The Science Behind Self Care: Why It’s More Than Pampering

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Self-care is not all bath bombs and face masks, and I found this out the hard way. For months, I told myself that I was doing everything I could to take care of myself emotionally. Now, halfway through my last semester in college, I am struggling to play catch-up with my mental health because I didn’t take proper preventative measures.

 

The idea that mental health should be considered equally as important as physical health is not a new notion for our generation. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials spend twice as much as baby boomers on self-care essentials like diet plans, workout regimens, life coaching, therapy and apps to improve their own well-being.

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Equating mental and physical health may not be a new idea, but it hasn’t been fully realized. If you’re feeling down, chances are someone will tell you to shake it off because it’s all in your head. Nobody would tell you to walk off a leg injury, so why do we do this for emotional injuries?

 

TEDx has an entire playlist about the importance of self-care. In his speech “Why we all need to practice emotional first aid,” Dr. Guy Winch, a doctor in psychology, discusses the importance of taking care of yourself psychologically as well as physically.

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“We sustain psychological injuries even more often than we do physical ones, injuries like failure or rejection or loneliness,” Winch said. “And yet, even though there are scientifically proven techniques we could use to treat these kinds of psychological injuries, we don't. It doesn't even occur to us that we should.”

 

According to The Triple Bind by Stephen Hinshaw, one in four girls today fall into a clinical diagnosis of depression, eating disorders, cutting or another mental/emotional disorder. There is a mental health epidemic going on in our society, but we are not vaccinating ourselves and too few of us know that there is a cure.

 

What is the cure? Self-care.

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Self-care means that you take care of your body by exercising regularly and forming healthy eating habits. Self-care means that you reach out when you are feeling lonely or abandoned. Self-care means that you break unhealthy mental habits, such as ruminating over past mistakes or beating yourself up for your faults. Self-care means that you forgive yourself when you fail, pick yourself up and keep going.

 

When I told my dad that I was afraid to reach out to my best friend because I don’t want to be a burden to her, he asked me how I’d feel if the roles were reversed and she didn’t call me. He had a point; I would be upset if she was feeling this way but didn’t reach out.

 

We need to speak to ourselves the way we would speak to a friend. You would never tell your best friends that they are not worthy of love, so you shouldn’t say that to yourself. If we treat ourselves with the same kindness we usually reserve for others, I think the world will be a much happier place.

 

Self-care can be helpful and preventative, but it is not a cure-all. If you’re considering self-harm or suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.