We often hear the term “self care,” but what is it exactly? Many people perceive self care as a synonymous term to relaxation and indulgence, but it holds much more significance. A necessity to one’s functioning, self care is the practice of taking initiative to improve and maintain one’s physical and emotional well-being. Any activity that benefits one’s mental or physical health can be considered an act of self care. The lack of self care can pose consequences on one’s mental and physical health, as well as productivity.
The phrase, “hard work pays off,” can prove to be counterproductive when self care is disregarded. Self care prevents burnouts, physical or mental exhaustion from overwork and stress, allowing room for better productivity. Students and adults are trapped in a mindset where breaks are often interpreted as resorting to unproductivity. They are deceived due to the common perception that small acts of self care are a reward when in actuality, they are a necessity. When pushed to the limit, abilities are strained and progression is restricted. The process of overworking ourselves does not guarantee desired results. We are simply pushing ourselves to the brink of exhaustion, which could put us in risk for mental and physical health problems such as anxiety and emotional depletion.
Practicing self care is fundamental to mental health as it evokes positivity, boosts self-esteem, and fosters self-confidence. When our needs and demands are met, we subconsciously send a mental message to ourselves that our needs matter. Self care also means maintaining physical health by developing better eating habits, exercising regularly, and having an adequate amount of sleep. The practice of self care includes more than just caring for our mental and physical health; it could also include keeping a journal to record feelings, letting ourselves cry, cutting out people who disempower us, and rekindling with old friends.
Whether it is making room in our schedule to spend time with friends, practicing a new hobby, or learning to say “no,” any small act of self care can go a long way in allowing us to cope with stress, maintain our health, and appreciate each day.