Beyond Bubble Baths & Netflix: What is True Self-Care and How to Implement it into Your Daily Life

Were you listening to the Whimsy + Wellness Podcast back in June (2021) when Holly Brandenberger (or @scienceofessentials as many of you may know her as over on Instagram), was on the show talking with us all about stress?

Holly is a registered Nurse and Certified Aromatherapist who uses her Instagram account to educate her community all about the science of essential oils! 

She was heavily requested as a guest when we first launched the Whimsy + Wellness podcast back in February and when I met with her back in June for our first interview, I understood why! 

Holly was previously on the show teaching  us all about the stress cycle, what stress actually is, how essential oils can help reduce stress and so much more. To this day it’s still one of our top most downloaded episodes, you can listen to it HERE!

Now, 5 months later, Holly is back for a second interview with us;  this time unpacking and redefining the popular and oftentimes cringeworthy buzzword, “self-care”.

In 2020 self-care rose to become a 450 billion dollar industry and with the popularity and heavy bubble bath, chocolate, and netflix binging marketing that has come with it, the true definition has become muddy and even a bit lost.

Because of this, self-care has become quite the buzz word (or phrase) and makes many feel anger, guilt, frustration, restatement, and so much more. If that’s the case for you as well,  you’re not alone. When self-care is exploited online as bubble baths and spa days it can feel very unattainable to many, and rightfully so!

The good news is that true-self care is not a luxury or something you need to earn or deserve. And Holly is joining us back on the podcast today to help us:

You can listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app OR you can keep reading for our written summary!

Unpacking “Self-Care” and the buzzword it has become

What is your first thought when you read or hear “self-care?” Is it happiness? A good reminder? Or maybe you cringe and roll your eyes. 

For many, it has become quite the buzz word. 

It can make a lot of people feel annoyed, frustrated, left out, resentful, and even really lonely.

Now, this isn’t because self care is bad or unattainable, it’s because the way we’ve been marketing it and using it the past couple of years make it sound like something we have to earn or something only people with time, money, and privilege can have.

In 2020, searches for “self care” on google were up 220%! This tells us that people do want to invest in self care but because of marketing and media, true self care and what it actually means has gotten a little muddy and confusing. 

In 2014 self-care was a 10 billion dollar industry, in 2020 it raised to 450 billion dollar industry!

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, something has obviously changed and the interest and desire for self-care has increased which is amazing and it’s not bad for companies to work with that. 

However we do see how it has made it confusing to understand and define what self care actually is vs. just labeling every indulgence or treat or day out, self care.

Some stereotypical “self-care” practices we commonly see (and maybe cringe at) are:

  • Bubble baths
  • Pedicures
  • Manicures
  • Massages
  • Spa day
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Binging Netflix

I’m sure you could think of some, too! Now, we’re not saying that those things are bad and are definitely not judging those things (who doesn’t love a good pedicure?!) but you can probably see how when these are the things constantly promoted as self care, how lots of people who simply do not have the means; time, money, capacity, or privilege for those things, feel left out and like they somehow are undeserving or unable to practice self-care. 

THAT is what we’re here to debunk today.

If you have one takeaway from this episode, let it be this: everyone can practice self care.

Another thing is most of the things on that list are indulgences, indulgences are not the same thing as self-care. 

They’re great and fun and we all need a treat and indulgence once in a while but they’re not the same thing as self-care and not everyone has access, money or capacity for indulgences.

What other women are saying about self-care

Holly polled her Instagram community, asking them a few different questions about self care. 

The first question she asked was, “do you participate in daily self care?” of the 8,000 people (mostly women) who participated, 64% said no!

Holly then asked her followers what they think of when they first think of self-care, here are some of the responses she received, many of them were quite sad (but also maybe relatable?):

  • “I don’t have time for self-care”
  • “Taking a shower”
  • “I think of time, money, and if everyone else is ok first.”
  • “Doing something I enjoy before being a wife, mom, or teacher.”
  • “Something I usually forget about until I’m really stressed out.”
  • “Taking a bath, getting nails done, all things I don’t like to do.”
  • “I don’t deserve it”
  • “I go shopping or get a pedicure as my self-care but only as my reward.”

