September 26th 2019

What is “self-care”?

What makes one activity merely something you enjoy while another is considered self-care? The term is used so frequently that it has lost most meaning and become nothing more than a catch phrase that is thrown around as a show.

Christianna Silva wrote a very compelling article called “The Millennial Obsession with Self-Care”. In it she incorporates Gracy Obuchowicz viewpoint that “self-care alone is not enough. You need to have self-awareness too.”

I would go even farther to say that we need an “intention” as well. I believe that self-care is the awareness of yourself (especially in negative situations, personal patterns, or responses) and setting the intention of change while using an enjoyable activity as a catalyst.,

A self-care activity is something that restores our physical, mental, and emotional balance. It is an activity we enjoy and that we do with deliberate intention. Enjoyment of the activity is essential. If we don’t enjoy the activity, then it is just one more thing draining our resources.

What are some of the conventional things we do that we call self-care? Reading a book, going out with friends, working out, going to the spa . . . And yet, once we finish these activities we are left feeling tired, or let down, or just plain short on funds. So why are these activities, that are supposed to be replenishing our soul and zest for another new day, not doing their job?

Because there was no intention set for during the activity. Say that my self care activity is to go out with friends. We have some food, drinks, desserts, whatever and we spend the time catching up. We talk about work, friends, family, partners. Discussing all the good things and all the bad. We all listen sympathetically to each of the various topics and offer opinions and advice. We wrap up the evening saying we will do this again soon, while knowing it will be months or longer before we do, and go back home.

My friends and I have just spent a large part of the evening focussing on negative aspects of our lives and allowing those people and situations to intrude into our time together. How is that self-care?

Self-awareness and Intention . . . The awareness of when you are in need of an enjoyable experience and the intention of enjoying the experience itself.

Let’s try a different example. I love tea, I make at least one cup every day. It is something many of us do without thinking. Here is how I use the 3 minutes it takes to brew a cup of tea as a self-care activity.

A simple, mindless, task;

  • boil water, pour over tea-bag, let steep, drink.

As a self-care activity, every little step is important and needs to be done with intention.

  • Fill the kettle and set to boil.
  • Choose a tea cup, what looks good to me today – the shape, colour, weight.
  • Choose the tea, what smells good – caffeinated, decaffeinated, light and fruity.
  • Pour and let steep; watch the change of colours, notice the sent as the hot water makes the tea.

I have now used 3 minutes, 180 seconds, to create something I enjoy and made with intention.

Self-care is not a selfish act. As Raphailia Michael states, “if I don’t take enough care of myself, I won’t be in the place to give to my loved ones either”. It is a personal act and each of us has different ways and activities that replenish our bodies and minds. It may take some trial-and-error but we each will find our own rhythm so that we can give our best to the world.

Michael, R. (2018). What Self-Care Is — and What It Isn’t. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2019, from

Silva, C. (2017). The Millennial Obsession with Self-Care. NPR. Retrieved on September 26, 2019, from

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