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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

Self-care has become a popcorn word- something thrown around during particularly stressful times when we want to procrastinate work by binge-watching Netflix, Instagram stories, and cartoons from our childhoods. “It’s called self-care, mom!” we shout from our bed mountained in pillows, sweat pants, and Doritos… so many Doritos… The concept of self-care for some has become more annoying than the overly used UCT exclamations “woke” and “hectic”. It’s innate comforting, healing, and peaceful properties have been lost in our consumer and profit-driven culture of working until you crash, and then lazing on the couch as your mind vegetates. 

I do not believe that that is what self-care is. I believe that self-care is synonymous with pleasure, and that involves making time in your day to give yourself the little pleasures that work, university demands, and external pressures deny from us. Working until you flop only to stay up all night watching series does not sound like self-care or pleasure to me. It sounds like an overly-worked brain in vegetation mode. 

So what are the different kinds of self-care? And how can we learn to practice them in our daily routines to increase our little moments of pleasure?

Physical self-care

This is probably the most well-known type of self-care. It involves giving your body a release from the stress and strain of your responsibilities, deadlines, and expectations of the outside world in favour of slowing down and relaxing.

Pinterest can distort what physical self-care entails with lavish pictures of pink bubble baths, glasses of prosecco, Ian Somerhalder massaging your feet… But physical self-care looks different to everyone! Baths can be sweaty, prosecco can be yucky, and feet rubs can be weird.

Any kind of physical activity that is pleasurable to you, be it gentle yoga, playing with your dog, or, I’m even going to say it, masturbation, count as acts of physical self-care. 

Emotional self-care

When I have successfully completed an onerous or stressful task that consumed most of my energy, I often sit and have a good cry. I used to call this my self-care time, but I see now that that truly was not pleasurable for me. It helped me express my relief and exhaustion, but it did nothing to make me feel more relaxed or at peace.

Emotional self-care should be about becoming more mindful of your emotions and continuously checking in with yourself. Getting to know yourself, your triggers, and your thought patterns could potentially stop those weepy moments when all seems out of control. Try journaling, being creative through painting or cooking, or even meditation.

Sensory self-care

Nourishing the senses is lost among our generation it seems. When is the last time you stopped to smell the roses (literally)? Or closed your eyes while eating your morning Cheerios and really focused on the texture of the sweet milky cereal filling your tummy? Do you remember the sudsy feeling of the dishwashing liquid between your hands when you last washed the dishes?

Engaging with your senses is so crucial in reducing symptoms of panic and distress because it draws the mind back to the present moment. I have committed to doing more sensory self-care through lighting my scented candles at night and listening to the frogs in my garden before going to bed.

Spiritual self-care

“But I’m not religious!”

Guess what? Spirituality does not necessarily have to relate to religion!

Where some find heightened sense of spirituality through prayer and worship, others may practice it through striving for inner peace. You may spend time thinking about your purpose in this world, setting your intentions to become a more compassionate and well-rounded human being, and revelling in the love and beauty around you. 

Charity work, meditation, spending time in nature, and journaling can be incredible spiritual experiences.

Intellectual self-care

Nourishing and challenging your mind does not have to be a stressful thing. In fact, it can be powerfully satisfying!

I downloaded Duolingo a few months ago and have enjoyed learning the odd Italian phrase here and there when my brain cannot digest another course reading. Not only do intellectual activities expand your knowledge, they may open doors to new hobbies through learning skills you never knew you’d enjoy!

There are some incredible documentaries on Netflix and Showmax from true crime dramas to nature that are perfect for getting the hamster wheel in your head moving again.

Social self-care

Human beings are inherently social creatures, both extroverted or introverted alike. No matter how much you cannot stand them sometimes, you need other people!

Different people have different levels of comfort across social situations, but connection is highly important above all to establish friendships, relationships, and to expand our thinking. Rekindle your connections to some lost souls in your life by meeting them for coffee, taking a walk with them, or even having a beach day with an ice-cream afterwards.

This powerful TED Talk by Rita Pierson explains the value and strength in establishing and maintaining social connections.

Never let the Internet, social media, or magazines tell you that you are doing self-care wrong. Self-care is not about fitting an aesthetic- that’s just more work! Self-care is about pleasure, relaxation, and tuning back in to your mind, body, and soul. It’s about listening to yourself first and learning to trust yourself to lead the way. Find your own groove when it comes to healing and restoration.

Sarah-Kate is a student at the University of Cape Town currently completing her Honours degree in Psychology. She is also the Co-Senior Editor of Her Campus UCT 2020 and actress in short film Dear Romilly. Her interests include baking, writing, yoga, empowering women, and educating the world on mental illnesses through her blog (sarahkatesays.blogspot.com).