“Self-care” is one of those buzzwords that sounds like an oxymoron or a trendy marketing term aimed at selling spa gift boxes. In reality, it’s much more than that — and has been for centuries.
The ancient Greeks saw self-care as instrumental for people to be honest citizens more likely to tend to others. Nowadays, doctors recognize the physical and psychological benefits of healthy habits for their patients. And it’s also a political act, where activists frame taking your health into your own hands as empowerment.
With so much good about self-care, why are most of us bad at it? Maybe it’s because we’re not even sure what it is.
What is self-care?
First off, what it’s not. Just because the pandemic means you live in yoga pants or sweats and work on your laptop on the couch doesn’t mean that you’re kind to yourself. Engaging in activities that increase your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being is the ticket.
The keyword in the equation is “self.” This means having an awareness around what makes you feel good in a lasting way. While self-care includes eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising, the trick is to make sure you can sustain how you choose to nourish yourself.
And if you feel like you can’t muster it for yourself, do it for the people around you — especially during COVID. Research shows that tens of millions of people are suffering psychologically, and self-care is a necessary antidote.
As Joshua Morganstein, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on the Psychiatric Dimensions of Disaster, points out:
… taking care of ourselves and our families in the best way we are able, and staying connected to one another will remind us we are in this together and help us get through this difficult time.
Sometimes it’s hard to take care of ourselves, even as we care for others. So if it helps, tell yourself this is part of what you do for those you love.
Self-care takes you further
Much like moms hide veggies in brownies, Brian has been sneaking self-care tips into your weekly reading since 2014. Here are just a few science-backed options from the Further archives to give yourself both a break and a health boost:
Get out: People are naturally happy in spending time outside. Research shows that even two hours per week outdoors can help lower risks of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, asthma emergencies, mental distress, and mortality.
Work out: It boosts your brain, brawn, and immune system, and can be anything you enjoy, whether you pump iron or prefer to pump up the jams. No excuses — there’s an easy three-step way to make exercise a habit.
So go ahead, don’t be shy — show someone you love that you care. And today for a change, make that someone you.