Get it Straight: What is Self-Care?

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If I could pinpoint a buzzword for 2019, it would be “self-care”. Everybody is talking about it as if it’s some new phenomenon. Suddenly we realize it’s beneficial to take care of ourselves. It is beneficial. It is important. But what is equally as important is to know what true self-care is.

Self-care is not bubble baths and spa days. It’s not shirking your responsibilities to veg out and Netflix binge. It is not spending what you don’t have to feel better. Self-care is so much more than self-indulgence. There is a difference and we have to get it straight. We can self-indulge all day long, but that is not truly taking care of ourselves.

1. Self-care is healthy eating.

It isn’t always about tickling your taste buds. Self-care means finding out what your body needs and making sure it gets just that. It means getting enough water and balancing your intake of fruits, vegetables and, yes, even carbs. These are things you have to be intentional about and, when you do so, you reap the benefits of energy and better health.

2. Self-care is adequate sleep.

As I noted above, self-care isn’t about lazing about on the couch surfing whatever is on Netflix. In fact, in most cases, it means shutting the television off sooner and taking the time to wind down for a full night of sleep. Going to bed at consistent times every night is important. The other important factor is an appropriate bedtime routine. Wash your face, moisturize, do a few stretches and empty your mind of the day. Create a comfortable sleeping environment by pinpointing the things that make you uncomfortable and changing those things.

3. Self-care is breathing.

I’m not talking about the regular inhaling and exhaling you do every moment of the day. I’m talking about taking a few moments of stillness and quiet. Yoga and prayer both work wonders for me in this way. In Yoga, physical movement is slow and intentional and it literally uses your breath to create space in your mind and body. Prayer is the spiritual facet of your self-care where you prioritize your faith and allow God to pour into you so you are in a good enough place to pour out when it’s required.

Breathing in this way also means getting that heart rate up from time to time; moving your body to expand your lung capacity. Maybe it’s in some mindless dancing, jogging or other forms of exercise. Whatever it is, get your heart pumping and that oxygen moving to the areas that need it most.

4. Self-care is getting organized.

Organization aids in giving us a peaceful living experience day to day. It means having a daily cleaning routine (which I talked about in an earlier post). It means making sure your spaces are clear of clutter and ready for you to be productive in the best way possible. When your environment is cluttered, so is your head. When your head gets cluttered, that’s stress you never needed nor is it beneficial to your own personal care.

5. Self-care is positive relationships.

There are some people we often need to distance ourselves from. You know the ones…the argumentative, negative or downright rude. There are others we can’t distance ourselves from. So, it’s important for our own sanity to be the positive force in your relationships. Work on how you interact within your marriage. Work on how you interact with your family members. Then, aim for peace. Surround yourselves regularly with positive and encouraging people. Those are the people who will remind you of how you do need to take care of yourself.

There are some that will require more of us: our children or elderly family members. We’ll often be required to put ourselves aside to care for others. When we have positive people in our tribe, they can help energize us when things get hard and we get used up so quickly.

And the last but not least part of this is…your relationships have to go beyond social media. Get together face-to-face. Have coffee. Invite friends over. Take a break from electronic noise and listen to real voices in front of you.

The bottom line is, self-care is so much more than what we’ve made it. Self care is about actually taking care of yourself so you can better help the people around you. It’s not about continuing old habits and learning how to deal with the negative consequences of those habits by indulging. Once we figure out that self-care is actually about care and not coping, we’ll be less stressed and relatively happier people.

What is your idea of self-care? Has your original idea of it changed or evolved?


  • Love this definition. So many people and articles overcomplicate self-care – and add a layer of inaccessibility in the process. You don’t need a weekly manicure to tend to your body, mind and soul!

    • Yessss!!! Thank you! I’m seeing all these “self-care” conversations and it’s all about indulgence. Sometimes, at the end of the day, self-care is really just about taking care of yourself in the purest definition of the term!

  • I just had this conversation with a mom I know. She had total burnout and had no idea how to get back on track. Getting sleep was the most imply. As for me, 2018 meant letting go of a toxic friendship. I had no idea how miserable I was because of it!

    • Yep. It’s amazing at how some people can really turn our lives upside down-for the good and for the worst. Let go of the ones you don’t need and work diligently on the ones you do!

    • Absolutely! And yet, its one of the best ways to take care of ourselves. We’re better rested…our metabolism is allowed to function at it’s best capacity…improves our mental health. But there are still people out there living on 4-5 hours of sleep! Eek!

    • The more I read all these ideas about self-care, the more frustrated I was getting. Like, people…that’s not talking care of yourself! That’s just throwing caution to the wind. Self-care is sometimes (in fact…a lot of time) about using caution.

  • Sleep. Is for me the on thing I cant fix. I agree it is such a vital l part of taking care of one self. They so such a person can do for themselves to make them fell better we all just need reminders.

  • I totally agree that all of those things go into self-care. When you do just one thing such as get sleep, if you still eat junk all the time and have a negative relationship and live in a cluttered house, you aren’t going to get as much benefit from the extra sleep (although it will still help some). Focusing on all the dimensions of self-care is important for maximizing the benefits.

    • If I could, I would give you a high-five! SO MUCH YES! I didn’t realize it until I started focusing on everything together. Once I did that, I felt so much lighter and it became less work to take care of myself because it was more maintenance instead of putting out fires.

  • This is such a beautiful post. I love how you have taken out all of the “fluff” we hear on a daily basis about self-care and really got down to the nitty gritty of what our bodies and minds REALLY need to thrive. Wonderful writing and ideas here. Thank you!

  • Loved this – ‘Self-care is so much more than self-indulgence. There is a difference and we have to get it straight. We can self-indulge all day long, but that is not truly taking care of ourselves.’ Many of us neglect self care without even realizing it!! I know my own score will be really less!

  • Love this post. As I get older, I recognize the need to truly care for myself in many of the ways you’ve listed. I started dieting and working out, and lost 27lbs, and I do my best to pry the cell phone out of my hand when it’s time for bed. Treat your body and your mind well, and they’ll treat YOU well!

  • I have made it a point to do all of these things this year, making sure I’m sleeping and eating right, and surrounding myself with the right people. It is such an amazing feeling to be on the right track to taking care of myself. Too many people don’t realize what that actually means.

  • As someone who just lost nearly 40 pounds, self-care is more important to me now than it ever has been. Thank you for pointing out that it isn’t about digging yourself into a financial rut to “treat-yo-self” with things you can’t even afford. As I get older, I have a better understanding of getting adequate sleep (this is coming from someone who used to consistently go to bed at 3:00 am), healthy food, and positive relationships.

  • Absolutely, this is self-care that truly makes us feel our best. When I’m rested, eating healthy, organized and surrounded by positive relationships, I feel like I can take on anything. I wake up happier and make the most out of each day. Thanks for your post!

    • I think assessing is such a great thing to do! Every once in a while we should ask, “How well am I caring for myself?”

  • Self-care vs. self-indulgence!!! You made this all so simple. You’re right. So many places tell you to pamper yourself when what is really needed is more time to declutter your mind and quiet everything around you. Awesome article!

    • Thanks so much! I believe it’s so good to indulge from time to time. But indulging shouldn’t be the only time we “care” for ourselves. Self-care should be ongoing, intentional and purposeful.

  • I could have written this post! Last year I learned the hard way that my parent is toxic. I had to end that relationship. As much as it sucked, I did it to take care of myself. Self care is so much more than just relaxing!

    • I’m sorry you had to go through that! Continue to check in with yourself and what you need (especially emotionally in this case). Mind, body and spirit!

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