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The Importance of Self-Care in Adulthood

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Growing into adulthood, we are tied to various responsibilities and burdens, which can be mentally and physically draining. There will always be things that we need to be responsible for, such as work, family, children, and bills. Everything seems to fall on us, but often we just don’t see ourselves as “important enough” to be on that list of responsibilities.

We often tend to overlook self-care, and some might even think that it is nothing but a better term for “luxury”. But self-care is simple – it only requires an extra bit of attention from ourselves.

3 elements of self-care

When talking about self-care, it seems general, as we may not have a clear picture of how to practise it in a way that suits our personalities. Orem’s self-care theory encompasses three elements that play a core role in guiding us to explore our own self-care activities:

1. Self-care

Firstly, it is necessary to understand the meaning of self-care. Self-care means taking care of yourself. It is engaging in activities that not only relieve your stress in a joyful way but also positively impact your physical and mental well-being.

Therefore, bear in mind that if you find yourself enjoying activities that could potentially harm your physical health, they shouldn’t be considered self-care. It is important to know that receiving proper social support, including family, friends, or a partner who encourages the activities you are engaging in, is one of the ways to ensure you are on the right path in practising self-care.

2. Therapeutic self-care demand

This involves prioritising your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Such demand encompasses practices that nurture the mind, body, and spirit, aiming to restore balance and promote resilience in the face of daily stressors. Engaging in therapeutic self-care involves recognising personal boundaries, setting aside time for relaxation and reflection, and pursuing activities that bring joy and fulfilment.

3. Self-care agency

Being able to practise self-care means that you possess the abilities to carry out those activities. This ability plays a vital role in determining whether your self-care activities suit you. For instance, imagine a 65-year-old man with asthma who views mountain climbing as his self-care activity. This man doesn’t possess a healthy body that could equip him with the ability to climb a mountain. It even puts him at a higher risk of suffering from bronchoconstriction, a symptom where the airways in the lung constrict, making it hard to breathe.

There are a few elements to consider when selecting your self-care activities. This can include, but is not limited to, age, life experience, habits, finances, and health. Your goal is to take care of your own mind and body. With a proper understanding of the importance of these concepts, it will be a lot easier for you to practise self-care.

Strategies for practising self-care

Physical self-care

  • Exercise regularly. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s jogging, yoga, or dancing. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
  • Eat nutrient-rich foods. Focus on a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Get adequate sleep. Prioritise sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a restful environment.

Mental self-care

  • Stimulate your mind. Engage in activities that challenge and engage your brain, such as reading, puzzles, or learning a new skill.
  • Take breaks. Avoid burnout by taking regular breaks throughout your day. Step away from work or other stressors to recharge.

Create a customised self-care plan

When it comes to practising self-care, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You may find online resources that provide you with plenty of suggestions, but only you can figure out the types of activities that suit your needs the most. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t find the suggestions helpful. All you have to do is start creating your individualised self-care plan. Here are three steps to guide you:

  • Identify your needs. Reflect on your recent life and identify which areas have been deprived or neglected. Some questions you may ask yourself are: What do you wish to start today? Do you need more rest, social interaction, or physical activity? This is the stage where you will explore your inner self and listen to its voice, so try finding a calm and quiet place to complete this homework.
  • Set realistic goals. Establish clear and achievable goals for incorporating self-care into your routine. Try using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) method, and you will find it easier to implement your self-care activities. For instance, your goal could be something like “I will watch a comedy movie every Saturday at 9pm”. By using the SMART method, you can then clearly picture the goal in your mind and take action to execute it.
  • Stick to it but also be flexible. Most importantly, you have to stick to your plan once you have clearly identified your needs. This is to ensure you remain consistent in practising self-care so that you can relieve stress appropriately, eventually building up a healthier mind. But remember to acknowledge that your daily life may not be as perfect as you thought the day before. Sometimes, things can go in unexpected directions. So always be willing to adjust your plan as needed while not forgetting your self-care goal.


Incorporating self-care into your routine is not a luxury but a necessity for maintaining your overall well-being. By understanding and implementing the core elements of self-care – self-care, therapeutic self-care demand, and self-care agency – you can create a personalised plan that addresses your unique needs. Remember to set realistic goals, remain flexible, and prioritise your mental, emotional, and physical health. With a dedicated approach to self-care, you can navigate the challenges of adulthood with resilience and a renewed sense of balance.

Crystal Khoo holds a degree in psychology from the University of Reading Malaysia. She has a keen interest in exploring the human mind and sharing her knowledge with a wider audience. 

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