With the development of the personal growth industry in recent years, self-care is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot.

When you search the internet for self-care tips, a lot of content about what is self-care and how to practice it comes up, including paid courses on how to practice it.

Regrettably, some of these contents are adding to the misconception about the self-care as a concept.

Here, we take a look at what it is, how to practice it, and what it isn’t. 

What is Self-care?

To understand self-care better, we need to understand it in a fuller context.

Brief History

The concept of self-care began from the concept of primary care done by mentally ill individuals or elderly patients themselves under the supervision of health professionals.

Self-care in the physical sense then encompassed the management and prevention of chronic illness through the modification of existing physical behaviors.

Now, there are generally six types of self-care. Out of them, this article will discuss physical self-care and mental self-care for now.  

How to Practice Physical Self-care? 

Self-care can be practiced by anyone and has three dimensions to it: maintenance, monitoring, and management. These dimensions are explained below. 

  • Physical Self-care Maintenance:
    This refers to practicing behaviors that help us to minimize or to avoid health complications.

    These behaviors include quitting or reducing smoking and drinking, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and adhering to the use of medications as suggested by health care professionals. 

  • Physical Self-care Monitoring:
    The monitoring aspect of self-care includes measuring and being aware of the changes in bodily functions.

    These monitoring practices include identification of symptoms, taking proper treatment procedures, being aware of how a disease (if any) progresses, and gaining knowledge and education about a disease. These practices will help us in determining when to seek professional help. 

  • Physical Self-Care management:
    This includes actions we take to ensure our sound physical health.

    Physical self-care management activities include knowing the signs and symptoms of a particular disease when they begin manifesting, implementing the proper directions of medical authorities, visiting health professionals on-time, taking appropriate diet plans according to medical history, and organizing our lives in balanced systems.

    For instance, a diabetes patient may inject insulin when they feel their blood sugar is rising (as per recommendation from a trained physician). Similarly, an asthma patient can be instructed to use an inhaler as an intervention when they feel shortness of breath.

    Management also includes checking to see whether the symptoms have alleviated after the said intervention. Furthermore, self-care management also includes evaluating the quality of treatment administered by a physician. 

 Self-care in the physical sense, as we can see, is to maintain or manage a healthy lifestyle. However, mental health practitioners have also been advocating the importance of self-care on mental health. 

How to Practice Self-Care for Mental health? 

Although there are many resources online on how to practice mental self-care, there is no single or right way to practice it.

Any suggestions that are given by people on mental self-care may or may not work on you. This is why we need to understand the basics of mental self-care. 

Here, we will analyze how self-care in mental health borrows from the same principle of medical self-care. Keep these three points in mind when you’re making your mental self-care routine. 

  • Maintenance:
    As with the physical side, this aspect deals with the prevention of mental illness. 

    Some mental self-care maintenance activities include getting medical help when needed; paying attention to warning signs related to mental health; understanding one’s stress cycle, and engaging in activities that help the brain and body function better.

    Quitting or reducing smoking and drinking is always a good idea. Research has shown that aerobic exercises release serotonin and dopamine (happy hormones) in your brain that helps in better functioning and moods.

    If you are using medications of any form of mental illness, make sure you take them. You should also consult your doctor if you are experiencing severe side effects after taking medicine. 

  • Monitoring:
    Monitoring your mental health might look tough from the surface, but all it needs is a little awareness and practice.

    Understanding that thoughts create behaviors and it is these thoughts that you need to keep in check helps you to monitor your mental health. Read about monitoring your thoughts here.

    Also, educating yourself about various problems related to the mind can help you identify the symptoms and act accordingly. 

  • Management:
    Unlike in physical health, the symptoms of a mental health illness rarely go away with medication.

    In situations like this, going to a trained professional and learning ways to manage your symptoms and learning new coping strategies will help you.

    Reviewing the therapy session and its outcome also comes under management. 

In Conclusion: 

 Self-care is all about how true you are to yourself.  It is not about the goals of the present. It prepares us for the future. It is about self-reflection and acceptance of the flaws that you currently have.

It is merely a tool that you use to better yourself, and you should, by no means, be stressed when implementing any of its processes. 

Self-care is not: 

Practicing self-care the wrong way can do more harm than good. Try to avoid the points listed below while practicing a good self-care plan.

A planned self-care strategy is not:

  • Overindulging In What Makes You Happy: While it might be easy to grab a tub of ice-cream and label it as self-care, it does not count. Just because it makes you feel better at that moment in time, it is not self-care. Self-care is a long term commitment.

  • A competition: It is normal for us to compare our lives with other people. We might not be able to afford a weekly spa or an expensive steak dinner, but that does not mean we cannot be kind to ourselves. 

  • Expensive: Your self-care routine does not have to be costly. The best form of self-care is maintaining your finance with a healthy lifestyle. Remember, self-care is not a lump-sum game, but a step-by-step process. Think about working what you can improve in terms of physical and mental health instead of worrying about what cannot be changed in the short term. 

  • Victimizing yourself: We all have our ups and downs. Taking care of yourself does not always have to be after something terrible happens to you; it is about learning how to have a positive mindset and be prepared for what might come your way. 

  • Avoidance: Avoidance in psychology is the behavior that we show to escape a situation that might be psychologically alarming to us. It is not self-care when we avoid certain things that we might not like to do. Let’s say we may don’t like going to the dentist, so we may avoid going to our appointments and call it self-care. This behavior is avoidance and not self-care.