Self-care is not something we have to earn yet somewhere along the way we’ve received that messaging and believed it. 

Holly encouraged listeners during the episode, “Only utilizing self care as a reward will eventually lead to more burnout. Self-care is a necessity, not a reward.”

If you too feel like self-care is simply a reward or something you have to earn, try thinking of your inner child. 

That little girl within you doesn’t have to do anything to deserve or earn care and love and the same is for you. 

Another question to ask yourself would be, would you tell your child or best friend that they have to earn love and care? No way! Neither do you.

Redefining Self-Care: What is it really?

So now that we know what self-care isn’t, let’s go over what it is. Here are a few definitions of self-care that Holly found while preparing for her episode that she shared with us:

“The ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness without the help of a healthcare provider.” – The World Health Organization

“Self-care refers to actions and attitudes that contribute to the maintenance of wellbeing and personal health and promote human development.” – Wikipedia 

“Daily activities looking after ourselves, avoiding all threats and issues that make a person feel irritable, and avoiding uncomfortable situations.” – Psychology

I asked Holly what her definition of self-care is as a nurse and avid researcher with a large community she frequently hears from and polls and here’s what she said:

“Self care is paying ongoing attention to the mental, emotional and physical needs of our body, while deliberately taking care of our well-being through restorative activity.” 

She went on to say that:

“Self care is definitely not something that is expensive or luxurious. It’s not something to feel guilty about or something to be on a to-do or to-earn list. It’s not a fad or something selfish or lazy. Self-care is so much more than that! It’s more about self-compassion and self-love and preservation and restorative and jeguvitating and a necessity! 

Self care is a conscious choice that we are consciously using to combat stressors within our lives. It is not a method to avoid problems or distract ourselves from our stressors or pain.”

The science of true self-care, what it does, and how it helps us thrive

I know self-care can be a phrase that makes us cringe or roll our eyes, however as I was listening to Holly share her community’s response to the word, and the increase in google searches it really made me feel a little sad and have a lot of compassion for the people all around me. 

Instead of getting annoyed at the way it’s been used in marketing, we can see it through the lens of what is true, that we all probably need some help really understanding the definition and the importance of prioritizing it in our daily lives.

We’re going to get some tangible ideas for you in a moment because I know those are helpful but first Holly explained to us the science of self-care; what it does for our bodies and wellbeing and how it helps us thrive.

Stress is the leading cause of health problems in the world. 

With this in mind, it is so important to make it an absolute priority to take care of yourself so that you don’t become burned out and so that stress doesn’t lead to health problems in your life. 

Remember, self care is not a treat or something you have to earn, it’s a necessity.

If you heard Holly’s first episode with us on stress, she taught us all about the stress cycle and response; truly daily self-care does the opposite of the stress response in the body which is what makes it so crucial to practice.

Now going a bit deeper, self-care increases our well-being hormones! 

Our well being hormones are oxytocin – the love and feel good hormone, endorphins – the painkiller and pleasure seeker, serotonin – the mood stabilizer. 

Our body is programmed to release these chemicals that help us thrive when we take care of ourselves. This is the reward! 

The reward isn’t the actual activity you chose for self-care, it’s the hormones that are released in the body that make us feel good and increase our foundation of health while also decreasing our stress levels! 

Our bodies feeling good is the reward! 

The ways in which we care for our bodies so that they release the necessary hormones are not expensive and don’t have to take a ton of time. 

Yes, our bodies are complex but they’re also simple. They don’t need big expensive things in order to get these well being hormones released.

If you’re having trouble figuring out which activities are true self care and which are not, ask yourself how you feel during the activity and after. 

A lot of the indulgences or distractions feel nice during but afterwards the stress is right where you left it or maybe even a bit worse and none of those wellbeing hormones are released when we do things like watch Netflix. 

