What is Self-Care and Why is it Important

College, for many, can be just as stressful and overwhelming as it is exciting and fun. One way to handle these daily ups and downs of college life is to practice self-care, which involves small exercises that can help relieve stress and boost your overall well-being. Practicing self-care involves taking physical, mental, and emotional care of yourself.

This guide will take you through the reasons why you need at least some amount of self-care in your routine and help you understand the particular changes you could make in your lifestyle to help that happen through its many types.

  1. 1. What is Self-Care?

    Woman shaving her legs in the bathtub

    Self-care is a broad concept that includes anything and everything that can be done to benefit and take care of yourself. In short, it's about being as kind to yourself as you would be to anybody else. It also requires incorporating self-compassion into your life in a way that helps avoid the risk of burnout.

    Even so, it is so important to remember that not everything that feels good is necessarily self-care. Risky coping strategies such as drugs, alcohol, over-eating, and risk-taking help to control difficult feelings, but can be considered self-destructive and relief is temporary. The distinction between unhealthful coping strategies and self-care practices is that the latter is demonstrably beneficial for you. When done properly, self-care benefits the mind and the body in the long run.

  2. 2. Benefits of Self-Care

    woman standing in a sunflower field

    So, why is self-care important? It can be stated that self-care is crucial for our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. You shouldn’t neglect self-care as, according to Noma Nazish, a digital journalist, writer, and blogger on Forbes, it can help:

    - Improve Emotional Health: Taking time to focus on yourself can remind you and the people around you that your wellbeing is important. It will make you feel good about yourself and your life to have a well-cared-for body. This can lead to feelings of acceptance and happiness in the long run.

    - Generate Soothing Feelings: Giving your body some special treatment is a natural way to relieve stress. Other than keeping your skin soft and your body in good repair, spa-related activities like massages and warm baths have been known to soothe and rejuvenate. Such activities continue to be effective tools for relaxation as we get older.

    - Provide a Break from Stress: Taking a break in a tub of warm bubbles or under the warm hands of an experienced masseuse can help you feel like you’re escaping a stressful reality and taking a mental and emotional vacation. This triggers the relaxation response and allows you to come back to the reality of your life feeling refreshed and relaxed.

    - Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance: Contrary to common belief, workaholism is not a virtue. Overwork and the accompanying stress and exhaustion can make you less productive, disorganized, and emotionally depleted. It can also lead to all sorts of health problems, from anxiety and depression to insomnia and heart diseases. Professional self-care habits like taking intermittent breaks (for lunch, calling your mom, or taking a stroll), setting professional boundaries, avoiding overextending, etc. ensures that you stay sharp, motivated, and healthy.

    - Know your worth: Self-care is important to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself as it produces positive feelings and boosts your confidence and self-esteem. Besides this, self-care is necessary to remind yourself and others that you and your needs are important too.

  3. 3. Types Of Self-Care

    Love yourself written on wall

    There are many different self-care practices, and the trick is to find some that you genuinely enjoy and that fit with your life and values. Once you start adding self-care activities to your life, you may start to notice a positive difference in your physical and emotional health.

    According to Katherine Hurst from The Law Of Attraction community, Dr. Matthew Glowiak from Southern New Hampshire University, and Greg Markway, Ph.D., a psychologist on Psychology Today, here are the five main categories of self-care, along with explanations of how they help you and specific self-care examples within each category.

  4. 4. Sensory

    lit candles at home

    Sensory self-care is all about working to try and calm your mind. When you are able to tune into the details of the sensations all around you, it’s easier to live in the present moment. When you’re in the present, you can more effectively let go of resentments related to the past or anxieties about the future. When you think about practicing sensory self-care, consider all of your senses: touch, smell, sound, and sight. People can often be more responsive to one sensory aspect over another, so ask yourself what that sense might be for you. 

    Sensory Self-Care Ideas:

    - Cuddling up under a soft blanket.

    - Lying down and listening to music with your eyes closed.

    - Holding a pet in your arms.

    - Watching the flames of a candle or a fire.

    - Sitting in the heat of the afternoon sun.

    - Focusing on the movements of your own breathing.

    - Going to the countryside and focusing on the smell of the air.

    - Having a small square of the most delicious chocolate or fruit.

