What is Self-Care, actually?

What is self-care? Or perhaps more importantly, what is it not?

Unfortunately, much of what we see promoted as self-care these days are really just temporary distractions. For example, we may come across social media posts that give us the permission to "do something that feels good" or "treat yourself." It's often shared with the best of intentions, in an attempt to have us feel like we're empowering ourselves.

But self-care, real self-care - can actually be quite hard.

It's not just about the occasional spa day. Or binging on Netflix. Or drinking a glass or two of wine after a hard week.

Now, don't get me wrong, these things can be great. But they're more like relaxation techniques or ways to unplug and self-soothe. They may be able to get us to slow down for a bit and give us a brief respite from the demands (and stimulation) of day-to-day life - but they aren't in and of themselves promoting self-care or self-love.

That's why even after using self-soothing techniques, we can still feel overwhelmed or stuck, once the experience is over and we return to business as usual. Self-soothing doesn't actually address the things that are creating the stress and anxiety in our lives.

So we can begin to feel like we're just running the same patterns over and over again. Or it can feel like we're always putting in a lot of effort but not getting anywhere fast.

If this resonates with you, it may be time to re-evaluate your self-care strategy.

You see, self-care takes intentionality, focus and discipline. It's about taking an honest look and facing the things that are causing you to need to numb or distract yourself in the first place.

It could be something on the "simpler" side - like procrastinating on cleaning your home, or doing the laundry or paying the bills.

To something bigger like quitting a job or career that you deep down know is unfulfilling. Or taking a look at your finances to make a plan to get out of debt. Or leaving an unhealthy relationship that is no longer serving you.

As you can see, self-care won't always be fun and easy. True self-care often takes courage and commitment. It can be about sitting with yourself to face and process difficult emotions that you've been trying to run or escape from.

A big part of self-care is learning to develop healthier coping mechanisms and strategies.

If you're alive, you will have stress. But not all stress is bad. Certain kinds of stress can actually be positive, meaningful and productive. We often experience this kind of "good" stress when we're taking on a new challenge that we want to take on, especially because we believe it will benefit our well-being.

Therefore, stress is a critical part of personal development. And being able to manage our stress is key to being able to grow at the edge of our comfort zone.

Getting a massage. Reading a book. Watching a movie. Even yoga and meditation. These are all great as long as they're not simply being used as just another way to distract ourselves.

True self-care is focused on long-term wellness over short-term gratification.

Superficial "quick fix" self-care techniques won't have the life-changing or transformational effects that we're all seeking (whether we're conscious of it or not). Real self-care is more a mindset or way of living - a lifestyle. It's about making better choices and living intentionally so that we can evolve into the highest version of ourselves.