You know that taking care of yourself is important for your mental health, but let’s face it — there’s kind of a lot going on right now.
Practicing self-care, though, doesn’t have to be “me time,” or reading a book because you think you “should.” Knowing the different types of self-care means you can switch up your routine to meet your body and mind where they’re at.
"We prioritize depending on our needs," says
Cynthia Catchings, L.C.S.W.-S., a therapist for the online mental health platform Talkspace. You need to pay rent, so you prioritize work that puts money in the bank as financial self-care. Depending on your experiences, you may need to make sure you feel safe in social interactions — which might mean saying yes to a Zoom happy hour, and no to a park hang. That, too, is a kind of self-care. Broadening your understanding of self-care can help you find meaning in the less-great parts of your day while keeping yourself high on your own priority list.
From caring for your intellectual needs, to validating your social skills, self-care is a lot more dynamic than just lighting a candle. Take a look at these eight types of self-care to figure out where your self-love game could use a refresh.
It's important to start with the basics.
Taking a tiered approach to self-care can make it all seem not quite as intimidating. Consider making sure you do at least two or three of the following each day: brushing your teeth; taking a bath or shower; drinking a few glasses of water; eating some food; and letting yourself sleep. If you've got the basics under control, you might also be interested changing into going out clothing (even if you're not going anywhere) and giving yourself a cool hairstyle. You might also integrate exercise to keep your body and mind in sync.
Meeting this baseline is important because
, well, it's a baseline: you need a strong foundation to build the rest of your self-care house.
When was the last time you tried to learn something in-depth that wasn't
for work? Figuring out how to bake sourdough isn't just about doing what's hip in quarantine this week — learning something new can recharge your brain and make you feel excited about not knowing everything. Intellectual self-care can include anything from reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching a documentary, or going on a Wikipedia dive into the making of your favorite TV show. Absent IRL socializing, being intentional about giving your brain new things to do can help you feel accomplished and sharp. "Intellectual self-care is specifically important during quarantine because we need to feel that we continue growing, even while experiencing the stagnation caused by the pandemic," Catchings says.
If you didn't have work-life balance pre-pandemic, your boss knowing exactly what your bookshelf looks like probably didn't help things. But Catchings says that learning to identify and effectively communicate your boundaries is key. If you need to keep your camera off during a meeting, then keep your camera off during a meeting. You're allowed to set that boundary.
Professional self-care is also part of making your day-to-day as efficient as possible, so you can spend less mental energy on Karen from Accounting. Catchings suggests keeping structured calendars or to-do lists with clear separations between work stuff and life stuff. Identify things you absolutely need to do at work today, and set the boundaries you need at home to do whatever's left tomorrow (and not after you eat dinner).
Saying no will probably be a big part of this process, but that's all part of setting priorities. Another big boundary? You might also try carving out a half-hour after work to journal, or take a walk, or cook, so you can calm down from the workday and transition into your
home home life.
Financial worries can affect us emotionally, causing stress, anxiety, and even depression," Catchings says. "When we experience financial difficulties, we tend to ruminate and create more negative thoughts that perpetuate the negativity cycle."
To make it easier to deal with your
personal and family finances, make sure you're keeping track of what you're making and what you're spending. Maybe you'll use a financial planning app, or maybe you'll just jot your coffee run expenses into a notebook. You might also consider listening to money podcasts, for simultaneous intellectual stimulation and economic self-love.
Not having money is, understandably, stressful, and personal finance-related self-care might not be applicable if you're struggling with debt, or unemployed, or simply don't have enough money coming in. Self-care isn't going to change those realities, but it can help you adjust how you approach them. As with all forms of self-care, what an
emotionally healthy relationship with money looks like is different for everyone. Try setting up a consultation with a therapist to help you figure out a path forward.
That sense of deep calm you feel when you're totally immersed in your favorite thing can be a spiritual experience, no matter what your beliefs.Lifting weights or sinking into your yoga practice might be your own version of spiritual self-care. "I have had extremely powerful
mental and emotional breakthroughs during my workouts," L.A.-based personal trainer Shantani Moore tells Bustle. "While it doesn’t happen every time, I know that it can happen and that possibility is so exciting for me. I get to know myself and my thoughts most deeply during the most challenging of workouts." Catchings also suggests meditation, helping others, or being in nature as ways to tap into your spiritual side.
Social interaction can help you feel fulfilled, validated, and loved, but sometimes, yet another Zoom hang is draining. That's where
social self-care comes in.
"Boundaries are one of the essential concepts in self-care," Catchings says. "Without them, we cannot say that we are taking care of ourselves." Focus on communicating clearly when you need to pull it back and just focus on you. "I love hanging out with you, but I need some time to myself tonight" can be a good way to start.
Saying yes and making sure you have the social engagement you need to thrive is also important part of the equation. Try to practice reaching out when you need help or company, because it gets easier each time you challenge yourself to do it.
What's the state of the kitchen table that you use as a desk? Even your regularly scheduled messiness might hit different when you don't have anywhere else to be but home.
Environmental self-care is the practice of taking care of your environment; like physical self-care, checking off this basic can help you feel more grounded in your space.
Photos of your found family all around your desk, a cozy blanket always ready to be snuggled with on the couch, and a bedroom without all your laundry on the floor can help you feel like you can breathe a bit easier.
Are you journaling, taking necessary time away from the news, and doing something every day that makes you laugh? Take some time to think of the activities that make you feel emotionally fulfilled. It might be volunteering with local queer youth center, or it might be holing up in your favorite chair and doing nothing all day but reading 19th century novels (or both). Of course, emotional self-care is going to overlap with all the other forms of self-care. The more you practice each type, the stronger every other type can become.
Experts: Cynthia Catchings, L.C.S.W.-S., therapist, Talkspace Shantani Moore, personal trainer