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The True Meaning of Self-Care

How does one stay happy, healthy and resilient in a hectic year? Here's why self-care is so important.

A few years ago, it seemed like “#selfcare” was everywhere. Each time someone enjoyed a spa day, a shopping trip or went out to drink with their friends, it was described as self-care. These past two years have been difficult for all of us in terms of our physical, emotional or psychological well-being. When do we have time to do something that helps our body, mind or soul feel better? We have more of it than we think. 

How should we define “self-care”

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Self-care refers to a wide range of activities you take to nourish yourself without causing harm to yourself. It means something different to everyone. There is a whole spectrum of self-care needs, from basic ones like regularly eating healthy food, cleaning and making your bed, to more advanced ones like exercising daily or taking a relaxing bubble bath. Anything that you do to improve your quality of life counts as self-care, though some would argue that self-care is different from self-maintenance. 

However, note that spending money doesn’t mean you are practising self-care even if you are “treating yourself”. We often talk about self-care and splurging on different things in order to put ourselves first in the same breath. Although online shopping makes you feel happy, the dopamine rush only lasts for a few days and comes with a dent on your finances. By making self-care synonymous with buying things, it risks losing the message of taking care of our mental health. So, it’s alright to “treat ourselves to nice things as often as it is practical” but don’t overspend in the name of self-care. 

How to look after ourselves

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People worldwide are feeling unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression. The health and wellness market is expected to grow as consumers buy goods and services aimed at making us feel better. Here are some simple ways to destress and take care of yourself, without spending the big bucks.

1. Live healthy 

Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and avoid alcohol. Eating the right food has the potential to prevent weight gain or prevent diseases such as diabetes, while keeping our minds working and alert. If you cook your own food, you can control the nutrients you consume and feel more confident about making your own meals. Also, try drinking a soothing cup of tea to get a mini respite from caffeine-loaded coffee. 

2. Take care of a house plant

A study showed that active interaction with indoor plants has been shown to possibly suppress nervous system activity and reduce blood pressure, leading to an overall sense of calm. This helps boost your mood. For those of you who are worried about killing the plant, try a succulent or an air plant, which requires less attention, but still looks cute. 

3. Exercise daily

Daily exercise helps you both physically and mentally. Going outside and breathing fresh air boosts your mood and reduces anxiety. Some easy ways to stay moving is by walking around your neighbourhood or doing home workouts. The most important thing is to create a routine that works for you. 

4. Say no to others, and say yes to your self-care

We’re often hesitant to say no to someone but it’s actually a radical form of self-care. This is because it helps you prioritise your well-being over your obligations and relationships. For example, you don’t want to hang out with your friends after a long day at work because you don’t have the energy to engage fully with them. You decline to spend some time alone. Just say ‘no’ when you feel like you need to prioritise rest and stress relief. 

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5. Rid your home of clutter

Having a bunch of items you don’t use at all adds to the clutter and weighs you down. Cleaning your home can be emotionally freeing and a great tool to quiet the mind. There’s nothing better than walking into a freshly-cleaned room. 

6. Take a break from social media

We’ve probably fallen into the trap of comparing ourselves to the perfectly-curated images on social media before. A detox is a good idea to free ourselves from this stress and focus on improving our mental health. The first step is to decide how long you want to stay off social media apps. (Here’s a good article about a digital detox.)

7. Don’t keep your feelings locked up inside you

It takes a lot of bravery to confront your feelings, especially if you’re opening up about them to someone else. When we keep suppressing our emotions, we’re robbing ourselves of the opportunity to reflect on them and take a burden off our chest. To truly take care of ourselves, we have to be honest about our emotions in different situations. You can try writing a journal or talking to a trusted friend about your feelings. 

Do Things That Make You Happy

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Self-care looks different for everyone but what all acts have in common is that they focus on the physical, spiritual and emotional dimensions. It is not an indulgence to take care of yourself but a crucial part of health maintenance. It’s okay to put yourself first, especially if you have multiple responsibilities and people to care for. This will make you feel better and you will carry this good feeling into your daily life.

Cover image: Christie Ferrari via Pinterest

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