Mental Health Blog

What is Self-Care?

How Can We Practice Self-Care?

Self-care is a practice of self-love that has existed for many years. With the rising “clean girl” trend on TikTok, self-care is a hashtag that has garnered immense popularity ever since the COVID-19 pandemic. According to USA Today, in 2019, Google searches for “self-care” had reached a 14-year high (Dastagir, 2019). With all the aesthetic images of bubble baths and face masks floating on Pinterest, it’s easy to forget that self-care is a broad term and includes several methods to take care of yourself. While using the occasional face mask is a good way to unwind after a long day, the most researched methods of self care can be split into three categories: physical, social, and mental. 

Physical Self-Care:

Making healthy lifestyle choices is a big part of physical self-care. According to Penn State Health News (2021), “Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, stress, depression, negative mood, and improving cognitive function.” Working out releases feel-good hormones such as endorphins, which have been shown to improve mood and behavior. Exercise is not the only beneficial lifestyle change, however. It is important to check in on your sleep and diet as well. Sleep has long been associated with having many physical and mental health benefits. Research suggests that sleep has a direct correlation with mood. When people don’t get enough sleep, they often wake up in a more negative mood than their 8-hour counterparts. Sleep additionally affects the way one thinks, because poor sleep has been shown to affect concentration, solve problems, and make decisions. Many students opt to pull all-nighters during exam season, but they may result in more harm than good. A well-balanced diet also contributes to a more positive mental well-being. According to Aetna (n.d.), “When you stick to a diet of nutrient-rich foods, you are setting yourself up for fewer mood swings and an improved ability to focus. Studies have even found that clean diets consisting of mainly whole, unprocessed foods, can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety.” Although eating healthy has many benefits, it’s important to remember to treat yourself to your favorite snack once in a while, because self-care is only beneficial when it is utilized in a balance.

Mental Self-Care:

Mental self-care can take many forms, but researchers have found significant health benefits associated with journaling, meditating, and spending time in nature. WebMD (n.d.) states, “Journaling about your feelings is linked to decreased mental distress. In a study, researchers found that those with various medical conditions and anxiety who wrote online for 15 minutes three days a week over a 12-week period had increased feelings of well-being and fewer depressive symptoms after one month. Their mental well-being continued to improve during the 12 weeks of journaling.” Journaling is not just limited to your feelings; even journaling about the events in your daily life often helps people unwind after a busy and stressful day. Meditating is also a hobby that has taken the internet by storm in recent years. “Meditation has been shown to offer many benefits. Although it’s well known as a technique to reduce stress and anxiety, research shows that it may also help enhance your mood, promote healthy sleep patterns, and boost cognitive skills” (White, 2023). While meditation is a mindfulness activity, it can also be practiced during stretching when participating in activities like yoga, which have long been associated with their respective health benefits. Layering self-care habits is a good way to get the most out of your favorite hobbies. For example, spending time in nature “is connected to cognitive and mental health benefits, as well as improvements in mood and emotional well-being.” (McMaster University, 2021). “From a stroll through a city park to a day spent hiking in the wilderness, exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation” (Weir, 2020). The next time you find yourself feeling stressed, consider unwinding with your favorite hobbies, or layer your go-to self care activities by indulging with them outdoors.

Social Self-Care:

An important question to consider with your social self-care is whether you are spending enough time nurturing your relationships with your friends and family (Scott, 2023). The Calgary Counselling Center (2023) states that “Studies have shown that having positive, supportive relationships and social connections can increase our overall well-being, boost our immune system, lower stress levels, and even contribute to longer life expectancy. Social connections are critical to our psychological and physical health.” Having close friends and family that you can confide in during difficult times is an essential part of growing as a person, and easing the burden that you carry with your worries. Sometimes the best medicine when feeling overwhelmed is to open up to people that you trust, and do the same for them when needed.

Self-care is more than just a trend on social media; it is a way to protect your mental health and show self-love during difficult and stressful times. It is important to remember that self-care only works in moderation, and in order to reap the full benefits of looking after yourself, it is important to indulge in a treat and something that makes you happy. While it may seem like a juxtaposition, eating your favorite chocolate bar can sometimes result in the same mood boost as looking after your diet. The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, remember to check in on your lifestyle habits and partake in the numerous self-care activities that are available to us. While small habits may seem like they don’t make a major difference in our lives, implementing healthy habits into our daily routines make tremendous improvements in the long run. 


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Elizabeth Scott, P. (2023, February 13). 5 Self-care practices for every area of your life. Verywell Mind.

Global Self-Care Federation. (n.d.). What is self-care?

Mercuri-Rivers, M. (2022, September 16). 7 Benefits of spending time in nature. Student Wellness Centre.

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Caring for your mental health. National Institute of Mental Health.

WebMD. (n.d.). How journaling can help ease anxiety and encourage healing.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.