Self-care seems to be a much-hyped buzzword in recent years. The term has become so overused in social media that the barrage of bath rituals, crystal rollers, and lifting butt masks have made it really hard to decipher what self-care really is and why it matters.
From impossible morning routines (you’re telling me that waking up at 5:00 am, doing a 2-hour workout, and whipping up a Michelin-star worthy breakfast before work is a form of self-care?!) to gimmicky products designed to help us achieve our zen, it’s easy for us to overcomplicate what it really looks like to take care of ourselves.
So when it comes to bringing self-care into our social lives, what does that even look like?
Social self-care encourages us to maintain a healthy relationship with ourselves to extend it to others. It also means being mindful of how we manage our meaningful relationships while preventing social burnout.
How to begin your social self-care journey
Here are four small ways you can begin to take better care of your social self in 2021.
1. Play more
Playtime is a form of self-care that you can easily weave into your daily routine! Remember when you were a kid, and life felt like one big playground? You made the most mundane tasks fun with a little creativity and imagination.
Think about it – when was the last time you had deliberate fun with others? This could be anything from taking a paint & sip class with your bestie, calling up a friend who always makes you laugh, playing with your child or pet, inviting a coworker for lunch in the park, or trading family movie night for a board game. Developing your playful side helps keep you calm under stress, refreshes your mind and body, and increases your energy without leading to burnout.
2. Give a gift to someone you care about
When was the last time you did something nice for someone you love, simply because it felt good to do so? Gift giving is a two-fold practice. For one, the simple act of giving a gift fills us with a great sense of satisfaction.
Anticipating the joy on the recipient’s face is enough to give our own selves a psychological boost and feel the ripples of happiness days after! For the recipient, your gift symbolizes your care and appreciation for them. It’s an act of compassion and kindness. It tells them, “you’re special to me” – which is the greatest gift anyone could receive!
There is evidence that when we give gifts, our brains secrete “feel good” hormones! This not only boosts our happiness but also helps to create deeper bonds with others. Surprise someone today by making something for them or buying an item they’ve had their eye on for a long time. You’ll be much happier for it.
3. Give your eyes a break
These days (especially in 2021), we spend so much time looking at screens. Whether it’s Zoom meetings, Facetiming friends & family, or scrolling social media feeds, all of that screen time adds up. Too much screen time can lead to many health issues, including headaches, dry and tired eyes, blurred vision, and eye strain.
The “rule of 20” is a great way to prevent digital eye strain and take better care of your health. Take a break every 20 minutes by focusing on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. You can set a timer on your phone or use an app to alert you to get up and give your eyes a break.
While we’ve all been forced to maintain our relationships over a screen, there are other ways to create more meaningful connections without sacrificing our health. You can write a letter or send a card. You can devote one day a week to Zoom parties or virtual catch-ups or call a friend or family member on the phone to say hi.
4. Set boundaries
Social self-care includes setting healthy boundaries. Finding balance, learning to say “no,” and giving ourselves permission to take a break is an important way to honor our mental health.
An active social life is an integral part of our overall well-being, but spreading ourselves too thin can lead to burnout. When you set boundaries, you are taking care of yourself.
You can decide to take a mental health day if your work is taking all the focus. You can politely decline invitations to spend time by yourself. You can slow down and rediscover your sense of enjoyment in life.
Recognizing when we’re stressed, worn out, or taking on too much helps us know what our body needs. In 2021, try checking in with yourself and find out what you need in those moments of reflection.
Take the time for some social self-care today
Social self-care is all about cultivating our feelings of love, appreciation, gratitude, and connection with others. Socializing is important for our mental health (yes, even for us introverts!) and is just one aspect of your self-care that should be tended to regularly.
Social self-care also encompasses setting healthy boundaries. While socializing is important, sometimes our lives can become so hectic that saying “no” or rescheduling plans is a vital way to protect ourselves from burnout and overwhelm.
Try to be intentional with your social care activities in 2021. Give thought to the special people in your life by honoring them in a way that also honors yourself. Your relationships should always uplift and energize you – so find creative ways to tend to your social care without sacrificing your own mental health.