What is Self-Care?
When you think of self-care, what comes to mind? Maybe you envision an expensive spa day with champagne or a month-long yoga retreat.
While both are valid (and luxurious) examples of self-care, this important practice goes beyond the occasional indulgent excursion. Instead, it encompasses a wide range of daily activities that are essential to your well-being.
In this article, we’ll explain exactly what self-care is and break down its five major pillars. With this understanding, you’ll be able to craft a self-care routine that’s personalized to you.
Understanding Meaningful Self-Care
The WHO 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’
In other words, self-care is any activity that you do deliberately to care of yourself.
Even though you may think that you take great care of yourself already, you may be surprised at how often you let critical aspects of your well-being fall behind. It’s easy to neglect self-care when you live a busy life and juggle many responsibilities.
Why is Self-care So Important?
Self-care is the cornerstone of a healthy, happy life. Without self-care, you may find yourself feeling exhausted, burnt out, and emotionally drained. In contrast, a consistent self-care routine can ensure you have enough energy to take on life’s stressors with resilience and a positive attitude.
By prioritizing self-care, you may notice the following benefits:
- Increased energy
- Improved mood
- Long-lasting health
- Happier relationships
So how exactly do you achieve these positive results? By focusing on the five main pillars of self-care in your everyday life.
The Five Pillars of Self-care
Self-care is an umbrella term for several components of health care and well-being. Self-care activities can fall into any of the following categories:
Depending on your lifestyle, you might need to focus on some areas of self-care more than others. We’ll break down each of these in more detail so you can start to get an idea of your own personal improvement areas.
#1 Physical Self-care
Have you ever heard the saying, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything”? It’s a bit somber, but nonetheless true. Health is the foundation of a happy life.
By engaging in physical self-care practices, you can set yourself up for better physical health.
Physical self-care includes the following:
- Health literacy – Taking time to learn about health is a great self-care activity. You can enhance your health literacy by doing research and attending regular health checkups with your doctor. If you currently have any health issues, you and your healthcare team can develop a plan of action to treat them.
- Healthy eating – The quality of your diet can have a great impact on your physical health. Giving your body nourishing meals with healthy food is one way you can engage in physical self-care. If you enjoy cooking, try out some new, nutritious recipes in the kitchen. If you’re crunched for time, consider meal prepping on the weekends or signing up for a healthy meal delivery service.
- Physical activity – Not only can physical activity improve your physical wellness, but it can also provide valuable mental and emotional health benefits. For example, you can enjoy a rush of feel-good endorphins by hitting the gym, attending a workout class, or going for a run. If you prefer more gentle forms of movement, consider adding an evening walk or yoga class to your daily routine.
- Gut health – Gut health is very important to your overall physical health and wellbeing. After all, your gut microbiota can impact your nutrient absorption, digestion, mood regulation, and energy levels! You can also support your gut health by consuming high-quality probiotics. Many foods naturally contain beneficial bacteria, like fermented foods. You can also supplement with a daily probiotic capsule or drinkable.
- Sleep – In our fast-paced world, sleep often comes last on our to-do list. However, sleep plays a notable role in our immune system, hormone production, stress reduction, and weight management. Not to mention, a great night’s sleep allows you to wake up rested, rejuvenated, and ready to take on the day. Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and treat yourself to a relaxing wind-down routine beforehand.
- Hygiene – Maintaining good hygiene is a simple way to keep yourself healthy. It can also help you look and feel your best. Showering, washing your hair, and brushing your teeth can keep you clean, but you can also make this aspect of self-care more luxurious by adding in the occasional bubble bath, face mask, mani-pedi, or salt scrub.
#2 Mental Self-care
These days, there are so many distractions vying for our mental energy, both in real life and in the digital sphere, from emails to advertisements to work assignments. Even without these disruptions, the average person has over 60,000 thoughts a day. With all of this noise and internal chatter, our mental health can easily take a toll.
