The term “self-care” can have a variety of meanings. It can be used to describe one’s ability to attend to their own day-to-day physiological needs, such as maintaining good hygiene, nutrition, sleep, and physical health. However, commonly among mental health professionals, it is also used to describe one’s ability to attend to emotional and psychological needs. This type of self-care can range from adhering to a recommended regimen of therapy and medication, to having compassion and patience with oneself. As we near the end of what has been another busy year for many, it is extremely important that we remember to take care of our needs, especially those that always seems to be at the bottom of the “to do” list.  It can be hard to carve out time for ourselves, especially while trying to balance the demands of work, school, family, friends, and daily life. However, it is incredibly important to remember two things:

  1. Our mental health is as important as physiological health.
  2. We need to care for ourselves, both emotionally and physically, so that we can effectively function (as individuals and in relationships) and care for others.

Although it is an over-simplified parallel, it can be helpful to compare our need for self-care to a battery-operated toy car. When we are “fully-charged” we are energetic, quick, accurate, and ready to go. However, when our “battery” begins to lose its charge, we are sluggish, inconsistent, and eventually immobilized. When we neglect our emotional needs, especially for prolonged periods of time, we can feel exhausted, depleted, hopeless, ineffective, irritable, and apathetic. For some of us, lapses in self-care can have a more severe impact on our mental health, triggering or intensifying symptoms of depression and anxiety. And for those who have chronic struggles with emotional functioning, psychological self-care is essential to healthy daily life. This TED Talk offers an informative perspective on self-care, and why mental health should be a priority for all of us.

I believe that we should strongly consider implementing regular self-care routines in the new year. We all need time to “recharge” our battery and function best when our emotional and physical needs are being met.  Taking time for self-care can improve our mood, resilience, and stamina, while also reminding us that we are valuable and cared-for. This site offers some helpful recommendations.