It can be easy to mistake inaction for self-care. Although we are a generation tired of overdoing things—over-consuming, overworking, overthinking—self-care does not necessarily mean the opposite. Not doing what your body and mind need you to do or act on is self-sabotage. It is important to understand the difference to know whether you’re actually taking care of yourself or just being lazy.
What is Self-Care?
When you think self-care, you probably think of facials, mani-pedis, a sauna, or a sweet Swedish massage while you munch on a fruit bowl. However, true self-care simply means paying meaningful attention to your physical and mental health, which we often sacrifice to pursue our goals in life.
For some, this can mean taking better care of their diet, skin, or mind in myriad ways, some of which can be things I mentioned in the beginning. It is an investment we make in ourselves, of our time and effort, with the goal of being rejuvenated and re-energized to take care of ourselves, work, and family.
Definition of Self-Care
The World Health Organization defines self-care as, “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” It can and does include preventive health care like regular checkups, cancer screening, mammograms, and vaccination, among others. Self-care is everything you do to reduce the impact of stressors in life for overall well-being. In this, just physical nourishment is not enough. Today we talk about sustainable self-care.
READ: What is sustainable self-care?
Why We Need Self-Care
Like our cards need regular servicing and refueling, our body, mind, and spirit also need preventative maintenance in the form of self-care. Not caring for your mind and body, being negligent, or over-engaging in habits that cause physical or mental harm is simply self-sabotage. But, you might ask, isn’t taking time off and ‘doing nothing’ part of self-care?
Difference Between ‘Doing Nothing’ and Self-Sabotage
When you are dealing with issues such as burnout or chronic fatigue, you might need some time away from whatever situation has led to the condition you are in (i.e., spending too much time in front of your computer, unhealthy eating, living with work stress or anxiety). But that doesn’t really mean ‘doing nothing.’
You have an inbuilt bio intelligence that knows what your body needs, though our lifestyle has taken us away from this powerful self-healing intelligence present within us. Taking a few days off doing nothing may be a good idea until your body has had enough rest. It could also mean doing nothing for an hour or two in the day, switching off gadgets, and tuning out for some time.
But it is crucial to find out why your body is not in its healthiest form or why you do not feel mentally okay. You may need to see a physician or a mental health expert. You may also have to consciously act and change things in your life to get your energy, health, and vitality back. These changes could include adding meditation and breathing to your daily routine; following a healthy, nourishing diet that suits your body constitution (that you can learn more about from consulting an Ayurveda physician); chanting; working out, or going for regular health checkups. NOT doing all those things amounts to self-sabotage.
Is there such a thing as too much self-care?
Self-care assumes the idea of moderation in what you eat or consume, your screen time, sleep, activity, and exercise. Overdoing any of these can lead to an imbalance that will not be healthy for you. For example, sleeping 6–8 hours a day is recommended, but sleeping for 14–15 hours can signal depression or a lack of vitality that you need to attend to. Some people sit and meditate all day without eating or sleeping, which may create an imbalance in the mind and body, causing restlessness, hallucinations, or hyperactivity, among other problems. All of this again leads to self-sabotage.
Various Ways to Self-Care
Self-care is caring for our emotions, body, mind, intellect, soul, professional skill sets, and community.
Our emotional self-care may include playing with the pets, gratitude rituals, random acts of kindness, connecting with people, or dating.
Physical self-care can be creating—and sticking to—a decent sleep routine, eating healthy, doing yoga, walking or running, tai chi, or any other mind-body practices.
Self-care for the mind may be meditation or contemplation, clearing your head, journaling, or going for silent retreats.
Read The Ayurvedic Daily Rountine
A social bit of self-care can be serving in your neighborhood or calling up long-lost friends or providing emotional support. For the intellect, you can read or watch documentaries or good films or join book clubs or discussion groups. For the self-care that caters to your spiritual upliftment, you can chant, meditate, be with nature, and engage in faith activities.
Spend time thinking about what is serving you and what is hurting you. What goals or milestones are you not achieving and why? And then make a plan to tackle the behaviors and situations.
And finally, remember that you are important, unique, and have much to share with others. You deserve happiness and vitality—true self-care will help you achieve those goals and so much more.