self care

What is self-care?

Written by Dr. Janine Ivy


More and more people talking about self-care and doing self-care. Basically, self-care is anything that you do for yourself that helps promote taking care of ourselves. When working with clients, I often explain these are activities where at the end you feel good about yourself. The activity can be anything and while it can include other people, the purpose is not to do the activity for other people. This leaves the field wide open as anything can be considered self-care if it is approached with that specific intention of feeling good in mind. Most people recognize doing self-care is a good thing but at the same time, sometimes there can be some resistance to incorporating self-care in to our daily routines.

Top 3 reasons people don’t engage in self-care:

1. I don’t have time

After a long day at work, or at school, running errands, picking up the kids, taking care of animals, making dinner, and cleaning up around the house I’m exhausted. I have so much to do that I couldn’t possibly find time for myself. True, life is very busy and by the time the end of the day comes you may wonder how the last 16 hours went by so quickly. Often when I think I don’t have time, I ask myself how I spent my day and invariably find time eaten up by social media, absent mindedly watching TV, or other non-productive activities that take up more than 15 minutes of my day which is the starting time frame I encourage people to allocate for themselves on a daily basis.

2. It feels selfish

With all the commitments we having during the day, it makes sense that making yourself a priority even for a short period of time feels strange. It may even be challenging to explain to a significant other or your child why you need some time for yourself and not feel as though you are ignoring them. But in reality, if you aren’t making time to take care of yourself, you may start feeling more tired, anxious, or unhappy and have a harder time keeping up with everything you need to do. A reminder I try to give myself is there is a reason why on an airplane they tell us in the event of an emergency to secure our own masks before trying to help others.

3. I don’t know what to do

While this can be frustrating to not have specific directions on what activities to do, at the same time it can be an opportunity to start to figure out what things you like and how you feel when you try different things. Self-care is not one size fits all so each individual is going to enjoy different things. Consider what activities you can do at home, outside in nature, at work, and even in your car. The only limitation to what is a self-care activity is the limitation you put on yourself.

But, why is this something that we need to do for ourselves? While there can be many benefits of participating in self-care activities one of the ones I highlight is regularly taking time to do things for yourself has the potential benefit of helping to reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, sadness, irritability, and help increase self-esteem. Another benefit may be in your relationships as you are communicating with others both verbally and non-verbally that how you feel is important and deserves to be attended to.

Lastly, taking time for yourself allows you to gather information about how you are feeling both physically and mentally and make informed decisions about what you can do to feel better or what you need more of or less of in your life.

Frequently, I get asked by clients if I do my own self-care as regularly as I encourage my clients to do it. The simple answer is sometimes! To be perfectly honest, it depends on the day. I do the best that I can but, I’m also human and there are days that it doesn’t happen because I was “busy” or I didn’t feel like it and that’s okay. I don’t beat myself up about it. I just recognize that particular day it didn’t happen and look for ways to make time for myself the next day, some weeks that may mean I need to schedule it in advance. I also look for new ways to practice self-care that I can do in different amounts of time (e.g., 5, 10, 15 minutes) which gives me less room to tell myself I didn’t have enough time.

Now it’s your turn. Have you done your self-care today? And don’t forget, part of self-care can be seeking help, so if you need us, we are always here.