What Actually Is Self Care, and What Is It Not?

So, What Actually Is Self Care?

As you have probably noticed, self care is really having a moment right now.

There is a lot of information floating around the internet about how to do self care (this blog included!), resources for recording and planning self care (again – this blog included!), and people sharing their self care routines.

But what actually is self care? And what is it not?

Well, that’s quite subjective. Self care looks different to each person depending on their needs, their lifestyle, their medical history, their mental well-being, etc.

But the underlying principle is more or less the same.

Self care is an active, conscious effort to look after your mind, body and spirit. To honour your human needs, treat yourself with kindness and nurture your compassionate inner voice rather than your inner critic.

It’s been suggested that self care is about making choices that ultimately move you forward, as opposed to self comfort which keeps you in the same place.

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Inner Work And Basic Needs

A great deal, but not all, of self care is internal and emotional. It’s about creating safety, stability and harmony within yourself. And it’s not always easy.

Journaling can be considered a form of self care. But it’s not the mechanical act of writing in a journal that constitutes self care. It’s the mental and emotional processes behind it – the sense of relief, catharsis, inner peace, the act of self-reflection and heightening of self-awareness, the identification of particular feelings or thought patterns. This is internal work that informs your future behaviour, moving you forward and bringing you into alignment with your best self.

External forms of self care are also sometimes things that many people find difficult, such as maintaining a nourishing diet (note: dietary requirements are incredibly subjective and personal), going to medical appointments, going to therapy, and getting enough sleep. But these basic things are also integral to caring for yourself. They move you forward in a more tangible sense.

In the spectacular world of social media, self care is often conflated with indulgence (note: I am always here for indulgence and pampering – but it’s only a fragment of what actually constitutes self care). Much of the time, the fundamentals are overlooked in favour of a prettier picture.

Examples of Self Care Activities

  • Getting outside for some fresh air or exercise
  • Developing a healthy sleeping pattern and practicing good sleep hygiene
  • Nourishing yourself properly with food and drink
  • Moving your body everyday
  • Giving energy to healthy relationships
  • Setting healthy boundaries with family, friends and co-workers
  • Keeping organized
  • Asking for help when necessary
  • Making time for rest and relaxation
  • Keeping a reflective journal
  • Showing up for yourself
  • Talking to yourself with compassion
  • Attending therapy sessions and medical appointments

Self Care Can’t Be Bought

At least in my perspective, self care shouldn’t be thought of as something you can buy. Or a product in glossy packaging infused with the promise of a new and improved you.

What I mean by this is that Self Care as a concept or category is often associated with consumption, with things. It’s often presented as a symbol of luxury and opulence, rather than a basic priority. These sorts of representations may be better understood as self comfort.

Don’t get me wrong, buying things for self care purposes, like food, therapy, medication, a journal, a yoga mat, a gym membership, whatever it might be, is part and parcel of a healthy lifestyle in this society. But the act of self care isn’t synonymous with those things.

The way I see it, self care is less rooted in the material things and tools we use, and more in the intangible emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives, and the physical manifestations of our basic needs.

I myself am not immune to ‘treat yourself’ culture. But I think it’s really important to be mindful about these things to ensure we don’t overlook our basic needs. So that we stay focused on moving ourselves forward.

Material things and consumption are sometimes used as distractions from painful emotions or ways we’re neglecting ourselves. But addressing those emotions and processing them safely will ultimately lead to a more spiritually fulfilling life.

Self Care Isn’t Always Easy

Sometimes, it might be ugly. It might be messy. It might seem scary. Whether it’s learning to talk to yourself with compassion or finally facing your fears and making a dentist appointment.

But you will come out on the other side of it, look back and say ‘I’ve overcome something!’ ‘I’ve achieved something!’ ‘I’ve moved forward!’.

Other days it might be totally easy and even enjoyable.

Looking after yourself when you’re struggling with your mental health can be incredibly hard. Treating yourself kindly and looking after yourself can feel overwhelming or even painful if you don’t feel you deserve it, or you have zero energy to practice it. The universal need for self care highlights feelings of unworthiness or apathy towards ourselves as individuals.

I’ve been there, and it’s fucking rough. I had zero regard for my own well-being beyond immediate gratification and distraction. I didn’t even really know how to look after myself.

Getting to a certain level of stability allowed me to start pushing myself with my self care, mentally, emotionally and physically. Learning how to care for myself has been a huge part of my own self development.

Now it comes naturally – even the less fun parts of it that trigger my fight or flight (like making important phone calls).

So keep on practicing and pushing yourself until it gets comfortable. And don’t be afraid to ask for help – you deserve it!

Thank You For Reading!

Thank you so much for reading – I really hope you find this helpful and I’ll be back on Sunday with a brand new post!


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Meet The Blogger

Hi cherubs, I’m Pip ✨
Matcha and solar-powered eclectic witch from the north coast of Wales.
Welcome to my digital living room, pour yourself some tea and get comfy. This space is all about spiritual wellbeing, self care & lifestyle for magically-inclined misfits ☕🌙✨