July 24 is International Self-Care Day!
If you’ve been on social media this past year, chances are you’ve seen the phrase “self-care” a few times. It’s not hard to figure out what self-care means—quite literally, taking care of yourself—but what does that entail, really? What does self-care look like in real life, and do you absolutely need to buy a bath bomb for every day of the week in order to take care of yourself?
What is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to our psychological well-being, and is affected by factors like genetics, emotional state, and social interactions. Poor mental health can have negative effects on our self-esteem, social relationships, motivation, and even physical health.
In fact, research shows that people who are regularly stressed or unhappy are more likely to suffer from insomnia, headaches, and muscle tension, while a prolonged state of mental illness can increase the risk of heart disease.
In colloquial conversation, the phrase “mental health” is often used as a synonym for mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, or personality disorders. In reality, “mental health” is to “mental illness” as “physical health” is to “physical illness:” mental health can be positive or negative, while mental illness is a condition or state of negative health.
Just as we maintain our bodily health through routine physical activity or a tailored care plan, we also need to take care of our mental health. Though mental well-being and self-care can look different for everyone, the most effective self-care methods will help you improve your self-esteem, manage negative thoughts and emotions, and establish a regular routine to weather even the most difficult of days.
Establish A Regular Routine
Bubble baths, scented candles, and solitary movie nights may be staples of every Instagram self-care night, but they’re not the only way.
Setting up a regular routine helps to establish a rhythm and balance, which can be far more beneficial for your mental health than a once-in-a-blue-moon evening spent taking pictures of a candlelit night in—even during a pandemic, according to an article in the Washington Post!
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners have long known that routine and balance are key to psychological well-being: it’s why so many TCM remedies focus on equilibrium and stabilizing the body before illness and imbalance even have a chance to attack.
Making self-care a part of your everyday schedule ensures that no matter how hectic things get, you can give yourself the time and space you need to slow down, breathe, and heal.
A routine can be as big or as small as you want to make it: here are our favorite ways to take care of ourselves every day.
1. Processing the Past
Whether you had a frustrating day at work or feel like celebrating a major success, an important part of self-care is being mindful of how you’re feeling. Take time to process your emotions by journaling or talking to friends and family.
For a lower-energy alternative, make it a habit to “check in” while washing your face in the morning and evening: how are you feeling? What caused those feelings? As you rinse off the debris of the day, take a deep breath, relax your muscles, and let go.
2. Meditation and Me Time
While a yoga mat adds a nice touch, it’s not essential for this meditative session. In self-care, meditation is all about slowing down and being aware of the present moment.
Gentle physical touch is a great way to stay grounded: close your eyes and give yourself space to connect with the world as you massage in toner and moisturizer, paying attention to what you hear, smell, and touch. If you have sensitive or dry skin, you can also mix in a serum to soothe your skin as you meditate.
3. Take Care of Tomorrow
Self-care involves your future self, too. Indulging can be a fun way to unwind, but if you’re staying up till 3 in the morning on a weekday in the name of self-care, you’re more likely to sabotage the day ahead.
Instead, spend a minute envisioning a fulfilling day and planning your goals, or go to bed early. For habitual insomniacs, our facial oil and overnight mask contain lavender and hyaluronic acid for a restorative night’s rest, or let our relaxing nighttime playlist lull you to sleep.
4. Grand Gestures
All that being said, pampering yourself once in a while is a great way to care for yourself! Set aside time in your schedule for something that brings you joy and energy, like reading, going for a bike ride, or playing video games.
An at-home rest day is also a great opportunity for some TCM skincare therapy: jade rolling and gua sha are fun, easy ways to de-stress. Small acts of kindness, like volunteering at an animal shelter or making the switch to eco-friendly cotton pads, can also help us feel good.
Self-Care = Self-Love
Taking care of yourself is the first step to loving yourself. Perhaps the best love story isn’t one we’re waiting for, but one that we write a little bit of every day. Happy International Self-Care Day from Botanic Pretti5!
Written by Fion Tse