Self-care is a term that is often thrown around, but what does it actually mean? Self-care is defined as “the practice of taking care of yourself and your physical, mental, and emotional health.” There are many different ways to engage in self-care, and it is vital for everyone—not just mental health patients—to do so regularly. For people with depression, self-care is an especially important part of life and plays a major role in the recovery process. In this article, we will discuss the definition of self-care, the primary types of self-care, what kinds of activities count as self-care, and why self-care is so important for people with depression.
What Is Self-Care?
According to the World Health Organization, self-care is 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.”
In other words, self-care encompasses the steps an individual or group of individuals might take to ensure their physical, mental, and emotional needs are met, including seeking medical attention when appropriate. Self-care doesn’t have to happen at the doctor’s office, however—in fact, some people consider getting a manicure or going for a walk in nature to be an act of self-care!
What Are the Primary Types of Self-Care?
Self-care has many forms, and it means something a little bit different to everyone—but for the most part, self-care can be broken into three primary categories: physical, emotional, and spiritual (or mental) self-care.
Physical self-care comes in the form of actions you can take to take care of your physical needs. This includes eating regular nutritious meals, getting plenty of sleep, and incorporating an exercise routine. Physical self-care can be as monumental as hiking every trail in your state or as simple as flossing your teeth every night before bed.
Emotional self-care, in comparison, is the steps one can take to provide for their emotional needs. This category can sometimes share acts of self-care with the physical—like maybe you enjoy soaking in a bubble bath from time to time. This act not only takes care of your hygiene, but it may also help you to regulate your emotional well-being as well. Other acts of emotional self-care include gratitude journaling, making time to socialize with dear friends, saying “no” to increased stress at work, or taking a day off to recharge, take care of business, and reset.
Spiritual/Mental self-care involves activities or events that nourish your soul—whether this is attending a regular spiritual service, volunteering at your local food bank, or spending time outdoors.
What Types of Activities Count as Self-Care?
Part of what defines self-care is that it is largely dependent on the individual, family, or community practicing it. What works to regulate mood, mental health, or physical wellbeing for one individual may not work for the next.
There is a misconception that self-care is inherently expensive; sometimes the phrase “self-care” conjures images of costly doctor’s appointments, massages, or beautification practices that take great chunks out of one’s monthly budget. The truth is, self-care doesn’t have to cost money. It can be as simple as taking several deep breaths or laying out for an afternoon nap in the sunshine. It can also be as cost-effective as eating green vegetables or reading a humorous book.
If so many different kinds of activities count as self-care, what distinguishes an act of self-care from work or any other activity you might do throughout your day? What sets self-care apart is mindful engagement with the present moment, making space for nurturing yourself, and putting yourself first.
Best Self-Care Ideas
Self-care is most effective when it is part of regular life—or better yet, part of a routine! There are many ways people choose to treat themselves kindly, but some common self-care activities include:
· Meditating regularly
· Working on an art project
· Observing weather patterns, cloud formations, or sunrise/sunset
· Listening to or making music
· Dancing/bodily movement or stretching
· Doing a social media “cleanse”
· Regularly going to bed early
· Trying a new hobby
· Lighting incense or candles
· Watching for shooting stars
· Making time to talk with a loved one
· Practicing positive self talk
· Cleaning your living space
· Creating and completing a to-do list
· Drinking water
· Going camping, hiking, swimming, or anything outside in nature
There are many more ways to practice compassionate self-care than are covered by this list. Get creative with ways you can improve your quality of life through regular self-care! It can even be working towards a promotion at work to better your living circumstances.
Why Self-Care is Important for Depression Patients
As you’ve learned over the course of this article, self-care is an important practice for anyone, and should be a regular component of daily adult life—but what about for folks experiencing anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, or other mental health conditions?
Especially for patients experiencing depression, self-care becomes a critical part of their road to a happier life. While self-care may feel like work in the beginning, taking regular steps to tend to your needs not only fortifies healthy habits, it also helps patients reframe negative thinking and encourages mindfulness. It may seem trivial to wash your face and brush your hair in the morning, but these small victories add up to long-term success if achieved regularly.
While medication and therapy are important tools for managing mental health conditions like depression or anxiety disorders, the daily acts of self-care that patients can do in addition to their daily medication go a long way toward rewiring neural pathways and changing their overall mindset. In fact, you might be surprised how simply writing regular journal entries can help patients struggling with depression, anxiety, stress, or burnout. Journaling can not only help mental health patients manage their symptoms, but it can also help with refocusing their thoughts, boosting mood, and achieving goals as well.
Delray Beach Psychiatry: Your Mental Wellness Resource
While there are some skeptics of the efficacy of self-care in a clinical sense, most people who regularly practice self-care can attest to the associated boost in mental, spiritual, and physical wellness. While self-care can mean many different things to different people, its crucial ingredient is mindfulness—for improved mood, thinking patterns, and overall enjoyment of life. With the ability to practice self-care anywhere, any time in the form of deep breathing, you may as well take a moment now to center yourself, take inventory of your senses, and enjoy a grounding, full-bellied breath.
Self-care alone may not be enough to treat clinical mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. Are you ready to seek care as part of your mental health journey? Contact Delray Beach Psychiatry today!