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Self-Care Guide: What it really MEANS and Why is it IMPORTANT

The word is ‘Self-care.’

Simple enough to trick you into buying scented candles and stuff.

Complex enough to make you believe it can transform your life.

Or is it the other way around?

Don’t sweat yourself on it because you are HERE now.

Today you will know everything about practicing TRUE SELF CARE.

In this complete guide, you’ll learn:

  • What self-care really means
  • What are the different types of self-care
  • Why is self-care so important
  • How self-care can benefit you
  • What you need to begin your self-care practice
  • And lots more

Let’s get started.


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What ‘Self Care’ Really Means

Let’s break down the word ‘self-care’.

‘Self’ implies you or me or us, the human being that we are.

‘Care’ implies any activity that is necessary to restore, maintain, and protect something in its default or normal or healthy state.

Therefore, technically the meaning of self-care becomes a set of activities necessary (care) to restore, maintain, and protect our (self) default or normal state of being.

Two distinct questions come out from this definition:

  1. What is our default or normal state of being?
  2. What do we need to live optimally in our default state of being?

Let’s address the second question first.

You can skip to the ‘definition of self-care’ by clicking here.

What do we need to live your ‘default or normal life’ optimally?

To answer this question, we’ll take help from a very popular theory in psychology called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The theory states that human beings are motivated to fulfill five basic categories of needs, starting from basic physiological needs to safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and lastly self-actualization needs

Maslow also believed that human beings have an innate need to learn and understand the world around them and having the freedom of speech and expression along with living in a morally ethical society will make it convenient for anyone to fulfill their needs.

According to Maslow, lower needs must be satisfied before addressing needs higher up in the pyramid, although it is not necessary to completely satisfy all the needs at one particular level to move to the next level of needs.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs, scalable vector illustration
Image Source : ThoughtCo.com

From the picture above, you can understand that,

All the needs, except ‘self-actualization needs,’ mainly comprise some of the very basic aspects of an individual that are necessary to live a normal life.

Self-actualization is basically the need to develop yourself to the point of fulfilling your true potential, which is really a matter of ‘want’ rather than ‘need.’ 

Therefore, it cannot be counted as a necessity.

So, we can say that in order to live a normal life optimally, you need to fulfill almost all of Maslow’s needs except self-actualization needs,’ i.e., physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, along with the other needs (need to learn and understand the world, having freedom of speech and expression and living in a morally ethical society.)

Now, let’s move onto the next question.

What is our default or normal state of being?

Imagine you’re trying to develop yourself into a champion in running. 

Before you want to develop yourself (self-actualization), you need to take care of some or all of the necessities like food, clothing, shelter, house, money, relationship support, self-confidence, etc. (physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem needs)

If you get sick, you first have to restore back to your normal state to continue developing yourself.

Consequently, you will have to protect yourself in order to maintain your normal state to continue developing further.

So, we can say that the normal or default state of being is essentially when some or all of your needs have been fulfilled.

Now I want you to imagine your life with every one of your needs fulfilled completely, or your optimal life. I know it’s difficult but here are some pointers to help you.

  • You have air, water, food, clothing, and shelter (basic needs)
  • You are physically fit (physical health)
  • You are mentally healthy (mental health and cognition)
  • You are emotionally competent and are able to feel (emote) according to the true nature of your experiences (five senses and emotional well-being)
  • You live with an optimistic and growth attitude (mindset)
  • You have a clear purpose in life and strong moral values to support your decisions and behaviors (purpose and values)
  • You are satisfied with your work and find meaning in it (work)
  • You respect yourself and feel confident and comfortable with who you are (self-esteem and self-love)
  • You are content with what you decide to have/ own (money and material possessions)
  • You maintain meaningful, healthy, and mutually respectful relationships with whomever you care about (romantic, friends, family, and other social relationships)
  • You lead an optimal lifestyle ideally suited for you (environment, recreation, daily routines, and chores)

However way you imagine your life to be, you need to understand that although it seems ideal in nature, it simply is everything you need in life (not want) fulfilled in a balanced way, which helps us understand how we can define true self-care.

Definition of Self Care

From the above explanation, we can conclude that,

The true definition of self care is performing a set of activities that are necessary to restore, maintain, and protect our optimal life with the objective of fulfilling most or all of our needs.

Now that we have our definition, it’s time to clarify what counts as self-care and what doesn’t with the help of a few examples.

