Self-care and Wellness

What is self-care? What is wellness?

 Y’all know by now I’m fixated on self-care. Not so much with doing it – I can always do better – but with defining it. As I work my way through blogging about the seven principles of self-care in Tracey Cleantis’s book, An Invitation to Self-Care, I feel like I’ve skipped a step. The step that says “THIS is what self-care is.”

So, today, I’m writing out loud and would love to hear your thoughts.

My process always starts with the dictionary (and I’m lazy so

  • Health – the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigor
  • Wellness – the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort
  • Well-being – a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity; welfare
  • Self-care – care of the self without medical or other professional consultation

I take some issue with’s definition of self-care. If you do a minute’s worth of googling on self-care you’ll see that doctors do depend on patient’s to administer self-care. Taking prescribed medicines is self-care. Changing your diet and getting more exercise is “prescribed” by doctors after a heart attack but is entirely up to the patient to administer. So MY definition would read like this:

Self-care is care of the self with or without medical or other professional consultation. 

Ok, but why?

The World Health Organization defines wellness as:

The optimal state of health of individuals and groups. There are two focal concerns: the realization of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually, and economically AND the fulfillment of one’s role expectation in the family, community, place of worship, workplace, and other settings.

Another cool definition I’ve found comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It defines the 8 dimensions of wellness as:

Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Occupational, Intellectual, Financial, Social, Environmental

So smushing it all together:

Self-care is the deliberate effort an individual takes with or without medical or other professional consultation to realize their fullest potential in the 8 dimensions of wellness and fulfill their roles at home, work, and in the community.

What do I like about this definition?

  • It says self-care is deliberate or intentional which implies we are making ourselves – our wellness – a priority
  • It says we can ask for help with self-care when we don’t know what is best.
  • It says we are striving for more than the absence of disease (health).
  • It says that we are doing it so that we can be of better service to others.

What do I dislike?

  • It is too long! (Ever noticed how I write with small words and short sentences?)


It’s a work in progress.


Is this definition what you expected? Does it make you feel like you are on track with your self-care? Does it change at all how you will approach your self-care in the future?

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