What Is Self-Care, Really?
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Life can get complicated trying to balance so many different responsibilities, from work and family obligations to chores and a social life. Even so, self-care should always be a priority — though putting yourself before other parts of your life is easier said than done.

Self-care is an essential part of everyday wellness. It can benefit your mental, physical and emotional health to have a positive impact on every aspect of your life, from your relationship with others to your relationship with yourself. But what does it really mean? 

A basic definition of self-care is taking action to improve and maintain your overall well-being. This can include everything from specific activities to shifting your values. By diving into the specifics, you can gain a better understanding of the concept and how you can work on incorporating it into your everyday life.

Types of self-care (and how to practice them)

Self-care can look different for everyone. What might work for one person might not work for another. But what’s important to remember is that the goal of self-care is to work toward the best version of yourself and improve your overall quality of life by doing what makes you feel good. It’s not selfish; it’s self-compassion.

There are types of self-care that can benefit every aspect of your person. We’ll talk about the importance of each one and the types of self-care actions that they involve.

  • Emotional — Understanding your emotions and how they are impacted by everyday situations is essential for improving your emotional health. Emotional self-care can help you learn how to regulate your feelings and cope with negative emotions, including those that may stem from mental health disorders.

  • Spending quality time by yourself

  • Journaling your thoughts and feelings

  • Talking to a health care professional

  • Mental — One of the most common reasons that people start to prioritize self-care is due to their mental health. Whether you’re experiencing everyday stresses or mental health disorder symptoms, mental self-care helps to improve your mindset and cognitive thinking.

  • Setting short- and long-term goals

  • Setting aside time for a hobby

  • Practicing gratitude and positive thinking

  • Physical — Taking care of your physical health through self-care increases your ability to carry out everyday activities while boosting your confidence and reducing the risk of medical concerns in the future.

  • Eating a balanced diet with proper nutrients

  • Daily exercise or body movement (walking, weightlifting, playing sports, etc.)

  • Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night

  • Social — Connections with friends, family and significant others can play a large role in your overall quality of life. They provide you with support during hard times and a sense of belonging. Social self-care means forming and maintaining relationships that are balanced and bring positivity to both parties.

  • Asking for help and support when you need it

  • Spending quality time with others without distractions

  • Setting and enforcing personal boundaries

  • Spiritual — Focusing on your inner being and your purpose can help you connect with yourself. Spiritual self-care helps you find inner peace and focus on the values that are important to you. This may be influenced by your religious or cultural beliefs.

  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Setting aside time for self-reflection

  • Manifestation

The role of self-care in health and wellness

The benefits of all self-care tend to overlap. Focusing on one type often has a domino effect on others to improve your overall well-being. For example, the neurotransmitters released during exercise as physical self-care can improve your mental health.

Self-care can help improve your overall health in a variety of ways, including:

  • Reducing stress — If you’ve been stressed, burned out or overwhelmed by your everyday responsibilities, you’ve probably been recommended to do some self-care. And for good reason. Self-care can help you reduce stress by giving your mind a break, relaxing the body and rejuvenating your thoughts. It also helps build the emotional, mental and physical resilience needed to handle stressful situations as they occur.

  • Increasing positive emotions — As simple as it sounds, self-care makes you feel good. It brings you joy, contentment and increased self-esteem that improves your overall mindset. There are many self-care actions that boost neurotransmitters and hormones that are involved in mood regulation, such as exercise. By turning to self-care in times of anger, sadness or frustration, you’re focusing all your energy, thoughts and emotions on something that brings you happiness to combat the negativity.

  • Helping coping with mental health disorders — For mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, self-care is often recommended by health care providers as a type of coping mechanism. If you’re struggling to deal with symptoms and triggers for your disorder, self-care actions can help reduce negative emotion and thought patterns. While it shouldn’t be the only treatment, self-care can help you manage your symptoms on a day-to-day basis.

  • Strengthening relationships — While it may seem cliché to say, “You can’t help others if you don’t help yourself,” it can be difficult to maintain strong and healthy relationships with others if you’re having internal struggles. By prioritizing your own emotional and mental health, you’ll feel more capable of handling relationship conflicts and setting boundaries with others to protect your own peace.

  • Boosting energy and motivation — Self-care often works as a “reset button” for your mind and body. It helps you recharge your energy, making you feel more motivated and capable of taking on tasks. When you feel “recharged,” your concentration levels also increase, improving the quality of your efforts in whatever you’re doing, whether that be a new responsibility at work or exercising in the gym.

Lightfully can help you incorporate self-care into your everyday life

It’s not uncommon for self-care to be pushed to the side until you experience mental distress or mental health disorder symptoms. And it’s a habit that takes time to develop and maintain.

If you’re struggling to find the self-care that improves your mental health, we can help guide you. Self-care is a pillar of all mental health treatment. It’s encouraged throughout our four levels of care: Residential Treatment (RTC), Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Partial Hospitalization Program and Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).

Our levels of care consist of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care provided by deeply compassionate experts.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step to prioritize your self-care, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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