What Self Care ‘IS’ v/s What Self Care ‘IS NOT’

The concept of self-care is simple.

But ever since the term became a trend on social media for influencers to endorse scented candles and facial masks, the word ‘self-care’ lost most of its true meaning.

Therefore, it is extremely important to understand what truly counts as a self-care activity and what is endorsed by the billion-dollar ‘buy-your-self care’ industry.

Here are a few examples of what true self-care looks like.

WHAT SELF CARE ISWHAT SELF CARE IS NOT
SELF CARE IS being mindful of your needsSELF CARE IS NOT about damage control
SELF CARE IS being disciplinedSELF CARE IS NOT being lazy
SELF CARE IS being mindful and considerate of your finances and spending budgetSELF CARE IS NOT mindless spending and retail therapy
SELF CARE IS doing what’s healthy for youSELF CARE IS NOT mindless indulgence
SELF CARE IS a long-term commitment to your well-beingSELF CARE IS NOT instant gratification
SELF CARE IS prioritizing yourselfSELF CARE IS NOT being selfish
SELF CARE IS maintaining balance in your lifeSELF CARE IS NOT about one just area of life
SELF CARE IS choosing positive thoughts over negative onesSELF CARE IS NOT shielding yourself from negative thoughts 
SELF CARE IS cultivating a growth mindsetSELF CARE IS NOT encouraging a fixed mindset
SELF CARE IS about caring for yourself with the objective of caring for everyone elseSELF CARE IS NOT about caring for yourself and neglecting others
SELF CARE IS about pursuing what is right and matters to youSELF CARE IS NOT about pursuing pleasure all the time
SELF CARE IS about accepting your mistakes and learning from themSELF CARE IS NOT about defending your mistakes
SELF CARE IS focusing on your own behavior and choosing to react in a healthy mannerSELF CARE IS NOT finding faults in others behaviors and pointing them out
SELF CARE IS protecting your space and boundaries in a relationshipSELF CARE IS NOT pleasing others to protect the relationship
SELF CARE IS saying ‘NO’ to what you don’t need right nowSELF CARE IS NOT saying ‘YES’ to everything you want
SELF CARE IS a necessary for your health and well-beingSELF CARE IS NOT treating yourself or a luxury
Self-Care Guide: What it really MEANS and Why is it IMPORTANT - What Self Care ‘IS’ v/s What Self Care ‘IS NOT’ Pin

Now that we have clarified what counts as true self-care and what doesn’t, it’s time to know exactly how many different parts of your ‘self’ do you need to take care of?

Types of Self Care

If you skip a level in Maslow’s pyramid of needs, it will create an unfulfilled need in your life. 

In the same way, ignoring a particular type of self-care will create an imbalance in your pursuit of the optimal life.

Therefore it is important to understand the different types of self-care that you need to address.

Mental Self Care

Mental self-care is all about taking care of your brain health, functioning of both the left brain (logic, facts, language, etc.) and right brain (imagination, creativity, visualization, etc.), memory, and psychological well-being (anxiety, depression, etc.).

Mental self-care includes :

  • Psychological Self-care
  • Brain & Memory Health
  • Intellectual Self Care
  • Creative Self Care

Mental Self Care Activities

Examples of mental self-care activities can include:

  • Psychological Self Care
    • managing stress, anxiety, and depression naturally
    • seeking therapy to maintain psychological well-being
    • talking openly about psychological health with loved ones
    • working on psychological fears
    • using affirmations
    • staying socially involved
  • Brain & Memory Health
    • protecting your head from physical injuries
    • eating foods to support brain health
    • engaging in mentally stimulating activities like reading, solving puzzles, etc. to support new neuron connections and protecting from future loss of brain cells
    • getting the optimal amount of sleep every day (7.5-8 hrs for an average person)
  • Intellectual Self Care
    • taking the time to learn about things that interest you
    • journaling to understand your thoughts
    • keeping an open mind to ideas
    • being open to new experiences
  • Creative Self Care
    • expressing your imagination through your preferred activity
    • exploring innovative ways of doing mundane or everyday things (brushing with your opposite hand)
    • engaging in playful and creative activities that interest you
    • challenging yourself to perform out-of-the-box thinking

Emotional Self Care

Emotional self-care is about taking care of everything that is needed to freely express, feel and become aware of your emotions (emotional intelligence), maintaining emotional wellbeing (positivity), and taking time to heal emotionally (relaxation and soothing).

