What is Self Care?

Self Care is a big topic it seems mentioned on a daily basic.  Let explore what is actually is.

Self Care today

When did you first hear of Self-Care?

If your like me you barely noticed the topic become common place and firmly integrated into our daily lives.

Over past decade its become steadily more talked about and promoted on social media memes and in our day to day language.  We find ourselves saying phrases we have ourselves heard over and over "make time for Self-care."

If you type "Self-Care" into the internet its widespread popularity show with content from articles, memes, products and more.  Here is just one example below from pinterest packed full of content.

sunflowers, field, woman

Image - Example of Pinterest pins on "Self-Care"

Discussed Today

In this article I am going to explore:

The Origins

Next Topic - Self-care Today

Self-care when we delve back in time has many connections with not only medical care but also activism, racism and politics.

In the 1950s Self-care was the title for what we now call "Physical Self-care." It described when patients living in institutions were encouraged to look after themselves by keeping clean and taking exercise.  These days  what we would call physical self-care these days.1

wash hands, hygiene, faucet

In the 1960s two key things were occuring in USA the Esalen Institute in California was growing in popularity as was the the Black Panther Party.  Both these groups were connected to the term "Self-Care" and increased public awareness but it very different ways. 

The Esalen Institute in USA attracted (and still does) creatives, intellectuals and writers seeking to expand their horizons.  At their spiritual retreats think tanks of inspiring ideas took place that began to form new approaches to health and self-care.  This became increasingly popular with younger members in society.2

The Black Panther party put health and wellbeing at the centre of their politics.  Fuelled by inequality of health care in the USA along with failures to diagnose sickle-cell disease that effects mainly those of African origins self-care came into public spotlight.

"Alondra Nelson, Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, explains that many medical clinics in the USA either didn’t allow black people or gave them segregated care. So the issue of health was fundamental to the campaign against racial discrimination."2

Self-care began to be a term talked about in connection with empowered wellness for all no matter your colour or socio economic background. The Black Panthers increase exposure to important issues and spread awareness of Self-Care. They even created free health care clinics.

"Black Panther activists, like Ericka Huggins, encouraged self-care through practicing yoga and meditation. And for Davis herself: She started meditating and doing yoga while in prison.

(Practicing radical self-care) means we're able to bring our entire selves into the movement," she said. "It means we incorporate into our work as activists ways of acknowledging and hopefully moving beyond trauma. It means a holistic approach."3


Self-Care Today

Next Topic - Mental Self-Care

Today Self-Care has evolved and grown from its origins in politics, spiritualism, medicine and more.

These days Self-care is embraced by many and know of by the majority.  Some label it as spa like pampering while others as a fancy term for exercising.  Whilst it can include those aspects it is much, much, more than a bubble bath.

Self-Care embraces and supports us as a whole-  mind body and soul.

In researching into self-care I came across many differing views on what it includes, what it looks like and even the number of types.  The variety I personally believe stems from the very individual nature of self-care and that our own experience of what we need is unique to us

Another factor is its origins.  That being said there are many common sub types of self-care that we will look at and please forgive me if you notice something that is relevant for more that one category.  Many of the activities associated within a single topic can also support wellness across several topics.  Look at it this way this is great especially for the busiest of people #multitasking

diversity, silhouettes, community

Types of Self-Care

Mental Self-Care

Next Topic - Emotional Self-Care

This type of selfcare is about taking time to foster a healthy mindset, being present, acknowledging our unique gifts and worth.

When you look in the mirror take time to consider your self talk do you compliment yourself or look for faults do you criticise?  Consider viewing Marisa Peers video5 – she runs through some very supportive ways to reword how we speak to ourselves.

Keeping ourselves challenged and mentally engaged is a vital part it could be learning something you are passionate about for others a jigsaw or even reading.


Good mental self-care includes:

  • Positive healthy mindset
  • Resilience against stress and challenges
  • Making good choices
  • Valuing our gifts
  • Being present

The aim through this type of self care is to achieve/sustain  “Mental Wellbeing” is defined by the NHS as:

 “Mental wellbeing means feeling good – about yourself and the world around you – and being able to get on with life in the way you want. Learning can boost self-confidence and self-esteem, help build a sense of purpose, and help us connect with others.” April 21

motivation, live, courage

Emotional Self-Care

Next Topic - Social Self-Care

This type of selfcare is all about our thoughts and emotions.

