What leaps into your mind when you hear the words “self-care?” If it’s manicures and bubble baths, you’re not alone. Many of us equate the term with pampering, yet it goes much deeper than that. Self-care can be an empowering foundation upon which we build our lives.
The heart of self-care
The concept of self-care has origins in nursing theory, as well as the civil rights movement. Dorothea Orem, a celebrated nurse, developed the “self-care deficit theory” in the 1970s to explain how patients experience a better recovery when they have some independence and ability to care for themselves. Prior to that, civil rights leaders in the 1960s characterized self-care as a powerful strategy for activists to avoid burnout and preserve one’s health. With such bold and valuable roots, it may be surprising to see how the concept of self-care has evolved to imply seemingly trivial luxuries.
Self-care is self-love
Self-care can be a way to show yourself love and compassion, and research tells us that self-compassion (which the scientists define as a “positive and caring attitude” toward oneself) is important for our cognitive and psychological well-being.
According to another study, self-care strategies (as well as work-life balance) are essential for managing stress and burnout in medical students throughout their lives. In a third study, students who practiced yoga and meditation as a form of self-care experienced less stress and anxiety. In short: self-care matters.
Your unique self-care plan
Make no mistake: today’s stereotypical self-care actions like face masks and afternoon naps can indeed feel rejuvenating and can act as relaxing self-care additions to our life. However, there are deeper ways we can care for our minds and bodies that we may sometimes overlook. Meaningful self-care may look very different than what popular culture has us envision.
- may be unexciting, or even downright dull. It may mean a trip to the dentist rather than a trip to the facialist!
- will look different for every person. It may mean a snuggle session on the couch with your family after a long day of work, or it may mean setting up reliable childcare so you can attend appointments.
- may mean adding some actions to your day (see sidebar for ideas). Or it may mean taking something away: stating your boundaries clearly or saying “no thanks” to a commitment you don’t have time or energy for.
- may mean some simple tweaks to your day (like takeout every Wednesday evening), or it may require a bigger change for your lifelong well-being (like a career shift).
Take a moment to ask yourself what unique, tangible steps you can take to nurture your body and spirit, and feel appreciation for yourself. Through self-care, we can set ourselves up to thrive.
Natural health for optimal self-care
Natural health products like supplements can help support us on our self-care journeys. Just make sure to check with your health care practitioner first to ensure that a supplement is right for you! Here are a few examples of natural health products:
- Essential oils can be used for aromatherapy. For example, the scent of lavender oil is often used for relaxation, sleep, and stress relief.
- If you have a deficiency in a certain vitamin or mineral, supplementing with it may help improve your health and quality of life. Women of childbearing age are prone to iron deficiency, for instance. In this case, iron supplements may be needed.
- Common supplements for overall health and wellness may include a general multivitamin, an omega-3 fatty acid, or a probiotic.
25 self-care actions
Not all of these ideas may be a good fit for you, and that’s okay! Use these ideas to inspire you to implement your own self-care practices.
- Have a movie marathon with a friend or your spouse.
- Go for a dental cleaning.
- Stock up on nourishing foods.
- Review your budget and finances with your partner.
- Get a fresh haircut.
- Prioritize a minimum of seven hours of sleep—every night.
- Go for a walk in nature. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the natural world.
- Visit the doctor for a checkup and for routine screenings.
- Meditate daily.
- Craft a morning routine that works for you.
- Put that phone down!
- Write a gratitude journal.
- Outsource a household task, such as cooking or cleaning, when needed.
- Take your supplements.
- Go on a regular date night with your partner.
- Exercise on a regular basis.
- Join a group, like a knitting circle or book club.
- Speak to a therapist regularly.
- Give your home a top-to-bottom declutter and clean.
- Practice art (like poetry or pottery)—even if you don’t do anything with it.
- Wear sunscreen every day.
- Go for a massage or take a self-massage class.
- Listen to your favorite music or podcasts.
- Organize your folders (physical and virtual!).
- Do some gardening.
Self-care among young people
A 2023 study on US youth found that the most common forms of self-care include listening to music, watching TV shows or movies, playing video games, exercising, and practicing a sport or hobby.
This article was originally published in the February 2024 issue of delicious living magazine.