When I was in graduate school, I got introduced to the term “self-care”. I thought this was some made up thing like meditation or mindfulness or unicorns. Self-care was a completely foreign concept to me. The idea of taking care of myself so that I could support others seemed backwards and selfish.

Finally, I recognized that I have to put gas in my car and change the oil if I want to take people places or go to the store to buy food. Why shouldn’t my life require some maintenance? OK, cool. I get self care.

After I could understand the concept, and acknowledged why it might be a good thing, I started to experiment with my version of self-care. I started doing things blindly in the name of self-care. So, I would spend that extra 2 hours binging on Grey’s Anatomy, drink that extra glass of wine, eat that donut, or three, and take myself shopping at ULTA because I need new mascara, and blush, and soap. But, these things didn’t seem to be filling up my gas tank or making my car run any more efficiently. After an examination of how these things made me feel, I started to examine the difference between self-care and self-indulgence. If you’re curious see below.

Self-care is nourishment. It fulfills your physical, spiritual, emotional, and social needs. After you engage in a self-care activity, you feel awesome, energized, and better prepared to tackle whatever state your life is in. This may look different for everyone. I am not saying that fried chicken and Grey’s Anatomy are not life giving sometimes. But, in my self care journey, I found that these things were easy buttons I was pressing to escape my needs, not deal with them/nourish them. In fact, those self-indulgences left me feeling empty and more tired/frustrated/confused/drained.

I started to experiment with other methods of self-care. Ya know,the stuff I thought was made up. I started to pay attention to the things that gave me energy and life- good healthy food from the earth, nature, journaling, yoga, spending time with friends and family.

Now, I try for a healthy balance. I find that scheduling time for self care is when I am most likely to engage in it. Putting it on a calendar in a special color lets me and everyone else know when I am recharging my batteries.

What kinds of self care have you tried? What could you improve? What self care thing have you always wanted to try but haven’t? For me, aerial scarves!

***Disclaimer: This blog post is solely the opinion of the author. It is not a substitute for mental health services nor does it constitute a professional relationship. If you are seeking mental health services, please contact a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing and emergency, please dial 911***