Emotional self-care includes:

  • Emotional Well-being (Positivity)
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Emotional Healing (Relaxation & Soothing)

Emotional Self Care Activities

Examples of emotional self-care activities can include:

  • Emotional Well-being
    • focusing on the positive aspects of any situation you experience
    • expressing positive emotions through gratitude journaling
    • choosing to react with positive emotions like love, kindness, empathy, etc.
  • Emotional Intelligence
    • identifying your emotional triggers (both positive and negative emotions)
    • expressing yourself in an assertive yet respectful style of communication
    • honing your listening skills
  • Emotional Healing

Physical Self Care

Physical self-care is all about taking care to maintain optimal physiological health and performance (Sleep, Nutrition, Movement), maintaining proper hygiene, and taking time to heal physically (Muscle Relaxation).

Physical self-care includes:

  • Sleep
  • Nutrition, Eating Habits & Hydration
  • Movement (Exercise, Walking, Yoga, Sports, etc.)
  • Hygiene & Relaxation

Physical Self Care Activities

Examples of physical self-care activities can include:

  • Sleep
  • Nutrition, Eating Habits & Hydration
    • eating food with high nutritional value and cutting down on junk food
    • maintaining healthy eating habits and eating mindfully or eating as much as the body needs
    • drinking the required amount of water every day
  • Movement
    • performing at least 10-20 mins of physical movement daily like walking, jogging, etc.
    • engaging in additional physical sports at least once a week
    • performing stretching or yoga
  • Hygiene & Relaxation
    • maintaining optimal hygiene of your body every day
    • taking time out for body relaxation activities like massage, steam bath, etc.

Spiritual Self Care

Spiritual self-care involves taking care of activities that help you connect and maintain a healthy relationship with your inner self or soul (Personal Values and Self Love), nurture the connection with a higher power (Humanity or Ethics, Nature, Religion or anything you Believe in), and cultivate deeper meaning in your life (Purpose).

Spiritual self-care includes:

  • Personal Values
  • Self-love
  • Higher Power or Spiritual Beliefs
  • Purpose

Spiritual Self Care Activities

Examples of spiritual self-care activities can include:

  • Personal Values
    • identifying your personal values and principles in life
    • aligning your behavior and choices to your personal values
  • Self-love
    • maintaining a strong sense of belief and confidence in your abilities
    • building healthy self-esteem based on your personal values and morals
    • prioritizing yourself by maintaining healthy boundaries and space with others
    • building a life around everything and everyone that you deeply care about
  • Higher Power or Spiritual Beliefs
    • identifying a higher power to revere in times of difficulties (yourself, religion, mother nature)
    • engaging in activities like meditation, silent retreat, etc. to experience deep spiritual awareness
    • taking time to contemplate on your thoughts, actions, and plan for life
  • Purpose
    • identifying every single thing that you care about (that is bigger than yourself) in this world
    • recognizing your abilities and preference for engaging in those things
    • making a plan to include your engagement in those activities to fulfill your life purpose

Social or Relationship Self Care

Social self-care means taking care of your relationships with others that include romantic relationships, relationships with friends and family, and any other social relationships, by maintaining morality, effective communication, mutual intimacy and mutually protecting personal space and boundaries in any relationship.

Social self-care includes:

  • Relationship Morals or Ethics
  • Effective Communication
  • Connection & Intimacy
  • Personal Space & Boundaries

Social Self Care Activities

Examples of social self-care activities can include:

  • Relationship Morals or Ethics
    • identifying and maintaining a set of ethics in relationship with others
    • respecting and maintaining your own set of personal values in relationships
  • Effective Communication
    • making an effort to maintain effective communication in relationships with others
    • creating a mutual space of freedom and open-mindedness in relationships
  • Connection & Intimacy
    • identifying the level of intimacy you are comfortable with in your different relationships
    • respecting and maintaining the need for intimacy in relationships
    • creating room for growth and support in relationships
  • Personal Space & Boundaries
    • respecting each other’s boundaries in relationships
    • saying ‘no’ to things that go beyond your imposed boundary and comfort in relationships
    • protecting and respecting each other’s personal space in relationships

Work or Professional Self Care

Work or Professional self-care involves taking care of every activity necessary to derive and maintain meaning and satisfaction through the work you do. This includes maintaining optimal productivity, healthy work-life balance, healthy relationships with colleagues (social self-care), and protecting your health and well-being.

