September is Self-Care Awareness Month. Cue all the thoughts of you wearing a white robe while getting a pedicure or sitting back with cucumbers covering your eyes as someone massages your hands. Picture all of those social media-worthy moments. Now, erase those images and consider all of the other ways you can show yourself a little love each and every day.
According to pharmacist and self-care strategist Alisha Reed, PharmD, there are six types of self-care and only one of them involves a spa day.
“Most people think that self-care has to be a spa day or a massage or a manicure, but there are several types of self-care,” Reed told Blavity. “As a pharmacist, I really like to let my patients know that self-care is really proactive care. It’s taking the steps to manage and maintain your health, and not just physical health, but mental and spiritual health. So, these are things that you can do to preserve your overall health.”
Reed gave Blavity a play-by-play on the different forms of self-care, how you can honor yourself on a budget and the dangers of not practicing self-care.
Physical: It's more than just working out
While physical self-care indeed focuses on the body, it’s not just exercising.
“Most people immediately think of exercise because it’s physical, but physical self-care can be your skincare routine,” Reed said. “It really can just be the act of making sure that your skin is healthy.”
Another example of physical self-care is getting enough sleep.
“Physical self-care is really about doing all the things for your body,” Reed said. “So that can involve proper sleep, sleeping seven to eight hours a night. I know it’s hard for people, but that’s an example of physical self-care.”
Of course, the spa day is under this form of self-care, but it doesn’t have to break the bank.
“People think it’s expensive because they are looking at the wrong things for self-care,” Reed said. “You’re looking at an extravagant spa day. Most people cannot spend $400 to go to the spa, but what you can do is take $25 and go purchase the things to have an at-home spa day.”
Physical self-care, Reed said, is really just making sure that you’re taking care of your body.
“Eating healthy is nurturing your body,” she said. “So those are all of the examples of physical self-care outside of just running in the park or taking a walk.”
Mental: Self-care Sunday, but like, every day, though
Self-care really took center stage amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Reed, it’s become a buzzword by way of the pandemic. While phrases like Self-Care Sunday are in these days, self-care is a daily thing.
“We should really be focusing on what self-care means and how we can practice self-care every day,” Reed said. “I think what’s really important is focusing on the fact that self-care is something that can be incorporated into your lifestyle. You don’t have to wait until a Sunday to practice self-care, to use the hashtag.”
Enter mental self-care.
“Mental self-care is stimulating your brain, so that involves activities such as reading a book, doing crossword puzzles, going to art galleries, going to plays, doing all those things that engage and stimulate your mind.”
Cognitive exercises also preserve your memory.
“It also allows you to expand on your knowledge and know about things that are going on in the world – it’s real brain development,” Reed said.
Learning something new is one example of mental self-care.
“Like a lot of people, I have the word of the day. It may sound corny, but it’ll just be a new word every day, just something that you can add to your vocabulary,” she said.
Emotional: Laughing and crying are essential
Expressing your emotions is essential to your overall well-being.
“Most people think that this means going to see a therapist,” Reed said. “While that is actually one of the ways to practice emotional self-care, it is also about checking in with yourself and your feelings.”
She suggests doing a gratitude list so that you can figure out what you’re grateful for, which allows you to tap into your emotions. She also recommends practicing mindfulness as a means of appreciating the things around you and journaling to keep a log of your thoughts and feelings.
“It’s really getting in touch and in tune with your emotions and your feelings,” Reed said. “Kids are really great at expressing their feelings. As adults, we should be able to do that, too.”
Crying and laughing are other great forms of emotional self-care, she said.
Social: Enjoy the relationships that nurture you
Social self-care involves positive relationships and friendships.
“Social self-care would be going to brunch or dinner or parties, social events around people who are good for your soul and spirit,” Reed said. “Due to the pandemic, we’ve lost a lot of our access to social self-care because we weren’t able to gather. Social self-care is just being around your family, friends, coworkers, happy hours and things like that.”
Traveling also falls under the social self-care category.
Spiritual: Get in tune with your soul
Spiritual self-care isn’t a religion, but it does involve your soul.
“It’s not just related to the worship of a higher being, although that is one of the aspects,” Reed said. “Spiritual self-care really means being in tune with your soul and your spirit — really connecting with your inner being.” Practices related to spiritual self-care include yoga, meditation and affirmations.
“Things like that allow you to nourish your soul, really nurture your spirit,” Reed said. “A lot of people practice spiritual self-care to help manage anxiety, depression or insomnia.”
Practical: Do things that make your life easier
Anything that makes your day run a bit smoother can fall under the practical self-care category.
“Practical self-care is doing those things that make your life easier and less stressful,” Reed said. “So when you have practical self-care, you think about organizing, having a planner and planning out your day, your week, or creating a budget, whether that be finance or time management.”
Hiring someone to help you clean or cook is also a form of practical self-care.
“My mom didn’t practice self-care,” Reed said. “I was determined to break that generational curse because, for some reason, we think we have to do all the things and we don’t deserve a break. And we have to really change our mindset and give ourselves the grace to treat ourselves with kindness.”
Reed cautions the cost of not finding a way to be practical can be detrimental.
“I get so passionate about it because people really deny and deprive themselves of self-care because they have the wrong idea of it.”
Self-care every day: Make yourself a priority
Since the average picture of self-care looks like a spa retreat, one might think it’s too expensive to show yourself the necessary love. However, Reed said there are plenty of free ways to care for yourself.
“You can play a tourist in your own city,” she said. “You can take a walk 15-minute power nap. Drinking a glass of tea or coffee alone is self-care. There are a lot of things that we can do. And that’s why it circles back to incorporating self-care into your daily life. There are things that you can do that don’t cost anything — just making yourself a priority is self-care in itself.”
There are dangers to not prioritizing yourself, Reed said.
“Stress exacerbates a lot of health conditions,” she said. “People are at a greater risk for certain health conditions because of unmanaged health, so it has a bigger impact than people realize. Make time for yourself — take the break before something makes you take a break.”
If you’re struggling to check in with yourself, Reed offers self-care strategy sessions and other care tips on her website.