Self-Care: What Is It and How Do I Do It? Making Self-Care Personal and Intentional

Gregory Carnesi
Gregory Carnesi

Throughout the past year and a half, self-care has been a topic of discussion everywhere: from social media to college campuses to major media outlets. The pandemic has forced us to slow down, and during that time, many have discovered how beneficial daily acts of self-care can be. Now that many are transitioning to returning to work or school in-person, it’s safe to say that self-care may get lost in the hectic nature of our daily lives. However, it doesn’t have to. Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to look the same for every person, and it doesn’t have to become an afterthought. Here are a few simple reminders about the importance of self-care, and how you can make it a personal and intentional part of your routine.

Self-care is personal.

Self-care is individualized, and therefore it might look completely different for you than it does for me. Some people see doing homework as a means of practicing self-care, while others may feel the opposite. All this to say that self-care is personal to you, and there’s no one right way to go about it. Personally, some ways I practice self-care are journaling, working out, spending time with my pets, and, when time permits, playing through a video game. The main goal of self-care is to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically, so whatever that means for you is the “right” answer.

Self-care isn’t selfish.

It’s normal to feel like taking the time to practice self-care is selfish; however, we want to assure you, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health, and self-care is one way that we can all prioritize our mental well-being. Self-care is a way to show kindness to yourself, and that is just as important as taking the time to show kindness to a loved one.

Self-care can be simple.

One of the best things about self-care is that it doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact, you may already be practicing self-care in ways you don’t realize. Some examples of simple habits that are easy to incorporate into your day-to-day life (or that you may already be doing!) include getting enough sleep, exercising, journaling, or watching a favorite movie. If you feel that on a given day you might not have time to journal or meditate, consider just taking some deep breaths or reciting a few positive affirmations. Taking care of yourself can look like whatever works for you in that moment.

Self-care is for everyone.

For some, there may still be a feeling that self-care isn’t for you; after all, you may not struggle with a mental health issue, so how helpful can it be? The answer is simple: self-care is for everyone, not just those experiencing a mental health issue. We all have mental health, and we all need to take care of it, just as we would our physical health. We don’t brush our teeth only after we get a cavity; we do it daily, to help prevent that cavity from ever becoming a problem in the first place. Self-care should be the same: a daily routine.

Self-care can (and should) be a priority.

For some, self-care may be the first thing to go when faced with a busy or overwhelming day. I know for me, there have been times where I’ve been so stressed, overwhelmed, or distracted, that self-care was the last of my priorities. Whether it’s studying for an exam, working overtime, or trying to balance everything on your plate, there will be days when self-care feels impossible. However, these are the times I encourage you to really prioritize it. Whether it be a five minute walk outside, calling a friend on your way to class, or just taking a few deep breaths, taking care of yourself will allow you to better conquer what’s ahead.

As a final note, it’s important to remember that while focusing on self-care can be helpful when experiencing stress or anxiety, self-care on its own is not a means of treating serious or persistent issues. It can be an incredibly helpful tool to supplement treatment from a professional, but in some cases, that professional help is what is truly needed. If you’re experiencing more than just a bad day, we encourage you to seek help.

You deserve a healthy self-care routine that puts your mental health first, and gives you time each day to focus on your own well-being. If you feel stuck, there are plenty of resources with tips for implementing simple self-care routines into your own life. When self-care is prioritized, it can be an incredibly easy and powerful means of maintaining your mental health; I know it has been for me, and I hope it will be for you too.