Maybe you already have New Year’s resolutions written in thick permanent marker, but you might want to take another look and add more if none of them revolve around self-care. We’ll admit that self-care may seem complicated because it looks different for everyone based on their own needs. Plus, it’s fair to say that one might think tending to their own needs can get selfish. But three therapists POPSUGAR spoke with agreed that self-care is an important part of mental health and, when all is said and done, it’s pretty easy to understand.
“Self-care is a great way to manage stressors you may have in your life,” Marline Francois-Madden, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey, said. She continued on to explain that oftentimes people feel like self-care is a luxury, when it’s actually a necessity. “Self-care isn’t always going to the spa and getting your nails done. It can simply be spending the day at home relaxing with nothing on your agenda. Self-care can also be intentional about the boundaries you have set and saying no to people.”
However, Alyssa Mancao, LCSW, a certified cognitive therapist in California, did advise that there’s such a thing as self-care without boundaries. Beyond limits, she said, it can become harmful even. “For example, if we allow ourselves to get a massage as a form of physical self-care, this is OK. But, if we ended up getting massages every day, twice a day, putting us in debt, then this becomes self-indulgence, or self-care without boundaries,” she said.
When asked to define self-care, Alyssa told POPSUGAR that it’s “the act of checking in with yourself; asking yourself, ‘What do I need in this moment?’; and taking the steps to make sure those needs are met in a healthy way.” We tend to focus on getting through the day in autopilot, she said, and self-care helps us practice hitting pause and being present. If you were working overtime, for instance, your self-care might mean making sure you start utilizing breaks and prioritizing rest afterward. It’s proactive, can help contribute to improved mood and reduced irritability, and is about “nourishing the self.”
Ashley McGirt, LCSW, licensed mental health therapist, clarified that if you’re using self-care as an excuse to put off important plans or milestones, that in itself isn’t self-care. “If you find yourself spending hours meditating or going on walks, preventing you from completing the things that need to be done, it would be a good time to assess your goals, priorities, and values and determine if your self-care is harming or hindering your life in any way,” she said.
It’s a balancing act, but the bottom line is that self-care is all about honoring yourself. As Ashley explained, “It should involve something that brings you joy, something that nourishes your mind and soul.” If you’re relatively new to this concept, there are plenty of ways you can begin practicing self-care in the new year. Here’s what these three therapists recommended as a good place to start.