The Art of Self-Care
by Paula Harris
We hear the phrase “self-care” tossed around a lot in everyday conversation, but what does it really mean? For some, the phrase probably conjures up images of massages and pedicures. For others, maybe it reminds them of their weekly yoga class or a nightly meditation session before bed. For others still, perhaps it means balancing their checkbook or organizing their file cabinet. The truth is, there is no one set image of what self-care looks like — it’s different for each individual.
First, it’s important to clarify what self-care is not. It is not instant gratification. A shopping spree might make you happy for an hour or so, eating a bag of chips in the moment, and lying on the couch all day instead of getting outside may feel comforting, but these small moments of bliss are often followed by longer periods of regret.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t indulge every now and again. If you’ve worked hard and earned a work bonus, by all means, treat yourself to that new dress you’ve been eyeing. If you’re craving a cookie for dessert, eat one. If you’re exhausted, take a nap and allow your body to rest. Just be careful to distinguish between what is helpful and what is harmful.
At its most basic, self-care can be defined as any activity or behavior that has a positive impact on your overall physical, emotional, or mental well-being. Self-care, unlike self-indulgence, does not result in harm.
Let’s dig a little bit deeper into the five different self-care categories: physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual.
Physical self-care refers to taking care of your body, but it goes far beyond just getting in exercise. Eating healthy balanced meals, getting enough sleep, and taking the time to rest when your body needs it are all expressions of self-care as well.
Considering the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it’s very important to take some time to let your mind relax and rejuvenate. Whether that means meditating daily, challenging yourself by doing puzzles, or reading a book to learn something new, the state of your mind is extremely influential to your overall well-being. Mental self-care also includes practicing a healthy inner dialogue. Be kind and compassionate with yourself. You’re doing the best you can.
As humans, feeling connected to one another is critical. Although we likely don’t have time to see our friends and loved ones daily, making time to cultivate the relationships that are important to us is an essential part of practicing self-care.
Allowing yourself the time and capacity to process your emotions is another huge component to holistic self-care. It’s especially important to have healthy outlets to cope with less pleasant emotions like anger and stress. Again, your inner dialogue should be patient and gentle as you allow yourself to feel everything you need to feel.
Finally, spirituality is a self-care practice that cannot be overlooked. While many practice specific religions, spirituality doesn’t necessarily have to take a religious form. While spirituality means attending church or praying for some, for others it can be as simple as connecting with nature or meditating.
When it comes to self-care, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re a busy professional, it might mean learning to set boundaries and setting aside time to participate in a favorite hobby. If you’re recently widowed, it could mean making sure you are connecting with loved ones and spending time with friends. No matter how you choose to practice self-care, it is an important part of each individual’s overall well-being. It promotes a healthy lifestyle, helps alleviate stress, and is good for the mind, body, and soul.
It’s also important to remember that self-care isn’t just about the time you carve out to pamper yourself. While getting a pedicure or cooking yourself a nutritious breakfast are certainly acts of self-care, it should also be about taking small steps each day to set yourself up for long-term success. Part of that is practicing financial self-care, which could mean spending more wisely, revisiting your investment strategy annually, or putting together a comprehensive financial plan for your future.
Think about self-care as a garden. In order to grow a lush, healthy, strong garden full of colorful plants and flowers, you must practice patience and consistency. Plant the seeds, water them, soak in the sunshine, blossom and grow. What seeds can you plant today for a healthy garden tomorrow?
Paula Harris, co-founder at WH Cornerstone Investments, is part financial advisor, part dream architect and widow supporter. Creator of Rise Up Retreats, she is passionate about building a community of support and empowering widows to navigate their path forward. An engaging speaker, she’s author of “Rise Up: A Widow’s Journal.”