Work self-care includes:

  • Work Meaning & Satisfaction
  • Productivity
  • Work-life Balance

Work Self Care Activities

Examples of work self-care activities can include:

  • Work Meaning & Satisfaction
    • identifying potential career options that will fulfill your career objectives and support your skills and natural aptitudes
    • aligning your work satisfaction with your life’s purpose
    • maintaining mutually healthy relationships with work colleagues
    • working in a comfortable and suitable work environment
    • recognizing what work satisfaction means to you
  • Productivity
    • identifying your suitable work model or style of work for optimal productivity
    • taking breaks as and when necessary to maintain well-being
  • Work-life Balance
    • following a strict work routine
    • aligning your work schedule with your natural productive hours
    • maintaining distinct boundaries between work and life

Lifestyle Self Care

Lifestyle self-care involves taking care of every other aspect of your life that you need to design your optimal lifestyle. It includes your living environment (home & nature), hobbies, daily chores and routines, money and material possessions, recreational activities, and your preferred society and culture to live in.

Lifestyle self-care includes:

  • Living Environment ( Home & Nature)
  • Hobbies, Daily Chores & Routines
  • Financial Self Care (Money & Material Possessions)
  • Society And Culture

Lifestyle Self Care Activities

Examples of lifestyle self-care activities can include:

  • Living Environment (Home & Nature)
  • Hobbies, Daily Chores & Routines
    • identifying your hobbies to integrate them into your weekly lifestyle
    • identifying and taking care of chores that you find meaningful
    • creating routines to support optimal well-being and productivity
  • Financial Self Care: Money & Material Possessions
    • identifying how much money and what objects or things you need to support your optimal life
    • setting up financial goals in life
    • creating and sticking to a spending budget
    • purchasing meaningful products and services with real value for you in life
    • investing money in building assets and downsizing liabilities
    • maintaining a ledger for your personal finances
  • Society And Culture
    • identifying which culture/s you associate with the most
    • identifying the type of society you idealize
    • raising your voice and making an effort to stand up for what you believe a society should be like
    • contributing to the betterment of society by engaging in community work
Self-Care Guide: What it really MEANS and Why is it IMPORTANT - Types of Self-Care - pin

Who Should Practice Self Care

Self-care is for everyone.

However, not everyone seems to practice it. Why?

Because not everyone thinks self-care is important.

What about you? Do you practice self-care?

Or, are you wondering if self-care is worth your time and effort?

Well, if you want to…

  • lead a healthy, meaningful, and well-balanced life
  • feel happy, content, and peaceful in life
  • develop healthy self-esteem in yourself
  • have the self-confidence to do anything you want in life
  • have healthy and supportive relationships with your loved ones
  • make a contribution to humanity and the world through your work
  • experience everything that life has to offer you
  • develop and improve yourself to fulfill your true potential

…then self-care is definitely for you.

Self-care is for those who pursue an optimal life with unlimited potential to grow.

The optimal life is the one you deserve to live by default and self care is the way to do that.

Why is Self Care Important

If you don’t protect yourself first, you’ll not be able to protect and help others.

Self-care is the same as protecting yourself.

We, human beings essentially live for ourselves and others.

You do things for yourself because you find meaning in it.
You do things for others because the humanity within you finds meaning in it.

Being mindful of your own needs is important to support yourself and the humanity within you.

When you live optimally, you are able to support humanity optimally as well.
When you’re at your 100 percent, you’re able to give your 100 percent as well in everything that matters to you.

That’s the key importance of self care.

Benefits of Self Care

To bear the fruits of self-care, you need to keep two things in mind, balance, and commitment.

Balance implies equal importance to every need in your life. Mind, body, soul, emotions, work, and lifestyle. 

Commitment implies consciously making time for self-care every day.

Cultivating a self-care practice on a daily basis will benefit you in every aspect of your life with:

  • Better immunity and physical fitness
  • Better cognition and mental well-being
  • Better emotional intelligence
  • Increased self-awareness and a healthy self-worth
  • Better self-compassion and healthy self-esteem
  • A greater sense of belief and a healthy self-confidence
  • Clear sense of purpose and motivation in life
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • More soothing feelings
  • Increased satisfaction with work
  • Higher productivity
  • More positivity and peace in life
  • Healthier and happier relationships with others
  • Higher contentment in life
  • Greater room for self-development

Self-care encourages you to live the optimal life and promote healthy relationships with yourself and others.

When you take care of your needs, you essentially lay out the foundation for growth and self-development in any area of your life.

