What is self-care?

“Self-Care” is a phrase that has been incredibly popularized in the past few years. Articles about face masks and shopping sprees once reigned exclusively over the conversation, but these days, many people are realizing that self-care has to be more than a Tom Haverford-esque “treat yourself”moment. So, what exactly is self-care then? 

First, I want to say that self-care can very well be a “treat yourself” session or a revamped skincare routine. However, the frustration that many find is that their self-care activity didn’t actually solve the issue that were caring for in the first place. In my years of studying self-care, I’ve learned that most self-care methods won’t solve every issue in your life (I wish). One method won’t solve all your problems and help you get your life together. But good self-care gets you closer to the solution.

The important thing about self-care is that it’s about YOU. Whatever you need self-care to be, it can be. The trick is getting clear on what exactly you need in the moment and in the long-term, and how to tell the difference between the two. In this article, I’ll discuss three types of self-care (foundational, preparatory, and transitory) and how you can use them to create balance and beauty in your life.

Foundational Self-Care

Foundational self-care is the groundwork of self-care. Before the “fun” stuff like face masks and shopping can be effective, you have to learn what exactly you need from self-care. There isn’t one action that will give you a straight answer. Foundational self-care takes ongoing work because we evolve and develop over time. Even still, it’s important to just start.

The easiest way for me to understand self-care is thinking of it as taking myself on a first date while also raising myself as my own child. Now, I know that sounds terribly disturbing, but as an adult, you’re the person both taking care of yourself and providing yourself with intimate love. You have to know yourself on both planes. So, how do you do that?

First, raise yourself with affirmations. Affirmations allow you to reprogram your mind to be able to receive self-care in a positive manner. Each day, remind yourself that you are strong, intelligent, beautiful, capable, and whatever else you wish to be. Say the affirmations regularly and frequently to really inspire a change within yourself. Read more about how to use affirmations here.

In addition to affirmations, use journaling to get to know yourself better. Journaling allows us to know ourselves in a deeper, more intentional way and also exposes patterns in our thinking and behaviors. You can read more about journaling here, but I love to start by recapping my day and emotions on paper and then following a prompt to encourage myself to dive deeper. You can also sign up for Gentler Journaling to help you start a journaling habit.

Preparatory Self-Care

Preparatory self-care is where self-care gets messy, but it’s also really special. It helps you create space for fun and fulfillment in your life. Preparatory self-care involves doing all the things that could potentially cause resistance. It’s like removing roadblocks for yourself. Now, prep self-care looks different for everyone, but for me it goes something like this:

•           Getting clothes out the night before

•           Cleaning my apartment a little each night

•           Drinking enough water throughout the day

•           Calling the doctor to schedule an appointment

•           Charging my phone and tablet well before leaving home

•           Budgeting my finances for the month

•           Opening the text message or email I’ve been avoiding

As you can see, sometimes it looks like the not-so-fun stuff, but really, it is the stuff that allows you to have fun and relax a little. I don’t have to rush in the morning before work because I already did all the hard stuff like packing a lunch and getting my outfit out the night before. Instead, I can spend a little extra time savoring a cup of tea or watching a show or even sleeping in a little later before work.

Transitory Self-Care

The last type of self-care we’ll discuss today is what I like to call transitory self-care. This is probably the type you’re most familiar with. Transitory self-care is self-care that does not have a permanent effect on your wellbeing. These things, like face masks, shopping, eating a fun dessert, etc., may make you feel good for a moment, but they don’t necessarily solve the problem. 

Don’t get me wrong: there is definitely a place for transitory self-care. Sometimes you don’t want self-care to be messy or hard and you just need a momentary distraction. That is perfectly fine. I sit down about once a week to try out a new face mask, pour a glass of wine, and watch Netflix, and I LOVE it. The trick is finding a balance. When you’re doing enough foundational and preparatory self-care, you know the difference between genuinely needing transitory self-care and avoiding your problems. We would be remiss to just toss transitory self-care to the side as frivolous; have your fun, girl!

Now, you should have a better understanding of Gentler’s view on self-care, and you can use this to better understand the podcast episodes, blog posts, and other resources. Be sure to check them all out to dive a little deeper. Can’t wait to talk soon!