The term “self-care” is typically used in reference to face masks, CVS runs just for ice cream, or other indulgences we justify.
The truth is, though, self-care is not just having a skincare routine or buying a new candle. It’s those things, too, but also much more. Self-care isn’t always fun, easy, or glamorous.
According to Wikipedia, self-care is defined in health care as, “Any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated.”
I interpret self-care to mean making choices for yourself that will ultimately lead to greater health and a life that is fulfilled mentally, physically, and spiritually.
The notion that self-care is greater than anything you could buy in a package at CVS is nothing new; publications like Glamour and Refinery29 have also broached the subject of self-care, giving realistic, tough-love-type tips.
I am certainly not the first or even the 10,000th person to put into words that self-care is doing things you don’t want to do for your greater health, but I do have my own ideas of what should be among the bullet points on your Health Is Wealth to-do list.
Before you read this list, I want to put forth the disclaimer that these are all privileges. Many, many people do not have the luxury of doing these because of circumstances that are out of their control. For that reason, I want to emphasize that self-care is just that, self. We all have our own way of taking care of our health with and without these privileges and I commend anyone who takes quality care of themselves when it is not easy to do so.
1. Get A Routine Physical
One way to keep on top of your health is being diligent about scheduling and attending a routine physical with your primary care doctor. I make a point to stop by the front desk on my way out every year to make the next year’s appointment because I know that if I have to call to make one later, I’ll put it off for months. Serving some honesty here.
2. Get Your Teeth Cleaned
I know, another boring one, right? I told you self-care isn’t always fun. To serve up even more realness, I put off getting my teeth cleaned for two years simply because I had to cancel one appointment and then never rescheduled it…for two years. I went to the dentist within that time for a tooth ache, and when I did get them cleaned this spring, I had no cavities, but that’s not the point. Dental health matters! Do you like eating? Support your teeth because they put in the work.
3. Take The Medications You’ve Been Prescribed
There seems to be a lot of medication shaming out there in the world. I have been on a daily medication since the age of 11, so it has never been taboo for me, but for many, it is anxiety-provoking. Personally, I believe that if you are prescribed something by a doctor you trust for a physical or mental ailment, you should take it and listen to your doctor’s instructions. I include the part about following instructions because many of us think that once we feel better, we can stop the medication altogether, and sometimes that is OK. Specifically when it comes to mental health, though, just because you feel better doesn’t mean you are cured, it means the treatment is working.
4. Find Doctors You Trust
Now, taking medication and trusting a doctor’s treatment is much more complicated if you don’t like or trust your doctor. Whether you’re seeking a primary care, dentist, or psychiatrist, you should trust them with your care and if you don’t, you deserve to find someone you like and can trust.
5. Call Out Of Work When You’re Sick Or Need A Mental Health Day
If you are physically ill, it’s generally frowned upon to germ-up the office, so give yourself a break and know that no one is going to be mad if you are too sick to come in (and if they are, consider that a sign). Mental health days are still not taken very seriously, but we’re moving in the direction of acceptance, I think. I once had a panic attack with a few hours left in my work day and told my supervisor that I needed to either work from home or sign off for the day. My supervisor responded saying that health comes first and to take the rest of the day. Luckily, that scenario has only occurred the one time, and I know how overwhelming it can be to already be having a difficult mental day and then feel like you’re letting someone down, but having my editor respond positively reminded me that we are all humans and deserve to have our honesty met with empathy.
6. Say What You Need To Say, Ask What You Need To Ask
Simple enough, right? Countless times I’ve walked away from a situation kicking myself for not saying how I actually felt, or asking the question I was afraid would sound silly. You deserve answers and you deserve to feel heard. You can’t do your job right, be a good friend, have a healthy relationship, etc. if you don’t ask the tough questions and say what is plaguing you.
7. Stay Ahead Of Stressful Situations
If you know ahead of time that you are entering a triggering situation, prepare for it, even if you can only prepare in small ways. My anxiety tends to reach new heights when I step foot into an airport, so I know I need to keep my emergency anxiety medication on me before flying. Some people may look at this as pessimism because I’m assuming I’ll feel awful, but I look at it as taking care of myself.
8. Get A Good Night’s Sleep
If you know that you function best on nine hours of sleep, get the nine hours. It’s easier said than done—believe me, I know—but get your work done earlier in the day and allow your body to relax ahead of time so it signals that it’s time for sleep. If life happens and you can’t, don’t beat yourself up.
9. Keep Your Living Environment Clean
Again, easier said than done. Sometimes you just can’t bring yourself to sweep the floor. I get it, we all get it. But keep your space as decluttered and clean as you can because a clean space makes everything feel more manageable.
10. Manage Your Money
Ah, yet another one I'm not great at. Not having money causes problems, but so does having and mismanaging money. Keep tabs on your spending and remember that paying your rent is more important than shoes.
11. Take Advice When You Should
If someone is giving you advice, solicited or not, hear them out and take what you can from it. Maybe you didn’t ask your friend to weigh in on a decision you are making, but when you hear advice from others, it actually can reinforce what you already know, or help you understand another perspective better. Either way, it’s good to be confronted every once in awhile, and if it’s someone who cares about you, it’s worth listening.