What Is Self-Care and Why Is It Important?

Planet Fitness member working out on a treadmill
Taking time to love yourself can help you love your everyday life.

by Mary Lambkin

"You can't love others until you learn to love yourself." It might sound like a line from a romantic comedy — but despite its cheesiness, it's totally true. So what is self-care, exactly? In essence, it's treating yourself well -- taking time to de-stress, adopt healthy habits and focus on issues that are important to you. Read on to learn more about why self-care is so important, and how to practice it.

Reduce Stress Levels

Taking time for yourself can help you re-focus and de-stress after a tough day in the office or with the kids. According to the American Psychological Association, just five minutes of exercise can help with "mood enhancement," so squeeze in a short gym session to lift your spirits. Spend 15 minutes digging into a good book before bed, or lose yourself in a podcast during your evening commute. These little breaks can help make your day less boring and keep stress levels at bay.

Gain a New Perspective

If you're hung up on a problem and can't find a solution, one of the best things you can do is direct your energy elsewhere for a few, and then come back in a fresh state of mind. Head to the gym and busy your mind with counting exercise repetitions. Take a yoga class to focus on your breathing and get lost in the flow of the movements. A short walk might be just the medicine you need to shift your perspective and come back to a problem from a new angle.

Look Good, Feel Good

Caring for yourself increases confidence, which can help you approach all areas of life with more certainty and optimism. Try to build a few extra minutes into your day for you to focus on ... you! After a workout at the gym, take the time to stretch out sore muscles, scrub away in the shower and get yourself mentally and physically ready for what's next. You'll be proud of your accomplishment at the gym, feel good after a bit of pampering and be prepared to fearlessly tackle your to-do list for the day.

Become Part of a Community

Try to go to the gym at the same time every day or join a work-out buddy you meet every week. Once you get to know others, you can help hold each other accountable and accomplish goals together. This type of positive support encourages self-care and creates lasting relationships.

Get the Rest You Need

Being your best self is only possible if you're not grouchy from a night of restlessness. If you have trouble falling asleep, try establishing a soothing nighttime routine to help your mind and body relax before bed. Perhaps an after-work gym session followed by dinner, a hot shower and a few minutes reading will do the trick. As noted by the National Sleep Foundation, regular exercise can reduce insomnia, helping you get the sleep your body needs. After a good night's sleep, you'll have the energy you need to accomplish a full day's work — as well as find a few minutes for some well-deserved self-care.

So, what is self-care? The short answer: knowing when to put yourself first. And doing so.