May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Self-care is the new “buzzword” term that we read about all over social media. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), self-care is defined as “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical and mental health” (NIMH, 2024).

This broad definition is usually depicted online through advertisements of buying expensive items, spa days, manicures and hair treatments. There are many memes about self-care and influencers sharing their favorite self-care tips, including lighting a candle, taking a bath and buying a new purse. It can feel like self-care is another item on the never-ending to-do list. Often, clients express that in between packing lunches, unloading the dishwasher, the endless laundry piles and their own careers, it is difficult to build in self-care. But, what really is self-care? Does a manicure actually help you manage your stress? Will a spa day “cure” your depression? Do we really need to spend endless money to practice self-care?

A few weeks ago, I was out walking and practicing my own “self-care,” when I thought about what it really means to practice self-care. Some of my clients refer to therapy as their “self-care” time for the week. According to Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist, real self-care requires setting boundaries, treating yourself with compassion, making choices that align with your values, and asserting your power. Dr. Lakshmin discusses how real self-care is an ongoing internal process that is constantly changing and allows for putting ourselves first into everything you do. In her book “Real Self Care,” Lakshmin conveys four types of self-care: setting boundaries, developing self-compassion, identifying your values and making decisions that align with these values, and reclaiming power. Setting boundaries is an imperative part of self-care, as it allows us to prioritize ourselves and say no to things that are unnecessary and unwarranted. We do not always have to say yes; we need to allow ourselves the permission to say no sometimes.

Self-compassion is a critical practice and a core value of self-care; when we turn inward and are kind to ourselves, we understand the human experience. This practice is beneficial to us all — being kinder to ourselves. An example I like to share with my own clients is to shift our mindset. Instead of “What is wrong with me?” you can say, “I tried my best.” In short, speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a friend.

As women, we are taught that being “selfish” is bad and we are “supposed to be selfless,” but we must set boundaries and put ourselves first. One of my favorite metaphors to share with clients is “You must put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.” To be the best version of you, you need to prioritize yourself. Self-care is not being selfish, it is necessary.


Gabrielle Moskovitz is a therapist at Collaborative Minds Psychotherapy specializing in maternal mental health. She is passionate about advocating for women’s mental health access with issues such as infertility, pregnancy loss, postpartum anxiety and depression, and struggles with motherhood. Gabrielle is currently pursuing a perinatal mental health certification (PMHC) through PSI. Follow along @thecheftherapist on Instagram for tips, resources and personal stories. To schedule an appointment with Gabrielle visit www.collaborativeminds.net/gabrielle.

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