Self-care isn't self-indulgent

Self-Care isn’t Self-Indulgent

In my work as an OT and in my life in general I often come across phrases that make me sad. I have lost count of the times I’ve heard ‘I don’t have time to pace’. This phrase is usually followed by a list of things the person does for others… I often have to prompt them to talk about things they do for themselves.

With this post I’m aiming to get across the message that Self-Care isn’t Self-Indulgent. Self-care is essential. The list of things that count as ‘self-care’ is a lot longer and more varied that many people think.

So, lets start with a definition.

In health care, self-care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated1. To care for one’s self without medical intervention2. When translated into real english what that basically covers is any thing you do to or for yourself to manage your health.

Self care could be eating a balanced diet, brushing your teeth, taking prescribed medication or getting some exercise. These are things we often think of as ‘looking after ourselves’. It’s generally accepted that these are essential things. Socially acceptable things to spend time doing.

I take a slightly more holistic view of ‘health’. The definition of health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity3.If mental and social well-being are essential to heath then these things should be included in our definition of self-care right?

If social isolation negatively impacts your mental health then any social activity you do promotes health and is thus self-care.

If crochet boosts your mood, soothes your anxiety and gives you a sense of achievement then it supports your mental and emotional well-being. It supports your health. Crochet is self-care.

Who decided that being clean is more important than having fun.. it certainly isn’t always the case for children! As adults we seem to spend a lot of time trying to live up to society’s version of normal, societies version of healthy. We do for others before doing for ourselves. In my professional and personal life I’ve learnt to challenge that. When working as an OT I work on what the client thinks is important.

Who am I to decide wether bathing or painting is the more important task?

I would urge you all to do the same. Next time you think ‘I don’t have time for that’ think about what you’re doing instead. Is sending one more email really essential to your well-being?

Finding time for activities you love is not selfish or self-indulgent. Your happiness is just as important as the next persons. This is especially true for those who can’t achieve the optimum ‘health’. Those who don’t have the option to be free of ‘disease or infirmity’. For us it’s essential we strive for the other elements of health. Often living with poor physical health means taking a little extra time to look after your mental health. The reverse is also true.

So at some point today, find time to do something you love. Even just a few minutes can make a big difference.

As always, comments and questions are welcome.


Reference List

Self-care. Wikipedia. Accessed May 7, 2017.
the definition of self-care. Accessed May 7, 2017.
Constitution of WHO: principles. World Health Organization. Accessed May 7, 2017.

3 thoughts on “Self-Care isn’t Self-Indulgent

  1. This one hit me at home, thank you! I’m working really really hard on creating a sense of wellbeing for myself and you just shot straight at the heart of why I’ve been having trouble – feeling guilty and selfish.
    Not sure I’ll ever be satisfied with the fact I can’t be everything for everyone as well as look after myself – but you’ve taken a lot of the pressure I’ve unconsciously been putting on myself.

    Again, thank you x

  2. I fully agree, the number of times I have told people they need to love themselves in balance with helping others.

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