Self-Care Isn’t a Spa Day—It’s an Everyday Practice

Sharyn Saftler, Arivale Coach, MPH RDN CD
Sharyn Saftler
Arivale Coach, MPH RDN CD

Self-care is a word thrown around a lot but often misappropriated to things like spa days or some form of pampering.

True self-care is the intentional concern and responsibility for oneself—each and every day. It is the simple realization that all things, animate and inanimate, require maintenance for optimal functioning.

We miss the mark when self-care becomes infrequent at best and a luxury at worst. It should rather be seen as the foundation from which the rest of our being exists.

Self-care, in theory.

Maybe Abraham Maslow was onto something when it came to this idea of self-care. His well-known theory of self-actualization is based on a certain hierarchy of needs. For him, the ability to become creative or psychologically high functioning—whether in your work, your relationships, or your relationship to self—depends on the foundation of physical building blocks.

As with any psychological theory, there are mixed reviews on Maslow’s hierarchy; however, there are still important takeaways. Current research does echo that physiological care for one’s self comes down to the basic physical building blocks of eating, moving, and sleeping.

According to Maslow’s theory, we cannot address bigger or deeper issues without first addressing our foundation.

Challenge your assumptions.

Should we assume these basic needs are being met, simply because we’re surviving? Advice about how to eat, move, and sleep is everywhere, but does that mean we are all following it and are ready to move up the hierarchy in terms of thought and function?

Maslow’s hierarchy relates to what we know of the limbic system in the brain (or commonly referred to as the “lizard brain”). When basic needs are consistently met, it feels safe and allows for more rational thinking. However, if it senses an attack or lack of a basic need, it will halt all higher productive conscious thought in an attempt to resolve the offense and get back to safety.

As a culture, we might need to readjust our expectation and definition of self-care. It’s time to shift from the cliché notion that we all just need more massages or vacations. Instead, we ought to re-envision caring for ourselves and our most basic needs as foundational to how we operate.

In a world that constantly begs our self-actualized selves show up, it’s more important than ever. If we skip the basis of this hierarchy and attempt to move on, we may end up like a house built without a foundation.

Back to the basics.

We should all take time to reflect on how we’re taking care of ourselves every day.

What do you need to ensure that if nothing else happens today you at least took care of your physiological self?

How are you laying the groundwork for the rest of your best self to show up?

Maybe you grab a yogurt and a banana instead of skipping breakfast. Or put time for a 15-minute walk on your work calendar. Perhaps you set a goal to go to bed at a reasonable hour tonight. It’s the small habits that add up more than the grand gestures.

Make a plan and build your foundation. Make self-care practice habitual, not occasional.

How do you practice self-care daily?