International Self-Care Day: Beyond the Buzzword
Self-Care on Social Media
There has been a lot of attention surrounding the term “self-care” over the past several years. As an example, if you look up #selfcare on Instagram, you’ll find more than 31 million posts! The posts come from beauty bloggers, fitness gurus, foodies, yogis, travel guides, life coaches, and mental health professionals – in essence, anyone who believes that you can become a better version of yourself by taking time to nurture your mental and physical well-being. Additionally, the concept of a responsible “work/life balance” tends to take center stage in articles recommending self-care practices. The internet is chock full of suggestions about what self-care behaviors may include, such as:
- Taking a walk
- Making an effort to genuinely laugh
- Meditating regularly
- Eating a healthy meal
- Getting a restful night of sleep
- Engaging in moments of gratitude
- Journaling daily
- Getting physically active (e.g., playing a sport, going for a run or hike, etc.)
- Noticing and enjoying nature
- Taking a bath
- Going on vacation
Although these suggestions will certainly help destress your mind and body (and I would encourage everyone to engage in these activities regularly!), a more encompassing definition of self-care – and the reason that International Self-Care Day was established in 2011 – goes well beyond what we’ve typically seen on social media.
Self-Care: Defined by Global Organizations
The World Health Organization (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.” WHO also estimates that there will be a shortage of roughly 12.9 million healthcare workers by 2035 across the world, so it’s vital that we all find innovative ways to take care of our health.
From a pragmatic standpoint, self-care refers to individuals knowing how to prevent, assess, and treat their own health conditions, especially when established health care systems are not available to them. According to the International Self-Care Foundation, “through self-care, people can be healthier and remain so into old age, managing minor ailments themselves…[and] delay or even prevent the appearance of lifestyle diseases, such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and many cancers.” Given these definitions, self-care extends beyond mini-breaks throughout the day and encapsulates learning how to be your own health advocate.
According to the Global Self-Care Foundation, steps towards greater self-care should include:
- Making healthy lifestyle choices (e.g., being physically active and eating healthfully)
- Avoiding unhealthy habits (e.g., smoking, drinking alcohol excessively)
- Using prescription and non-prescription drugs responsibly
- Self-recognition of symptoms (e.g., assessing, noticing, and addressing symptoms)
- Self-monitoring (e.g., checking for improvement or deterioration)
- Self-management (e.g., managing symptoms alone or in tandem with a healthcare provider or others suffering from similar concerns)
How to Celebrate International Self-Care Day
Increased awareness of unhealthy habits is the key to shifting negative routines, especially when we are interested in making lasting changes. As we celebrate International Self-Care Day on July 24th, here are a few suggestions of ways to become more attuned to both your mind and body as you enhance your ability towards self-care.
Ways to Increase Physical Health Awareness
- Engage in regular body scans to check in with tension and tightness in your body.
- Practice mindfulness through meditation and breathing exercises to lower stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) and decrease symptoms of IBS.
Ways to Increase Mental Health Awareness
- Learn about self-compassion and how it may help you become more caring towards yourself.
- Become more comfortable with saying no to others when an activity or experience will add significantly more stress to your life.
- Work on judging yourself less and feeling increased gratitude for what you already have.
One thing to note: sometimes finding the energy and motivation – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – can feel close to impossible. I suggest that people start off with smaller goals (e.g., two minutes of mindful breath per day) as they work towards making self-care a greater priority in their lives. Just remember, a small step towards greater self-care is still a step in the right direction!
Dr. Samantha Gaies is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy. To learn more about how mindfulness & hypnotherapy can help you or to make an appointment, please contact us here.
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