Doing a self check in an evaluation of how you feel before, during and after is a great place to start!

Also asking yourself, “Am I doing this to truly care for myself and improve my wellbeing and overall health or am I doing it to distract or numb something?” 

True self care is going to lift you up and make you feel more energized to want to do all of life’s to dos.

Beyond Bubble Baths & Netflix: What is True Self-Care and How to Implement it into Your Daily Life
Beyond Bubble Baths & Netflix: What is True Self-Care and How to Implement it into Your Daily Life

7 areas to simply implement true self care in every aspect of life

Once we walked through the stereotypes of self-care, pointed out what self care is not and what it truly is with Holly’s wonderful definition, Holly then shared with us some actionable ways that we can all implement self care in our lives.

Holly has broken up different ideas and things we can do for self care into 5 categories: physical health/wellbeing, social, mental, spiritual, and emotional. 

As you’re reading along, remember that Holly came up with these suggestions to serve lots of different people, we wanted everyone to walk away with something but that means that each individual probably won’t feel in alignment with every single thing and that’s normal and ok! 

If there is something that doesn’t feel good for you and YOUR self care journey…don’t do it! Cross it off your list. Listen to your body and your inner wisdom of what feels good and right and true for you. 

These are just ideas and recommendations to get ideas flowing and maybe something Holly recommends will spark another idea within you!

1. Physical Self-Care 

Diet and nutrition as self-care 

Within physical health there are endless ways to truly care for ourselves. 

Diet and nutrition is probably one of the biggest if not the biggest one. We’re living with diets and access to food that is very high in sugar, and caffeine, and alcohol, which of course just increase our stress and anxiety.  

(Psst, did you catch the episode from holistic psychiatrist Dr. Ellen Vora who shared with us the impact our diet has on our mental health? Check it out HERE

However when we are able to eat foods that nourish our bodies, we overall feel better – so diet is a big deal! 

I know that unfortunately not everyone has access to nutrient dense foods so I want to acknowledge that as well. 

If that is the case for you, celebrate and be proud of yourself for the small things. Even when you grab an apple as a snack instead of a bag of chips, or heck even remembering to eat lunch (any other mamas out there feel me on that one?!), this cares for your wellbeing and is a very small yet important form of self care!

Also if you’re looking for a super yummy and convenient way to care for your body through nutrition, our Whimsy + Wellness team LOVES Daily Harvest smoothies!! They come right to your doorstep and all you have to do is fill with your desired liquid (milk, juice, water) and dump it in the blender and you’re good to go! Receive anywhere between $25 and $40 off your first box when you use code WHIMSY at checkout!!

Another important part of self care that falls under diet is hydration! 

Drinking water is so important, yet so many of us are extremely dehydrated! It is vital to be drinking half our body weight of water in ounces per day (so if you weigh 150 pounds, you’ll want to be drinking 75 ounces per day)! 

A little tip that Holly shared that she says makes a HUGE difference is if you can get in the habit of drinking a full glass of water first thing in the morning each day. Before your coffee or anything else!

Physical activity and exercise as self-care

Our bodies are meant to move! We were not created to sit still and solitary all day long; doing so often makes us more anxious, fatigued, and even lowers our immunity. 

Now if exercise sounds daunting and you’re wanting to scroll right by this part, wait! 

We’re definitely not saying you need to purchase a gym membership and start lifting weights (though that’s amazing if you want to!) even just a daily power walk, yoga, dancing in your kitchen! 

Have the goal be to “lose your breath,” nothing more. 

Ask yourself, “How can I get out of breath today?” Maybe that’s 25 burpees in the morning or maybe a run. 

It’ll be different for everyone but prioritizing some kind of physical activity each and every day will help care for your wellbeing and overall health more than you realize!

2. Your breath as self-care

We take between 23,000-25,000 breaths a day, most of which we’re not even aware of. 

Now when we say breathing for self care we don’t mean the subscious breaths that you’re taking right now, we mean intentional breaths – breath work! 

