Self-care: a term made popular by Instagrammers and the media industry to sell us on our “worth.”
These days, we can rarely pick up a magazine or scroll on social media without being bombarded with messages of “self-care.” Images of manicures, facials, massages, bubble baths, clothes and brunch — all tagged with captions stating, “You’re worth it! Treat yourself! #selfcare.”
Though we all enjoy a day of pampering and pancakes, we must wonder if we have been sold a lie. When the world shut down, we were left with no reprieve. All of our go-to self-care methods were unavailable. The world got quiet and our insides became restless, empty and hungry. We were forced to acknowledge the stressors of everyday life and redefine self-care.
When we deconstruct self-care, we find it is a much deeper concept. It's a daily practice of community engagement, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries and nourishing our bodies and minds. If we examine this from a biological perspective, stimulating our feel-good chemicals (serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins) is the ultimate self-care.
Lucky for us, these things come with little cost and high rewards. Give these a try.
1. Community engagement: Human connection is the ultimate healer. When we connect with others through hugging, hand-holding or sitting next to people we love, we stimulate oxytocin. This chemical is shooting our nervous system full of feelings of love and connection. This decreases loneliness, depression and anxiety.
2. Accomplishing a task: There is a biological reason we get a little jolt of happiness when we cross things off our to-do list. Accomplishing something, big or small, sends a rush of dopamine into our bodies, building confidence and increasing self-esteem.
3. Nourishing the body and mind: Sleep, nutrition and movement are all vital avenues of self-care. Going for a walk stimulates serotonin, eating a yummy meal lowers cortisol and getting adequate sleep sends our bodies into rest and repair.
4. Setting and maintaining boundaries: Maybe the hardest part of self-care is giving yourself permission to take up space. Boundary setting means saying yes to yourself and no to things that do not serve you.
- “No, I can’t make it to drinks this weekend, I’m going to have downtime.”
- "No, mommy can’t play with you right now, I’m taking a bath.”
- “Yes, I’m going to wake up a little earlier to enjoy my coffee uninterrupted.”
5. Doing the mundane: Sometimes self-care can mean doing the unglamorous, unpostable things: mindfully showering, journaling, having difficult conversations and going to therapy. While these forms of self-care aren’t Instagram-worthy (or even fun), they can greatly improve our mental, emotional and physical health.
If you find your self-care routine is lacking, try building these into your schedule. If these are difficult for you, try asking yourself, “What makes me worthy of self-care?” List the reasons you deserve care and remind yourself of them daily.
Kami Ball Tran is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor, Registered Play Therapist Supervisor and National Certified Counselor. Contact The Healing Place Therapies today to learn how they can help you on the journey to mental and emotional wellness.