Self-care is a pretty common buzzword right now. But what does it actually mean? When people talk about self-care, do they mean pigging out on junk food, taking long baths, taking a vacation, or do they mean something else altogether?

It’s easy to think that while doing things we enjoy, we are taking the best care of ourselves, but even though doing things we enjoy is an important part of self-care, it’s not all of it.

So what are some ways that kids, teens, and parents can make sure to give themselves the best self-care? And how do we know when we are caring for ourselves most effectively? 

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is exactly what it sounds like. Simply put, self-care is taking the best possible care of yourself so that your mind, body, and attitudes are as healthy as they can be. When we practice constant and effective self-care, we can be more successful at school, work and extra-curriculars, and in relationships, because we’ve done what we need to do to be satisfied, healthy, and happy in our personal lives.

The practical application of self-care – that is, what you actually do to take care of yourself, will probably look a little different for every person, and that’s ok. The most important thing is not to do things the way your friends or parents might choose to. It’s to do them in the way that works best for you and keeps you at your best. 

Self-Care is Not Self-Indulgence

A common myth about self-care is that we can sort of do whatever we want because it makes us feel good in the short term. But it’s important to understand that self-care doesn’t always mean doing whatever we want.

Here’s a truth: Treating yourself is an important (and fun!) part of self-care. It just shouldn’t be the only method of self-care that you practice. 

In fact, self-indulgence, for example, eating an excess of unhealthy foods, can lead to feelings of sluggishness, lack of focus, and dangerous excesses which counteract the true goal of self-care: to be your best, happiest, healthiest self. 

So be mindful: Rest, treats, and fun are important to include in your self-care, as long as they don’t take the place of other important practices. Luckily, there are lots of simple things that you can do to take care of yourself and keep yourself as happy and healthy as possible. 

Eat Well and Drink Water

One straightforward tip is to make sure you eat healthy foods and drink lots of water. There are so many benefits to healthy eating and getting enough water, it’s hard to name them all. 

For one, water and healthy foods help keep our bodies strong and our minds focused. When we eat a balanced, healthy diet full of vegetables, protein, and good fats, and cut back on the excesses of processed sugar, salt, and other unhealthy foods, we have more energy to get through the day, think more clearly, and generally feel better. 

Water is a great way to flush toxins out of our bodies and make sure that they are hydrated enough to function properly. Our bodies are made up of up to 60% water, which is more than half. So in order for them to work the way they’re supposed to, we need to make sure we are supplying them with enough water.

Water and a healthy diet, when combined with proper exercise, sleep, and other factors, can also contribute to weight loss, clearer skin, and other things that can make us feel better about our general appearance. People who feel better about themselves tend to be more confident, friendly, and happy. 

Get Enough Sleep

Healthy adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. 

Healthy children and teens need more – about 8 to 10 hours per night.

Most of us don’t get as much sleep as we need, and it prevents us from functioning at our best.

When we don’t sleep enough, our memories are worse, our minds are foggy and we lack energy. These effects prevent us from enjoying as much success at school, work, or other activities as we can. They also mean that we don’t have the energy to enjoy all the good things in life to their fullest. On top of all that, a feeling of constant tiredness can hurt our attitudes throughout the day. Sleep also recharges our bodies, which work hard all day. Enough sleep is important to keep our immune systems strong, which keeps us from getting sick. 

In order to have the best experience of life in general, it’s important to sleep enough. Sometimes, this may look like setting boundaries with friends and family in order to get to sleep on time. 

Do What You Love

As mentioned above, treating yourself is one of the many self-care practices that are good for you! Every once in a while, it’s a great idea to do something you love just because you love it. This could be eating a favourite meal or snack, taking a trip, going shopping, visiting a friend, spending an afternoon on the couch with a favourite book… anything that you love to do and makes you happy.

It’s important to find things in life to enjoy and to take the time to enjoy them. The caution above is not to let responsibilities and important tasks slide in the name of self-care. Treating yourself is a reward and a great way to unwind, refresh, and recharge – not an excuse to put aside other self-care methods that may not always be as fun. 

Why It Matters

There’s a lot of self-care advice out there, but not all of it will truly guide you toward your goal of optimal health and happiness. Effective self-care might sometimes mean setting healthy boundaries, but done right, they’re always worth it. 

In the end, your health is the most important thing, and following these and other self-care tips focused on helping you be as healthy as you can be will be the best for you in the long run. Good health is a reward in itself, but it can also help you achieve greater happiness and confidence. 

The point: take care of yourself by doing what’s best for you. 

Written by Nancy Razkalla