September is National Self-Care Awareness Month, and in the wake of such unprecedented times, taking care of ourselves is becoming not only a valuable skill, but a necessary one. So what exactly is self-care and what are we supposed to be doing to take care of ourselves?
According to the World Health Organization, self-care is defined as “what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness.” This refers to physical and mental health, and everyone has different strategies for both.
According to the International Self-care Foundation (ISF) there are seven foundational pillars for being an active participant in one’s own self-care.
Knowledge and health literacy is about knowing your body and knowing enough about the health world to be able to advocate for yourself when needed. Mental wellness is about checking in with yourself mentally and being proactive about known mental health concerns. Physical activity is about keeping yourself active enough to maintain a sense of health and control over your body. Healthy eating has similar goals, but is more focused on what you give yourself as input than the output you produce. Risk avoidance is about sustainability, and looking at what you can do today to make life better for your future self. Good hygiene is about taking care of yourself both to prevent unnecessary health risks, but also feel good in your own skin. And rational use of services and products is about learning how to do things in moderation.
While self-care places an emphasis on taking individual responsibility for one’s well-being, the “self” part of the word is not all important. In fact, ISF notes that knowing when to consult a healthcare professional and implement “collaborative care” as the ISF puts it, is an important self-care skill related to health literacy and mental wellness.
Senior Psychology major Nancy Mullins wants to make sure people know that self-care isn’t synonymous with selfishness. “Something I really wish people understood about self-care is that it’s not about going on a shopping spree or doing something impulsive. Self-care is about getting your needs met. When you’re in a state of depression or high stress/anxiety, it’s hard to do things just for yourself. But it’s crucial to make sure you’re doing those things.”
There are many things you can do to take care of your physical and mental health, and they don’t have to be time-consuming to be effective. Something as simple as a five-minute walk around the block can be a useful palate cleanser, and flossing your teeth can be a relaxing task to help wind down after a long day. In the end, the specific tasks and strategies you can implement are all up to you, but please take care of yourself.
By Miranda Morris