A simple swipe through your Instagram feed — if you’re anything like me — will last approximately 4.5 seconds before an inferiority complex kicks in. Plagued by scenes of silk pajamas, cooling face masks, elegant meditation nooks and gorgeous lattes, it’s totally normal to wonder what the hell you’re doing wrong (besides everything) and if you just missed the memo on getting an at-home barista for free (you haven’t; that’s not a thing). It’s all part of the rising trend of posting moments of self-care — or things we do to give back to our bodies and overall mental health — on social media.
“Self-care can be as unique as a fingerprint,” Dr. Racine Henry, a licensed marriage and family therapist in New York City and founder of Sankofa Marriage and Family Therapy, tells SheKnows. “Much like everything else on Instagram, the popular thing to do is showcase the self-care that can be envied. Some people don’t even know how to practice self-care, and others compound their pain or trauma by trying to find comfort in the self-care they see rather than what actually helps them rejuvenate or feel refreshed.”
Fact: Self-care isn’t all about bubble baths and turmeric lattes. Each person needs to choose what lifts them up personally, and that’s what they should focus on when they’re giving back to themselves. “Ultimately, self-care is about actively caring for your own physical and mental health so you can feel and be your best self,” says Jamison Monroe, CEO and founder of Newport Academy, a group of mental health centers for adolescents and families. While there’s no standard practice for everyone, the goal is the same: to foster your physical and mental well-being.
“It does not always have to be Instagram-friendly,” Monroe tells SheKnows. “In fact, self-care is more effective if you’re in the present moment, fully experiencing the activity rather than thinking about capturing it to share.”
The 7 kinds of self-care
Laura Albers, certified master wellness coach and licensed professional counselor, tells SheKnows there are seven different types of self-care: emotional (journaling or seeing a therapist), mental (reading a book or playing an instrument), physical (exercise), spiritual (praying or reading devotionals), social (hitting up happy hour), professional (having an end-of-day ritual at your desk) and financial (contributing to a 401(k) or setting five-year financial goals).
Certain activities, like working out, can sometimes fall into multiple categories. Tackling a long run on the weekends, for me, feels like a spiritual activity (while also being obviously physical). It’s my time to de-stress, focus on the miles, forget whatever happened last week or the to-do list lingering back home and give back to myself. Plus, it’s providing me with endorphins — the brain’s feel-good chemicals — boosting feelings of self-confidence and accomplishment.
Perhaps you’re more of gratitude journal-keeper or you’re the kind of woman who looks forward to nothing more than her biweekly wine date with her gal pals. Because remember: Self-care doesn’t need to be purchased at Whole Foods to be good for you. It just needs to make you feel good.
The most important thing about self-care
The most important aspect of self-care? That you take the time to do it in the first place.
“So many women have been conditioned to believe that self-care is selfish and that it’s more important and ‘noble’ to take care of others,” says Monroe, highlighting that a lot of women tend to have multiple roles (mother, sister, wife, business owner, etc.) that consume their time. “The fact is, attending to our own self-care gives us the strength, equanimity and calm that allows us to care for and give to others without feeling depleted and resentful.”
By taking care of yourself, in whichever way you choose, you’re giving a gift, not just to yourself, but to the ones you love. A happier, more fulfilled you is a happier, more fulfilled partner, mother, coworker, you name it. We all deserve that gift, no bath salts or bubble baths required.