You’ve heard the term “self-care” dozens of times, but what does it really mean? At its most basic level, self-care is simple: it means taking care of yourself. In our busy world, it can be easy to put everyone else first, helping out your friends, family, classmates, and coworkers, ultimately pushing your own needs to the side. Keep reading to find out more about what self-care looks like and how you can apply it to your own life.

What is self-care?

The concept of self-care is similar to the adage about putting on your own oxygen mask first on a plane: if you prioritize your own needs, you’ll be better equipped to be a good friend, partner, family member, classmate, and coworker. You won’t say yes to, for instance, helping a friend move at five in the morning, then resent them when you hurt your back lifting their heavy kitchen table. Instead, you’ll put your needs first, not to be selfish, but because you can only show up for others when you show up for yourself.

The key part of self-care is that it isn’t imposed on you by anyone else; no one can tell you the best method of self-care for you. It’s up to you to figure out which practices work best for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for how to practice self-care. For some people, self-care might involve a morning run that leaves you a sweaty mess by the end. For others, it might involve a weekend-long binge-watch of your favorite show, along with plenty of popcorn and other snacks.

There are various definitions of self-care that share elements in common. The Global Self-Care Organization defines self-care as “the practice of individuals looking after their own health using the knowledge and information available to them. It is a decision-making process that empowers individuals to look after their own health efficiently and conveniently, in collaboration with health and social care professionals as needed.” According to the World Health Organization (WHO), self-care means “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote their own health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.”

Even if you have a very busy schedule, you can always find a few minutes a day to practice self-care. In fact, National Self-Care Day is coming up on April 5 (and International Self-Care Day is July 24), so it’s timely. But real self-care isn’t about doing it once; it’s about integrating practices into your life to help you manage stress and anxiety, replenish your mental and emotional health, and approach your relationships, work, and life as your whole self.

What are the seven pillars of self-care?

According to the International Self-Care Foundation, there are seven pillars of self-care, including knowledge and health literacy, mental well-being, self-awareness and agency, physical health, healthy eating, risk avoidance or mitigation, good hygiene, and rational, responsible use of products and services.

More colloquially, self-care involves anything that can help center you and prioritize your holistic health. Self-care can involve other people, such as if you are an extrovert and get energy from talking to people, but often self-care is practiced by ourselves, whether at home or elsewhere.

What are the benefits of practicing self-care?

While the benefits of self-care vary based on the individual, it’s possible that self-care can improve your life in various ways. According to Everyday Health, “Research suggests self-care promotes positive health outcomes, such as fostering resilience, living longer, and becoming better equipped to manage stress.” Figuring out which aspects of self-care speak to you can help you figure out which practices to integrate into your life on a regular basis. That might mean a daily morning meditation, a Friday night solo movie date, or getting a monthly massage.

How can I practice self-care?

Self-care can be as simple as coming home after a long, draining workday and burning incense. But it’s not just the act of firing up the incense that will aid you in being good to yourself; it’s truly shutting off your mind (and perhaps your phone) so you can fully enjoy the Zen vibes you’re trying to achieve.

If you’re looking for some guidance in your life, whether you’re at a personal crossroads or simply want to see what the response is, you can give yourself a tarot reading. Seeing what the tarot cards say can be a powerful indicator to guide you on your next steps.

Your home is your sanctuary, and you want it to be as peaceful as possible. You may want to try a smudging kit to provide a cleansing of the energy around you.

Taking a warm bubble bath is another popular method of self-care. We’ll be real: Will a bath solve all your problems? No. But will it allow you the chance to commune with yourself, unplug, and savor being in your body for a little while? Certainly!

For an easy way to practice self-care on a daily basis, set aside time to meditate at least once a day. You only need a few minutes for meditation to help keep you centered and focused. You can try using a meditation app or listen to a meditation podcast. If you prefer to use stones, you can try out a meditation stone set.

If you love crystals, you can place them in a strategic spot in your home or keep them in your pocket or bag so they’re always handy. You can use crystal healing stones to provide a boost to your love life, career, or to help with stress, anxiety, or other issues you may be facing.  Different crystals are meant to help with different areas of your life. For more information, see our guide to healing crystals and stones.

There you have it: our guide to self-care, which you can refer back to any time you need a boost. Follow The Inspo Spot for more tips on healing and the holistic life.