Why is self-care important?

By Extension Assistant Professor, Elizabeth Davis

Self care


Most of us aspire to be a source of strength and support for the important people in our lives, such as our spouses or partners, parents, kids, and friends. We want to be able to reciprocate their love and affection, and express appreciation for the positive impact that they have on our lives. But at times, we can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and unable to engage in a meaningful way with those that we love. Burnout and exhaustion are very real experiences that can have a detrimental effect on our health, relationships, and careers.  

We need to prioritize time for self-care. Relationship expert Dr. John Gottman tells us, “By engaging in proactive self-care, we can create the conditions necessary for deep, mutually fulfilling connections with ourselves, our partners, families, and friends.” 

So, what is self-care and how do we do it? Often self-care advice takes the form of prescribing specific relaxation activities. However, the true essence of self-care is two-fold: it involves self-knowledge and positive self-talk. In order to be effective in our self-care we need to: 

  1. Understand our needs, what restores and benefits us is different from person to person.
  2. Manage the way that we talk to ourselves, to take care of ourselves we need to be kinder and more compassionate in how we talk to our self (Schaffner, 2020).

There are endless ideas and suggestions for self-care. One of the unique aspects of effective self-care is that it will be different for each individual. There are consistent regular self-care practices which include:

  • Sufficient sleep
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Social Connection 
  • Emotional/spiritual rejuvenation

Having a regular schedule to make sure that these needs are met is important. Additionally, when we experience additional challenges it is important that we provide ourselves with additional opportunities for self-care. Self-care can range from calling a friend, to taking a day off from our regular routines to engage in whatever it is we most need (see list above). 

“When we take good care of ourselves, we fill ourselves up, which in turn energizes us so that we can give to others.” Dr. Julie Gottman. If we are able to prioritize our own self-care, we will be more able and willing to provide love and care to those who matter the most to us.

Additional Resources