What is Self-Care? The Fortieth Week of the Second Year in the New Abnormal


When I was growing up in suburban New Jersey I didn’t know anything about self-care.  The first experience I had that felt like self-care was when my mom treated me to a facial at Strawbridge and Clothier.  They were having a special promotion.  Although I couldn’t control my weigh, we could try to tackle my acne this one time.  

Though the focus was to improve my skin, It felt luxurious to have an aesthetician apply steam to my face followed by a facial massage then rich creams applied with gentle fingers. This was so different from the daily Strident Pads and mismatched Clearasil routine I’d become accustomed to.   

The facial came with an unexpected make-over. I was beside myself with glee as I felt pampered in a way I had never experienced.  When finished I looked much older than my fourteen years with the make-up, but I felt like a new person.  A temporarily, sophisticated young woman who got facials.  This felt like a real treat.  

But following that one Saturday, the idea of self-care remained a mere memory for decades.  Then in my thirties as I attended mental health workshops and retreats, I was reintroduced to the idea of self-care.  

Self-care is not the same for everyone.  It’s why I make suggestions rather than state that there are only certain ways to care for oneself.  For many facials are a part of their self-maintenance. For me, facials will always be a self-care activity, a rare treat while on vacation.  There is a distinction between self-care and self-maintenance.  And it is different for each of us 

We all live unique lives and how we choose to spend our time can vary vastly.  I now consider meditation self-maintenance rather than self-care.  Viewing art once a week is self-maintenance for me.  Often coupled by another maintenance activity, a destination walk.  However, should I find myself in more than one museum, then the visits are self-care.  Sleep is absolutely self-maintenance.  A phone call to a friend with plenty of tears and laughter could be either self-maintenance or self-care depending on the friendship, the call’s purpose, and the timing.  

It's not always easy to distinguish the best ways to care for ourselves.  I do believe that self-maintenance is still a form of care.   Nonetheless, whether it’s self-maintenance or self-care, it’s an active statement that we matter.  

Self-Care Tips (Or Suggestions):

  • Give a friend a call, or a text for a walk, coffee, a meet-up, or for a conversation.  Make sure it’s someone with whom it’s natural and easy.  
  • Start a savings account for something you want.  It can be as small as $1 a week, or collect change in a jar.  It all adds up if there’s a regular deposit, and it gives you something to look forward to that you earned yourself.  
  • Find a way to volunteer.  Find something you like so that it doesn’t feel like an obligation but a happy way to give to others.  The season is upon us, so there are a lot of opportunities.