Therefore, not only does self-care help you to live the life you deserve but it also promotes the fulfillment of your true potential in life.

Self-Care Guide: What it really MEANS and Why is it IMPORTANT - Benefits of Self-care - pin

5 Tips To Begin Your Self Care Practice

Now that you know why self-care is so important and how it can effectively transform your life, you want to get started with your self-care practice.

Here are five tips to help you begin your self-care practice for success.

Set up your objectives

Self-care is very simple. 

Find out what you need to live your optimal life. 

And that’s the first step to starting your self-care practice.

Once you figure out what you need to optimize your normal life, set up your objectives around those needs to kickstart your self-care practice.

Focus on your health and well-being

The essential purpose of self care is to protect and maintain your health and well-being. 

So that you have a choice to do whatever you want to do in your life.

Therefore it is important to plan your self care routine with a prime focus on your health and well-being. Remember health is your greatest wealth.

Schedule it

Once you have a clear self-care plan, the next step is to create your self-care routine. 

A daily/weekly/monthly/yearly self-care routine will help you include every single need you have to take care of. Knowing exactly when and what to do to practice self-care will eliminate any chances of forgetting to take care of yourself. More importantly, what gets scheduled gets done.

Include healthy amounts of occasional indulgence

Let’s face it. You are not a robot. 

The only thing that differentiates you from a robot is your ability to ‘feel.’ And what makes you feel pampered is an integral part of your identity. 

Therefore it’s important to indulge in pleasurable activities occasionally. Include them in your self-care plan and schedule it whenever necessary. 

The key, however, is to know the healthy limit beyond which may start to feel guilty.

Track and measure your progress

Lastly, track your self-care progress. Because you need to know how well are you taking care of yourself. It will also help you analyze how to modify your self-care plan to fit your needs better. Measure and track because self-care matters and you can always do it better.

Use these five tips to create your self-care plan and begin your journey to your optimal life.

Self-Care Guide: What it really MEANS and Why is it IMPORTANT - Tips to Begin Self-Care Practice - pin

The Bottom Line

Self-care MATTERS. But only when done the RIGHT WAY.

Don’t let anyone trick you into believing that self-care is just a couple of facemasks, spas, and scented candles away. It’s meant to profit the billion-dollar ‘self-care industry’, not you!

Become mindful of what you really need in life.

Then make a plan to fulfill them.

Lastly, be committed to yourself. That’s all there is to your TRUE SELF CARE.

Now, I want to hear from you!

What does your ‘true self-care’ look like?

Or, do you have a self-care tip that can help millions of others to practice self-care better?

Either way, I’m looking forward to your comment!

And share this guide with someone who needs to begin their self-care practice BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!


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Self-Care Guide: What it really MEANS and Why is it IMPORTANT - pin

FAQs

  1. What does self care mean?

    The true meaning of self care ‘is performing a set of activities that are necessary to restore, maintain, and protect our optimal life with the objective of fulfilling most or all of our needs.’

  2. What are examples of self care?

    Examples of basic self care can include:
    1. Getting optimal amount of sleep everyday
    2. Eating healthy foods
    3. Staying optimally hydrated
    4. Engaging in physical movement daily
    5. Protecting and managing psychological well-being
    6. Spending time outside in nature
    7. Maintaining an optimistic attitude
    8. Engaging in relaxation exercises like breathing, acupressure, etc.
    9. Maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships
    10. Maintaining a strong sense of belief and confidence
    11. Working at a job that provides meaning and satisfaction
    12. Creating routines to support optimal well-being and productivity

  3. What is self care and why is it important?

    Self-care is the same as protecting yourself and being mindful of your needs.
    Self care is important to optimally support yourself (helping yourself) and the humanity within you (helping others.)

  4. What are the categories of self care?

    There are seven categories of self care:
    1. Mental Self Care
    2. Emotional Self Care
    3. Physical Self Care
    4. Spiritual Self Care
    5. Social or Relationship Self Care
    6. Work or Professional Self Care
    7. Lifestyle Self Care

  5. Is self care being selfish?

    No, self care is not selfish. Self care is essentially protecting your health and well-being so that you are better able to protect and help others. Prioritizing your health and well-being cannot be selfish.

  6. Tips to practice self care

    Here are five tips to practice self care.
    1. Set up your objectives
    2. Focus on your health and well-being
    3. Schedule it
    4. Include healthy amounts of occasional indulgence
    5. Track and measure your progress

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