Friends are the family we choose. Friends don’t necessarily want anything from us, the way a lover can (and frequently does), other than our love, which includes support and honesty, among other things. Friendships are easy to begin, and come in varying degrees of seriousness. We are allowed to have as many (or as few) as we want and need.
The last area of self-care to discuss is emotional (though there are certainly other areas as well). Some ways of caring for the self emotionally include journaling; talking, venting, and connecting with friends; seeing a therapist; laughing; meditation. Taking control of one’s emotional state can be difficult, but it is essential to living life with grace. This does not mean that one ought to repress one’s emotions; rather, it means that one acknowledges an emotion (or emotions), lets it run its course, and does one’s best not to let the emotion(s) change behavior in a negative way. It does not do to wallow, and it isn’t healthy or productive. Feel your emotions. Acknowledge that they are both important and natural. Then move along. You and your life and the lives of others will be the better for it.