It's been a buzz word among wellness professionals for the past few years, but "self-care" has taken on a much different meaning — and importance — over the past seven months.
Even if you are someone who tries to manage stress and take time for themselves, the pandemic has likely thrown a wrench in your typical self-care routine. If you're like many, who usually put themselves on the back burner, now might just be the perfect time to slow down a bit and finally make self-care a priority.
But first, what is self-care? And how do you do it?
"The way I think about it is that it's this conscious decision to think, feel and behave in ways that promote physical, psychological and emotional well-being," Lisa Ferentz, psychotherapist and founder of The Ferentz Institute, told TODAY. "It requires an inward focus. So in part, it's about a willingness to put yourself first."
You might think self-care is all about fancy manicures, tropical vacations and gooey plates of brownies. And while rest and relaxation — and nutrition — are certainly pillars of self-care, it's really something that starts on a deeper, more internal level.
There are two parts to self-care: first, asking yourself how you're feeling, and then, acting on whatever needs you have at that moment.
So, what questions should you ask when you begin this self-assessment? Ferentz suggested these: How's my energy and productivity? Do I have stamina to do the things that matter? If the answer is no, go get a snack! Or, maybe you need a nap. Find out what you need, and do it. (Really, go!)
Then, go a little deeper with these questions: Do I have work-life balance? Do I feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in the workplace? Do I feel cared for in my personal and romantic relationships?
"I focus on the workplace a lot because it's a place where people often feel vulnerable and invalidated," Ferentz said. And with many of us working from home and connecting with colleagues virtually, it has become even harder to find a separation between work and our personal life.
Of course, addressing the fact that you don't love your job — or, gulp, your romantic partner — isn't quite as easy to fix as realizing you need some sleep, or that you missed lunch. But the very act of taking a moment to ask yourself these questions is self-care, Ferentz explained.
"A lot of people, when they hear the phrase self-care, they think it's synonymous with being selfish," she added. "And that's also why people don't do it, or don't do enough of it. Because they think, oh, you're asking me to be selfish. But this is about taking care of yourself."
And when you're healthy and happy, you're better able to help other people, too, she pointed out.
"Everybody needs self-care and we all benefit," she said. "I really don't think there's such thing as too much self-care."
So, be honest with yourself: How are you feeling today? That's a simple and effective place to start.