Healthy Habits,  Life

What Is Self Care Anyway?

self care bubble with frost on bed of fall leaves
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

What is self care anyway?

I am sitting here writing about self-care at nearly 11:00 pm at night, which I think, is the definition of non-care. The problem is when else can I write?

I work long hours.
I have a husband and a part-time grandchild.
I have the myriad of things that are required for life – house, budget, critters, other obligations.

Where in that is time for me?

Have you seen the commercial that starts out “I have 23 minutes to myself this week”? The commercial then goes on to tell you to use those minutes to eat some not very good for you food.

Is this what life has come down to?

I seem to spend an awful amount of time talking about self-care. These are the words I use with my clients and friends. These words are written in my bullet journal where some of the “self-care” items have made it to my task list. Several books on my bookshelf are dedicated to the subject.

Oh, who am I kidding? There are a lot of books (<50) on this very topic. Not that I’m reading them nor am I really doing much of it.

None of them give great answers to this question: what is self-care?

When does someone mention the word ‘self care’ what comes to mind? When I ask my clients this very questions, I’m given variations of the following:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Getting enough sleep

And when we look at specific “self-care” items, it often looks like lists of this:

  • take a bubble bath
  • getting away from it all
  • binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix

Most definitely, each of these things is a good idea. But are they really self care?


I discovered a few definitions.

The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.

The practice of taking an active role in preserving one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

And my favorite:

Knowing who you are and your limits. (Sounds an awful lot like boundaries.)

These certainly make it seem like the choices above are definitely self care. And, I thought this made sense. However, I read something recently that really made me think about what this is and does it really make sense.

This article recently came out in The Guardian. It’s called We Need to Move on From Self-care to Something that Cannot be Captured by Capitalism. 

If you’ve not read it, this publication often has some thought-provoking writings.  In this article, the writer talks about the created idea of self-care and how it isn’t necessarily good for us. What she spoke about was collective care.

What? You mean a society where all of the systems and communities are set up so that we care for each other.

Mind Blown!!!
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

One of the quotes in the article was by Marcus Aurelius. He said, “what is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee.” This makes so much more sense to me. I believe this is about making sure we are all okay, and not just ourselves.

I’ve often thought about the saying (and I could be saying it wrong) that goes something like this – Create a life that you don’t have to take a vacation from. This though has been in my mind for years. But how can we do this?

My first thoughts were of the mental load that women tend to carry for the mundane things that keep our lives going – home and family. Women, in general, carry an inordinate amount of the weight of the care of the family. Not that every woman does or that all men don’t help in these areas but it is often left up to the woman, not only to do the majority of the housework and childrearing. But she is often in charge of schedules, school stuff, maintenance of the home, etc.

No wonder we need self-care.

How do we shift toward collective care?

I’m not sure I have answers for anyone but I am looking at ways to make this happen in my own world.

I’m slowly implementing a few things to help me out with shifting some of the load:

I refuse to feel guilty when my husband washes dishes. This guilt is leftover from my childhood – where I was blatantly taught that it was my job to take care of these things.

I am letting the people around me learn to take care of themselves in different ways. My husband makes his own appointments – and keeps them – without reminders from me.

And, because we have a part-time grandchild, I am learning to let him discover his independence, which is a great relief to me.

I say no more often, though probably not enough.

These may not seem like a lot to you, but these things are huge for me. And I am finding myself less frustrated and resentful. It hasn’t translated over into being less tired yet, because often the only time I have for myself is in the quiet of the night.

Is this collective care? I doubt it but when I say no and put up boundaries, yes, I am taking care of myself, but I am also teaching those that I care for, that they must also take care of me.

This, I think, is the movement toward collective care.

What do you think? Please leave a comment and let me know how you are making this shift.

Until next time,