What is self-care and how do I do it? (Tip: Ask yourself these questions)

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/ Source: TODAY
By Rheana Murray

It's a buzz word you've probably been hearing for weeks, but if you're like most of us, haven't given it much thought: self-care.

And if that's true, then you're probably in need of some self-care right about... now. It's cold outside, the country is at odds for many reasons, and you likely have a few lingering items on a stressful to-do list.

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," psychotherapist and clinical social worker Lisa Ferentz told TODAY. "It requires an inward focus. So in part, it's about a willingness to put yourself first."

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If you browse #selfcare on Facebook or Instagram, 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?

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"I focus on the workplace a lot because it's a place where people often feel vulnerable and invalidated," Ferentz said.

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.

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"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."