3 WAYS TO RETHINK WHAT SELF-CARE MEANS TO YOU

Are you spending enough time cultivating your mental and emotional well-being? Here’s why self-care is as simple as asking yourself, ‘what do I need?’


BY: KATHLEEN MEEHAN, MS, RD

How intentional are you in tending to your needs? Self-care is the act of noticing what you need, and then doing what’s available to honor that need.

A wise proponent of self-care once said, “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” and the saying serves as a great reminder to pay attention to our needs. While self-care is about refilling your cup when you notice it’s necessary, it is also valuable to recognize your needs from past experiences, and preventatively act to keep your cup as full as you’re able.  

Emphasizing self-care can be one of the greatest gifts for your well-being.  An increased focus on self-care can often lead to a stronger connection to our needs, as well as a better understanding of how to care for our bodies and minds.

While it may often be an intentional practice at first, many people find that with practice, it can become more natural to ask yourself “what do I need right now?”

Here are a few ways to do it.

1. Connect with your needs.

What are the things you do to take care of yourself on a regular basis? Many of us aren’t always encouraged to be especially thoughtful about self-care, but connecting to the needs of our bodies is a powerful practice.  If it feels foreign, know that it can be learned.

Begin noticing what you need, and consider what you can do to honor that need with what’s available to you. Much of the self-care conversation revolves around pampering – making time for mani/pedis, blow outs or lavish bubble baths. I’m a big fan of a good bath myself, but I encourage you to start with the basics.

2. Keep it simple.

Let’s resist the idea that self-care has to be complicated, fancy or expensive. Self-care can be anything, from changing the sheets on your bed, to letting yourself cry when you feel like it, to putting away piles of laundry, or giving yourself permission to skip the laundry-putting-away.

It can be reading books or watching tv. Self-care is not second guessing your hunger cues or cravings. It may be wiping down the kitchen counters, calling a loved one, doing some stretching. Self-care might be going on a gentle walk because your body is asking for some movement, or doing something a bit more strenuous when you’re well-rested and well-fueled. Self-care is making dentist appointments and going to therapy. It’s not always glamorous and it’s often boring. Whatever it looks like, there’s a reason it’s valuable.

3. Set your boundaries.

Boundary setting is also a form of self-care.  When you are in the habit of asking yourself what you need, you may notice you need to ask others to play a role in some way.

Maybe it’s helpful to ask friends to avoid diet talk around you, or you can practice changing the subject. When you begin to notice what you need for your own well-being, you may find yourself setting boundaries in many areas of your life.

You might need to ask for help at work to avoid an overwhelming workload, or commit to turning off electronic devices by a certain time to get the sleep you need.  Respecting your needs influences your well-being, and upholding boundaries can influence physical and mental health.

The truth is, self-care has many forms: from emotional to physical, to relational and spiritual.

How can you get in the habit of asking yourself what you need? What do you need to do to carve out time for adequate sleep?  

How can you treat your body with respect by wearing comfortable clothes?  What satisfying foods do you enjoy eating? What limits do you have for social media?

Self-care is flexible, and it will look differently for people under different circumstances. It’ll need to be individualized, and contrary to common concerns, self-care is absolutely not selfish. The exploration of self-care may take time and practice, but you deserve to have your needs met –

Because you are worthy.

HEADER IMAGE: KIRA AUF DER HEIDE

Kathleen Meehan MS, RD is a Houston-based dietitian with a virtual private practice. She specializes in Intuitive Eating and uses a weight-inclusive approach to help clients manage conditions or concerns. Kathleen partners with clients to help them rediscover the pleasure and satisfaction of food, while exploring unhelpful beliefs to reduce the stress of eating. Outside of counseling, Kathleen enjoys a good book or podcast, spending time in the great outdoors (especially Vermont!), and being with loved ones. See more at KathleenMeehanRD.com.  

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