What Self-Care Really Means
Lauren Dyer, D.Ac
The phrase has become so trendy in the health & wellness space. It’s great how there is this collective awareness of a need to invest in ourselves.
But at what cost?
Does “self care” need to be an indulgence or expensive? Do we need to feel guilty or selfish for it to count? Does it need to be an escape from reality?
As a clinician, I treat so many people who describe themselves as “run-down,” physically and emotionally, because they feel like they cannot put themselves first. They struggle with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and exhaustion from trying to keep it all together and be the person they need to be for their job, partner, kids, or friends. The way self-care is marketed to us seems to make some object, vacation, or indulgent behavior a “quick fix” for momentary abandonment of how ‘wired and tired’or ‘stressed and depressed' we really are. So how we create consistent space for our needs is something I have been reflecting on quite a bit lately.
That is why I have come to think of self care as a process instead of a purchase.
Instead of an occasional reward or some “me time,” I see it as a continuous practice of self-development and growth. By holding ourselves accountable, we can create the life we want, one that allows us to give to others without neglecting ourselves in the process. Treating yourself is great but this concept has to go deeper than that if we want to enjoy life instead of just get by—if we want to have sustainable shifts in our mental outlook and emotional health.
Even I reward myself and still think there’s a slippery slope when “self care” becomes synonymous with “treat yourself.”
“Self-care is not an indulgence, it is a discipline. It requires tough-mindedness, a deep and personal understanding of your priorities, and a respect for both yourself and the people you choose to spend your life with”
“Ironically when you truly care for yourself…you are actually in a much stronger place to give of yourself to those around you. You will be a happier parent, a more grateful spouse, a fully engaged colleague”
“It often means looking your failures and disappointments square in the eye and re-strategizing”
“It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t”
“True self care is…making the choice to build a life you don’t regularly need to escape from.”
“It is no longer using your hectic and unreasonable life as justification for self-sabotage in the form of (substance abuse) and procrastination”
“If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot to do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.”
“It is learning how to stop trying to “fix yourself” and start trying to take care of yourself…and maybe finding that taking care lovingly attends to a lot of the problems you were trying to fix in the first place”
“It is becoming the person you know you want and are meant to be”
At the end of the day, self care can’t always be purchased.
Or at least, it shouldn’t be.
Thankfully there are plenty of inexpensive ways to practice it, such as:
GO FOR A WALK
TAKE A BATH (OR A NAP)
MAKE A COZY DRINK OR HEALTHY MEAL
WEAR YOUR FAVORITE OUTFIT
CALL A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER
UNPLUG FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
SPEND TIME OUTDOORS & IN NATURE
WRITE A LIST OF THINGS YOU ARE GRATEFUL FOR
WATCH A FAVORITE SHOW OR READ A BOOK FOR PLEASURE
MEDITATE WITH A FREE APP LIKE CALM OR HEADSPACE
There are so many options! Find what works for you and regularly build it into your life.
So… What does self care mean to you?
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Disclaimer: Information contained in this article is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical symptoms/condition. If you have any health concerns or an emergency, seek out medical attention. If you are a patient of ours with a health concern, contact us so we can help and make appropriate referrals as needed. If you have questions, feel free to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!