What is Self Care?
In graduate school, one of the most annoying assignments I ever had was for two entire semesters I was required to login to a forum every single week and post one thing I did for self care that week as well as comment on two posts other people had written. Why was this annoying? Because I had never given much thought to purposeful self care.
Gradually over the course of the semester I started thinking more often about self care throughout the week (not just on the day the posts were due) and began to making a game out of challenging myself to find a new self care activity every single week. I started to think outside the box about what counts as “self care” and began to really appreciate the assignment. That assignment got me in the habit of valuing attending to my own social/emotional/physical needs. In truth, had I not learned to slow down and value my own health I may have burned out quickly after graduation. Instead, I have spent much of my career trying to help others learn this art of valuing yourself.
How do you define self care?
I’ve heard self care defined many different ways. I’ve seen lists of what is or isn’t self care. I’ll give my own take on what is not self care in a minute, but let’s start with what it IS. A recent Psych Central Blog Post said, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health.” I love this definition! It leaves the options for self care wide open to whatever works for you personally.
Self care is an individual thing-whatever feeds your soul and meets your needs. Self care for me personally means getting off at 3pm several days a week to pick up my children. This meets an emotional need that I have to feel connected to my kids, to spend quality individual time with them. Would this be self care for everyone? Absolutely not. Some people would go crazy with all of that extra time to entertain the kids and hear them whine. Other parents would stress about working at all. That’s ok.
Because we are all so unique in what we need, I can’t tell you how self care will look for you personally. Instead I encourage you to look inside yourself at what brings you peace, joy and satisfaction. When do you feel physically at your best? Spiritually? Emotionally? Socially? Those are the times you are doing self care.
What is not self care?
Again, this is an individual thing, but it is essentially anytime you are not meeting your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical needs. When you start saying “yes” to things out of a sense of duty or obligation. When you are in survival mode. When you are running from place to place doing things for everyone else. When you feel disconnected. The list could go on, but these are all examples of when self care is lacking.
There are other times in your life where you are already doing your standard self care, but things get a little stressful and you need to “up your game.” For instance, you may always have a date night with your spouse once a month. These are great things to do for self care. But after a really stressful week at work where you are feeling completely disconnected, you may need to have an extra date night even if you just went out last week.
Learn More about Self Care
This is the first in a 4 part series about self care leading up to our Open House. Please check back each Wednesday for the next few weeks to learn more about how you can take care of yourself to maintain optimal mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health!
I would also like to invite you to our Open House on July 20th from 3:30-5:30pm at our office which is located at 302 Campusview Dr directly behind the Grand Cru restaurant in Suite 202. We will be sharing some of our favorite ideas for self care with each therapist setting up one activity in their office for visitors to participate in. We hope to see you there!
If you or someone you love is struggling to maintain optimal mental and emotional health, consider reaching out and calling Aspire Counseling at 573-328-2288. We are a Columbia, MO area counseling center with empathetic, skilled therapists who can help you set goals, develop a self care routine and move forward to build a more fulfilling life.
Jessica Tappana MSW, LCSW is the founder, director and a full time therapist at Aspire Counseling. She created Aspire Counseling to provide the Mid Missouri area with a counseling clinic where clients are carefully matched with the right therapist who they will connect with so people feel comfortable in the therapy office. All of our therapists provide at least one evidence based treatment. Jessica is a big proponent of self care and helping people live a fulfilling life!