The Importance of Self-Care in our own Self-Development

Over the past few years, the perception of wellness has shifted from a focus on physical health to a holistic approach that includes both psychological and physical well-being. Notably, the term “self-care” has been widely used. It is important to note that wellness carries different meanings to not only different cultures, but even individuals within the same community. In other words, wellness and self-care are based on your own definition and best practices.

The topic of wellness is on the rise, too, evidenced by how millennials are investing in wellness-related aspects of their life more than ever before. With this trend, topics that were not openly discussed before, such as mental health, are slowly destigmatizing (albeit more work is still needed in today’s society), and conversations are opening up in the digital era. Psychological and physical well-being are celebrated across platforms, particularly on social media, which serves as a double-edged sword.

By amplifying self-awareness through self-care and therefore hone emotional intelligence skills, there is more to a “self-care” ritual beyond a hashtag on social media.

According to Psychology Times (as quoted by Forbes),  self care is about “nourishing our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being through various activities and practices.” The openness on well-being with personal anecdotes, articles, and tips are flooded in the media today, and these interactive online platforms can positively contribute to destigmatizing important topics such as mental health and raising greater awareness. However, promoting wellness on social media also involves negative side effects.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital and one of the world’s leading research centres in its field.

For instance, a specific aspect of wellness can easily become standardized, creating norms and expectations on what “wellness lifestyle,” or what “treating oneself” should look like. It can create constructed understanding of wellness rather than leveraging that wellness is what genuinely works best for you holistically.  With emerging trends such as celery juice dominant on social media, it can create an illusion and pressure that perhaps, one should be also drinking celery juice as part of self-care practice. Creating social expectations that someone’s self-care practice should translate to someone else’s wellness agenda and judging a different method of self-care from one another are not only toxic, but also involve privilege. The freedom to incorporate a wellness lifestyle is a privilege; the ability to share personal self-care routine is also a privilege on access to online platforms and resources. With all these ideas in mind, regardless of what one finds on their social media feed, it is critical to understand who you are, and what works best for you. Similarly, it is important to not judge others or make assumptions – especially acknowledging that social media introduces a filtered image. Self-care is your best know-hows that can bring you joy to your present self, and your future self.

In order to understand and identify what one’s best self-care entails, self-awareness is key. Self awareness refers to your ability to recognize your emotions and behaviours which allows an individual to learn about their reactions and thus, better manage the way it can impact surrounding ones. One example to enhance self-awareness is through mediation. Finding inner-peace and gratitude about who you are can improve your self-awareness and your well-being.

However, in a busy, fast-paced society, all of this is easier said then done. In fact, while wellness is on the rise, so are “burn-outs” which frequently involve anxiety or mood-related disorders that serves as precursors. It also impacts 20-50% of annual work turnovers in the U.S. In fact, “burn-out” is officially being recognized by the World Health Organization as a medical condition by 2021.

Often, in midst of tackling a long to-do list, one can easily feel guilty for taking a break, or taking extra time to complete a task. As one would say, “be kind to others”, be kinder to oneself and be more understanding. According to Forbes, “Self-care is often the very thing an individual who is experiencing burnout needs because it preserves our health.”

Your ability to understand your emotions, and compassion to yourself can help enhance your well-being as well as hone your emotional intelligence. It starts with being real to oneself and understanding that one is not alone. Self care does not have to reside at home; it can take place at the school, work – it can exist beyond our comfort zones.

With this in mind, self-care brings into the equation another related skill set particularly  valued in the workforce today: emotional intelligence. The ability to harness and recognize emotions help individuals adapt to new settings in a changing world.  It also assists one to understand the impact they may have on others and better perceive others’ emotions. While self-care is truly about oneself, having positive relationship with surrounding people can be beneficial to well-being as it increases a sense of a community network. According to a blog on the Harvard University website, “the core of high Emotional Intelligence is self-awareness… a lack of self-awareness can also thwart your ability to think rationally and apply technical capabilities.” Thus, self-care and wellness are not limited to one’s home; wellness can be integrated in various forms — including developing emotional intelligence through self-awareness and self-care. 

Self-care is about learning and growth. It’s self-development. Next time you may find yourself feeling guilty for deciding to take a “health-break” on a busy day, remember that it is part of self-development. As Mick Kremling says, “the best project you will ever work on yourself if you.” Self-care is not selfish, and one should not feel guilty about being kinder to oneself. If you do really feel guilty, why not spread a dash of kindness and empathy to those around you?

By Min Ji (Esther) Kim

Life enthusiast passionate about international development, sustainability, and civil society empowerment.

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