By Moira Lawler
You may have read about self-care and you may be on board with the benefits it can offer — even if it requires some extra effort on your part.
“[Self-care] means really listening to your body, taking moments to check in, intentionally tuning in to the thoughts going on in your mind, and challenging your behaviors and belief systems if things feel out of alignment in your life,” says Kelsey Patel, a Los Angeles–based wellness expert and the author of the forthcoming book Burning Bright: Rituals, Reiki, and Self-Care to Heal Burnout, Anxiety, and Stress.
You may feel up for the challenge, but recognizing the need for self-care is one thing. Actually adopting a self-care practice that can improve your life is another. Here’s how to do it.
First, Understand What Is Self-Care and What Isn’t
“The way I define self-care is the intentional, proactive pursuit of integrated wellness that balances mind, body, and spirit personally and professionally,” says Paula Gill Lopez, PhD, an associate professor and the chair of the department of psychological and educational consultation at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.
It’s about more than taking care of your physical health. “Just eating healthy isn’t enough anymore,” Patel says. “Things are moving so fast around us that we need space to self-care and slow down to rest from all the busyness in our lives.”
And just because a behavior is “good for you” doesn’t make it self-care, explains Brighid Courtney, of Boston, a client leader at the wellness technology company Wellable and a faculty member at the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA). You need to get some sense of gratification out of it for it to be self-care, she says. “Although activities such as running or meditating may be good for your overall health and well-being, if you hate them, then they are not considered self-care.” (If you do find those activities energizing and fulfilling, however, they are potential self-care practices.)
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