By Mackenzie Mannion

We’re all aware of one of the newest buzzwords to flood our social media; self-care. Oxford Languages defines self-care as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.” Self-care acts can, should, and will mean something different to everyone. Not only will self-care practices differ for everyone, but they differ from situation to situation. Learning the different types and how to avoid negligent use of self-care is essential for yourself and the people around you. 

Proper self-care is critical to our overall well-being, but like most things, the pendulum can and does swing both ways. We don’t want to neglect ourselves so much that we’re constantly burnt out or being taken advantage of, two things that can plague our daily lives until mediated. But when the pendulum swings too far the other way, only prioritizing ourselves and becoming unreliable due to practicing “self-care,” we impact and possibly hurt those around us. 

To create a healthy balance, we need to take inventory of ourselves and what matters most. Finding what needs a better balance, where we can improve, and what will help our future selves. Types of self-care practices can be categorized into seven groups, and within these groups, each practice can generally be seen as either “deep” or “surface.” Both are important to balance; some might take more work than others. 

The seven areas of self-care are:

  • Emotional Self-Care
    • Boundaries, self-compassion, therapy
  • Physical Self-Care
    • Recharging yourself, exercise, bodywork, prioritizing sleep 
  • Practical/Environmental Self-Care
    • Budgeting, creating an organized environment, monitoring screen-time
  • Mental/Psychological Self-Care
    • Reading, practicing mindfulness, digital detox
  • Social Self-Care
    • Boundaries, keeping/prioritizing commitments, spending time with loved ones, socializing  
  • Spiritual Self-Care
    • Reflecting, meditating, journaling, connecting with nature
  • Professional Self-Care
    • Taking care of business, holding commitments, negotiating needs, working hard, advocating for yourself 

Many of these practices are openly discussed and implemented in our lives. Practices such as taking a bath, a screen-free afternoon, exercise, and even therapy are promoted within our daily conversations and social media. These are considered “surface” practices; while they’re essential, other “deeper” work needs to be done. Learning to set boundaries, advocating for yourself, and detaching from things that unnecessarily drain you, are all things that often get neglected through the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. 

Contrarily, neglecting all other aspects of your life (work, friends, family, commitments, etc.) can negatively impact you and those around you. Consistently labeling bare minimum effort at work as “self-care” may not fare well with your coworkers and boss. Canceling on your friends last minute time after time and claiming a “self-care night in” isn’t painting a picture of overall “wellness.” Neglecting your finances because it’s stressful might eventually catch up to you. 

The key to these negligent uses of self-care is to be proactive. Help your future self by setting boundaries before you feel overwhelmed. Schedule time to check in with yourself and realign your priorities. Becoming unreliable or irresponsible because of self-care will defeat its purpose. Keeping track of how you’re doing and feeling will help your self-care regime flourish and bring balance to your life. Get to know yourself, your boundaries, and your limits. 

Self-care practices start from within; practice positive self-talk and self-compassion. We all deserve to live a balanced life that protects our energy while still being reliable friends, family members, and employees. Start by getting to know yourself, practicing self-compassion, and taking inventory. If this is all new to you, seems unobtainable, or overwhelming, that’s OK. If you aren’t already, talk with a therapist. Taking care of yourself can be hard, but a counselor can help you sort through what’s working and what’s not. Self-care shouldn’t be a luxury; it’s a necessity. 

Mackenzie Mannion is a graduate student in SUNY Oswego’s Mental Clinical Health Counseling Program. She is currently an intern at the Counseling Services Center on SUNY Oswego’s Main Campus. After graduation in May of 2023, she will begin working as a counselor in Syracuse, NY.  Throughout the graduate program, she developed a better understanding of herself,  her interests, and her career in mental health counseling.  During her free time, she enjoys spending time with my dogs, Noodle & Sonny, spending time with friends & family, traveling, reading, and watching reality tv!