Fortunately, many mental self-care ideas and practices can keep your mind sharp, clear, and positive throughout the day. Here are some mental self-care practices you can try out:
- Meditate in the morning
- Listen to peaceful music throughout the day
- Turn off notifications on distracting apps
- Put your phone on airplane mode when you need to focus
- Consider taking a social media detox
- Declutter your environment
- Carve out time in your day to learn about subjects that interest you, whether you prefer reading, listening to podcasts, or watching documentaries
By carefully curating the content you consume throughout the day, you can improve your mental health and give your mind the peace, quiet, and clarity it needs to function at its best.
Emotional health is just as important to your well-being as your physical health. We all go through tough times and experience complex emotions, like anger, anxiety, sadness, jealousy, fear, and resentment. While negative thoughts are natural, they can drain our energy if left unresolved. That’s why it’s so important to develop healthy emotional coping mechanisms.
Some positive emotional self-care strategies include:
- Attending therapy
- Talking with a close friend or family member
- Checking in with your emotions throughout the day
- Making time for activities that bring you joy
These practices can give you the time and space you need to process uncomfortable emotions, reducing the emotional weight you carry around day-to-day. They may also help you increase your stress management, strengthen your close relationships, and increase your self-esteem.
Human beings are social creatures. Even the most introverted people need a sense of community to thrive. Some social self-care activities you may enjoy include:
- Spending quality time with family
- Going on a date with your significant other
- Catching up with friends
- Volunteering in your community
- Joining a local book club or team sport
Having fulfilling relationships has been shown to increase life satisfaction and may even lengthen your lifespan.
While positive relationships offer many benefits, toxic relationships often have the opposite effect. Social self-care involves both adding meaningful opportunities for connection and limiting time with anyone who mistreats you or drains your emotional energy—or breaking ties with them altogether.
Honoring your boundaries is a crucial component of self-care.
The last pillar of self-care revolves around the spiritual. This may feel unfamiliar if you’re not a religious person, but the spirit is a universal concept. It might help to think of it simply as your non-physical self, which houses your character, lifeforce, or soul.
Nurturing the spirit has been shown to improve health, regardless of religious associations, by enhancing your sense of subjective well-being.
Whether you choose to connect with God, the universe, source energy, or Mother Nature, a spiritual practice can help you look at life with more awe, appreciation, gratitude, love, and grace. In turn, you can take on both good and bad times with an improved attitude.
Some ways you can engage in spiritual self-care include:
- Attending a religious service
- Praying or meditating
- Reading about religion, spirituality, and philosophy
- Reflecting on the purpose of your life
- Expressing gratitude or writing a list
- Helping others in need
- Engaging in activities that make the world a better place
Support Your Self-care With Bio-K+
So, after all that, what is self-care? As you can see, it’s a multi-faceted practice that can help you live your best life. By choosing the activities that resonate with you most, you can customize your self-care routine accordingly. As you implement more healthy habits into your day, they’ll become second-nature.
If you want to support your gut health as a part of your self-care routine, Bio-K+® can help. We offer a line of probiotic capsules and delicious probiotic drinks that contain the highest quality of probiotics.
By choosing Bio-K+, you can engage in a simple, yet powerful, self-care practice every single day.
Dorociak, K. E., Rupert, P. A., Bryant, F. B., & Zahniser, E. (2017). Development of a Self-Care Assessment for Psychologists. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64(3), 325–334. https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000206
Krajmalnik-Brown, R., Ilhan, Z.-E., Kang, D.-W., & DiBaise, J. K. (2012). Effects of gut microbes on nutrient absorption and energy regulation. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 27(2), 201–214. https://doi.org/10.1177/0884533611436116
Anderson, E., & Shivakumar, G. (2013). Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00027
Aldabal, L., & Bahammam, A. S. (2011). Metabolic, endocrine, and immune consequences of sleep deprivation. The open respiratory medicine journal, 5, 31–43. https://doi.org/10.2174/1874306401105010031
Millett, M. (2017, March 31). Challenge your negative thoughts. Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/challenge_your_negative_thoughts.
Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. Journal of health and social behavior, 51 Suppl(Suppl), S54–S66. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022146510383501
Bożek, A., Nowak, P. F., & Blukacz, M. (2020). The Relationship Between Spirituality, Health-Related Behavior, and Psychological Well-Being. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01997