In society phrases like "don't let your emotions get the better of you" are spoken as wise words and you may have a few other phrases come to mind too.  When we let our emotions get the better of us we lack clarity and may act with less self control that we normally would.

Being emotionally strong and resilient is something many find a challenge but it can be improved by even just recognising when we start to feel an unwelcome emotion, what triggered it and taking time to work through the root cause.

still, items, things

Good emotional self-care includes:

  • Showing emotional intelligence
  • Having healthy relationships
  • Accept your own feelings and being able to express your needs and feelings
  • Having empathy and self awareness

The aim through this type of self care is to achieve/sustain  “Emotional Wellness.”  According to the National Center  Emotional Wellness is.  

"the term refers to an awareness, understanding, and acceptance of your emotions, and your ability to manage effectively through challenges and change. "4

The benefits of emotional self-care extend further that this single topic.  Consider the effect on our physical body when we hold anxiety, panic or worry, do you feel your stomach upset or even laboured breathing.  Being able to release or resolve these feelings create a positive effect for our body too.

fantasy, surreal, mask

Social Self-Care

Next Topic - Physical Self-Care

This type of selfcare is all about our inherent need to be sociable.

Making time for social self-case fulfils one of our basic needs, that of relating to others and a sense of kinship.  No matter if we have extrovert or introvert characteristics its truly valuable for our wellness.

family, child, forest

Its more about quality for some and quantity for others.  Consider your friend who is out every night with a different friend group or the flip side a friend you may see less often  but every time you catch up you have a great time like you were never apart.  Each approach is valuable and individual to each persons needs.

Good social self-care includes:

  • Social inclusion
  • Sense of belonging
  • Joining in events with friends, family, community and other groups

The aim through this type of self care is to achieve/sustain  “Social Wellness” by thriving in our interactions with like minded individuals.  We don't have to be a socialite to gain a sense of belonging nor socialise more or less than we are comfortable - its about finding the right balance for you.  

people, friends, couples

Physical Self-Care

Next Topic - Spiritual Self-Care

This type of selfcare is all about supporting our body.  We all know about eating our 5 a day, staying hydrated and that we should exercise daily. In addition there are many other ways to support our physical self-care from bathing to sleeping well. To learn more about supporting sleep click here.       

baseball, bicycle, cricket

Good physical self-care includes:

The aim through this type of self care is to achieve/sustain  “Physical Wellness” this doesn't mean you need to train like a pro athlete but taking on good habits it a great start.  You could aim to eat your 5 a day in fruit and vegetable or try out different types of exercise.  My personal favourite is combining exercise and a catch up with a friend, that way we keep each other motivated and have a lovely chat as well.  


Spiritual Self-Care

This type of selfcare is about connecting with our inner spirit as the name suggests.  For some this could mean religion but it does not have to.  Some like to meditate to clear the daily noise or take time be in nature.  There are so many way to nurture your spirit perhaps getting creative is  your favourite or even volunteering for a charity close to your heart.

dance, yoga, meditation

Good spiritual self-care includes:

  • Experiencing meaning and purpose
  • Feeling connected to ones self values, morals and beliefs

The aim through this type of self care is to achieve/sustain “Spiritual Wellness” this by taking time to reconnect with ourselves.  We are often influenced by those around us and our environment and can loose track of our ethics, values and beliefs. By  looking at what is truly important to us we support our wellbeing by being our authentic self.  

stones, rocks, stack

Final thoughts

Naturally some aspects of self-care we achieve easily and others we could need to work on.  It would be counter productive to spend time worrying about the parts we fall short on, after all the idea of Self-Care is to promote wellness. 

How about instead of worrying we challenge ourselves to take small achievable steps day by day to improve our Self-Care?



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  1. The revolutionary origins of self-care  https://locallove.ca/issues/the-revolutionary-origins-of-self-care/#.YMHkIqhKjIU
  2. The radical history of self-care https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5GwXsvJp6q8PM2RLL2Dgc00/the-radical-history-of-self-care
  3. How You Can Honor the Radical History of Self-Care https://advice.theshineapp.com/articles/how-you-can-honor-the-radical-history-of-self-care/
  4. What Is Emotional Wellness? https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-empowerment-diary/201910/what-is-emotional-wellness

  5. "These 5 TRICKS Will Destroy Your NEGATIVE THOUGHTS & FEELINGS Today!"| Marisa Peer  https://youtu.be/YRh5OrkxNYY


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