Updated: May 9, 2020
What is self-care? Self-care, the act of taking care of oneself, has become a buzzworthy topic, especially on social media. Search for #selfcare, which has over 23 million Instagram posts, and you’ll find inspirational quotes; Sunday checklists with things like “put on a face mask,” “light a candle,” and “binge-watch your favorite show”; meditative yoga poses, and lots of beauty products.
So how did self-care evolve into a commodity, and how can we embrace the practice of self-care mindfully in this age of technology?
The evolution of self-care The concept of taking care of oneself physically, mentally, and emotionally has long been practiced, especially by those in professions where mental and emotional stress is common, such as therapy, social work, and emergency medicine.
As our understanding of mental health expanded, coupled with the explosion of technology, people everywhere began embracing this concept and the general idea that wellness tools – including mental health care, movement, whole-food nutrition, and supplements – could be utilized to not just survive but improve quality of life.
Self-care in the modern world Self-care as we know it today has become a valuable strategy for easing symptoms of anxiety. In the United States alone, 40 millions adults are affected by anxiety disorders, making anxiety the most common category of mental illness in the United States.
Product brands have capitalized on this statistic, which has inspired our love of self-care products, from face masks to weighted blankets. All these products are great and can support relaxation any day of the week, but why do we feel the need to buy things to help us properly practice self-care? How can we take care of ourselves – both physically and emotionally – without relying on expensive products?
On the flip side, the trend of self-care has created a digital community where more people are opening up about their mental health struggles to find support. This community has helped dismantle the stigma of mental health conditions, allowing people to be more vulnerable and share their experiences while also being encouraged to prioritize their mental health.
It’s still important to point out that while engaging in self-care practices should be encouraged and can be a great way to decompress from a stressful day or week, these practices are not a proper substitute for seeking professional help and support for mental health conditions. If you believe you need professional support, check in with your healthcare practitioner for personalized recommendations.
10 (bio-individual) ways to practice self-care Self-care spans across physical, mental, and spiritual health. What it means is bio-individual – what makes you feel good and whole will be different from what your partner, friend, or coworker needs to feel the same way.
Lynda Cloud, IIN’s CEO, recently spoke on a panel about this very topic, sharing that “the term self-care is overused – over three billion hits on Google – so it’s more important than ever to take inventory of what makes us feel happy. It’s extremely personal and bio-individual.”
To help you find what works for you, we’ve compiled 10 ways to practice self-care that don’t necessarily require any extra products or technology – some even encourage no technology – and can be practiced in ways that are totally unique to you. Lynda also shared how she practices these self-care tips in her own life.
Set up a regular call with someone close to you. Many people turn to self-care in order to tune out the world, but sometimes you might crave meaningful connection as opposed to endless scrolling. Schedule a weekly or monthly call with someone you enjoy talking to and treat it like a special event – grab your favorite snacks, put on your coziest clothes, and plan to be present in the moment.
Fit in time for movement. Self-care to most means slowing down, hence the many yoga pose posts in the #selfcare feed, but ask yourself: What movement makes you feel good? Whatever that is – HIIT, boxing, swimming, running, or yoga – do what feels right for you. Lynda takes inventory of how she feels when she wakes up each morning, so her choice of movement – whether it’s yoga or light strength training – varies from day to day.
Cook a comforting meal. It’s easy to lean on takeout, especially when you feel like you need to “treat yourself” for a self-care evening, but nourishing your body with food that you took the time to prepare can be really special. If you’re able, meal prepping your lunches or dinners for the week will give you the energy to focus on other important life things while also having home-cooked meals at the ready when you’re super busy. Lynda relies on meal prepping and loves being able to have healthy, comforting food on the go!
Step away from your phone for a designated period of time. It’s easier said than done, but disconnecting from your phone will help you tune back in to yourself to determine what you really need in the moment. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to be truly present for your community in real life. Try putting your phone on airplane mode during lunch to chat with a coworker or have a curfew for your electronics an hour before bedtime to help wind down.
Plan more conscientious social media time. If participating in social media is important to you, take inventory of how much time you’re spending on social media and whether that time spent scrolling was to procrastinate doing other things. Becoming more mindful of your social media time can help you better manage your overall time.
Take a shower or bath. Sometimes the smaller and simpler things in your everyday routine can be reframed as self-care, such as taking a shower or bath. This can be a wonderful way to show yourself care and love if you’re having a particularly tough day and can also help you prepare for restful sleep.
Incorporate meditation into your daily routine. It may seem ironic to recommend apps on your phone to facilitate tuning out from technology, but meditation apps can help you create and sustain a regular meditation practice. They’ve been shown to improve concentration and attention, reduce anxiety, and provide many neurological benefits. Lynda loves using the Calm app, but you can explore the wide variety to see what works for you.
Set daily or monthly affirmations. Lynda sets monthly affirmations, checking in with herself every 30 days to regroup and reset. Affirmations are statements that allude to goals you wish to achieve or positive, encouraging statements to help remind you daily that you’re on the path to success. Working toward a goal can be hard work, and setting a new affirmation every 30 days can be a great way to assess how your self-care needs change over time.
Opt for DIY versions of typical self-care products. If you want to have a “self-care night in” like you see on Instagram, try making your own version of the expensive products you may see people using, such as this face mask using ingredients you’d find in your own kitchen!
Make self-care a regular part of your routine, not just something you do occasionally. Building self-care into your day creates practices that become habits. Taking care of yourself doesn’t need to be relegated to one night a week, nor does it need to be an elaborately planned event. It could be as small as a daily 10-minute walk to break up the afternoon at work. Taking small steps every day to build self-care into your routine can have a major positive impact on your health and happiness.
Material sourced from IIN (Institute for Integrative Nutrition)