    - Walking barefoot in the grass.

    - Having a massage with essential oils.

    - Feeling the water on your skin during a hot bath or shower.

  5. 5. Emotional

    woman leaning on door looking out onto the city

    When it comes to your emotional health, one of the best self-care tips is to make sure you fully engage with your emotions. When you face them head-on, this actually helps with stress. You may feel tempted to push down feelings like sadness or anger, but it’s healthy to feel them, accept them, and move on. Remember that emotions are not “good” or “bad” in themselves. On this theme, consider any one or more of the following if you want to practice better emotional self-care.

    Emotional Self-Care Ideas:

    - Let yourself cry or scream when you need to and if you are able to.

    - See a therapist, even if it’s just for 8-10 sessions of general personal development.

    - Keep a daily journal, and be totally honest about your feelings.

    - Make time to be with a friend or family member who truly understands you.

    - Sing along to the song that best expresses your current emotions.

    - Deliberately encourage yourself to laugh with old memories or funny videos.

    - Write a list of “feeling words” to expand your emotional vocabulary.

  6. 6. Spiritual

    crystals on table

    If you’re not religious, you might be tempted to skim-read this section or skip it altogether. However, spiritual self-care isn’t just about believing in a deity. It’s applicable to atheists and agonistics as much as to religious people. Spiritual self-care is about getting in touch with your values and what really matters to you. Below are some possible examples that can help you get in tune with your own spirituality.

    Spiritual Self-Care Ideas:

    - Go on a trip with the sole purpose of photographing things that inspire you.

    - Attend a service, whether it is religious or humanistic.

    - Walking in nature and reflecting on the beauty around you.

    - Make a daily list of 5-10 things that make you feel grateful.

    - Read poetry.

    - Keep up a daily meditation or mindfulness practice.

    - Make a list of 5-10 things that make you feel alive, then ask yourself how you can better incorporate these things into your life.

    - Be creative, whether through art, music, writing, or something else entirely.

    - Say affirmations that ground your sense of self and purpose.

  7. 7. Physical 

    The importance of self-care definitely extends to purely physical aspects of your health. Physical activity is vital not only for your bodily well-being but also for helping you let off steam. You might think that there is nothing fun or self-compassionate about going to the gym, but instead, it’s important to broaden the concept of self-care into things that can benefit your physical self as well. This can be done by possibly thinking about or acting on the following lists.

    Physical Self-Care Ideas:

    - Dance to your favorite songs

    - Join a class and learn a new sport.

    - Cycle through the countryside.

    - Go running with your pet.

    - Do yoga. Even if you’ve never tried it, there are poses and classes online that are perfect for beginners.

    - Go for a walk.

    In addition, remember that physical self-care is as much about the things you don’t do as the things you do! So you can:

    - Commit to 7-9 hours of sleep per night, barring exceptional circumstances.

    - Nap when you need to. Just 20 minutes can make you feel mentally and physically refreshed.

    - Say “no” to invitations when you’re too tired to enjoy them or want to take time for yourself.

    - Don’t push yourself to do your exercise routine when you’re run down or unwell.

  8. 8. Social

    three girls during golden hour

    Finally, social self-care is another category that’s important for us all. It might look different depending on whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. However, connecting with other people is necessary for happiness for a large diversity of people. It helps you to understand that you’re not alone. Plus, it can also give us a sense of being fully “seen” by others. This can, in particular, help us combat loneliness and isolation. Social self-care isn’t about just doing things with others for the sake of it, but about choosing to do things with people who really make you feel good.

    Social Self-Care Ideas:

    - Strike up a conversation with someone interesting.

    - Become penpals with someone new and far away.

    - Focus on people who make you feel loved, important, and bring our best.

    - Join a support group for people who struggle with the same things you might be struggling with.

    - Make a date to have lunch or dinner with a great friend.

    - Reach out to someone you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.

    - Sign up for a class to learn something and meet new people at the same time.

    - Consider joining a group of people who share your interests.

These routine suggestions can help you manage your everyday stressors; academic demands, complex interpersonal relationships, and unexpected future plans. Everyone deals with these problems differently, and everyone's choice for self-care is also different. By being healthy about self-care, you will feel be better equipped to handle your daily tasks and balance your life as a whole.