If you listened to our interview with breathwork facilitator and founder of Pause Breathwork, Samantha Skelly you know the importance and power of our breath (if you missed it you HAVE to listen to or read her episode, it was incredibly interesting!).

3. Sleep as self-care

We of course couldn’t talk about physical self-care without talking about sleep! 

Did you know you would die from sleep deprivation before starvation?! 

Sleep is so critical not only for our wellbeing and to thrive but also to survive! 

It’s unfortunately become something that we put on the back burner. So many throw around the phrase, “eh, I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and lots even brag about how little sleep they get. 

Coming from a mama of a 1 year old who still doesn’t sleep through the night, lack of sleep will really mess with every single area of your life.

Dr. Ellen Vora discusses the impact lack of sleep has on anxiety in her episode I linked above (but here it is again!) and if you’re interested in learning how essential oils can be used to help you sleep you can listen to episode 27 where I shared all the sleep and oils information!

Have you ever heard of “self regulatory behaviors”? When we don’t take care of ourselves throughout our day, we exhaust our will power and this puts us at a much higher risk to sleep procrastinate. 

These are activities like staying up late to watch a show, scrolling social media, etc. even knowing that the next day you’ll be extremely under rested and tired. 

I am definitely guilty of this; lots of moms (including myself) say, “but this is the only time I have to myself! I’m willing to sacrifice some rest in order to have alone time.” 

But Holly encourages us to try and find some other pocket in the day to do that or to start earlier so we aren’t sacrificing sleep.

4. Social self-care 

Have you ever thought of social life being a form of self care? Because it definitely is! Before walking through the different ways you can implement social self care, it can be helpful to know if you’re more introverted or extroverted. 

Now, I know most people are a mix of both, that’s totally common.

My favorite quick way to figure it out is to ask yourself where you recharge. Do you recharge around other people or large groups or by yourself or with one or two people?

If you lean more introverted, some social self care ideas are:

  • Setting and honoring boundaries in your relationships and social life
  • Having down time where you’re alone or unplugged from technology

And if you lean more extroverted, some social self care ideas for you would be:

  • Schedule time to have quality time with a friend or friends or a spouse
  • Scheduling facetime/zoom with family or a group of friends

Some social self care for both:

  • Having a pet! Walking a dog, snuggling your cat or dog. Pets are crazy forms of self care!

5. Mental self-care 

Some mental self-care activities or practices would be making time for hobbies and other things you truly enjoy doing. 

Lots of women feel very lost in their titles of mom, wife, etc. but who are you under those titles? 

Ask yourself what you love to do? What brings YOU joy when you do it?

  • Music
  • Reading
  • Puzzles (this is one of Haylee’s favorite activities!)
  • Gardening
  • Art

You don’t have to be alone for mental self-care either! You can be with your friends or spouse or kids! 

But doing something you enjoy and love for the simple fact that it makes you happy.

6. Spiritual self-care 

Spiritual self care is the next umbrella we’re going to discuss. This is anything that nourishes your spirit. 

Things that allow you to get quiet, go inward and care for your spiritual health. A misconception of spiritual self care is that you have to be religious, while practicing religion does fall under the spiritual self care umbrella it doesn’t have to be for you! 

Even just walks in nature are considered spiritual self care. What makes you feel still and grounded?

Some ideas would be:

  • Meditating (I love the Ten Percent meditation app!)
  • Breathwork (I love the Pause Breathwork app!)
  • Practicing your religion / praying
  • Affirmations
  • Connections with nature
  • Daily gratitude
  • Journaling
  • Putting your bare feet in the ground 
  • Time in nature

Environmental psychology says that time in nature increases mood, decreases stress, just 20-30 mins in nature increases the production of serotonin which is really no surprise, anyone else feel so refreshed after a walk in nature? 

The EPA released a study that found that the average person spends 90% of their time indoors! Which is so sad. We were made to be in nature. Let’s lower that number for all of our wellbeings!

7. Emotional self-care 

The last but most certainly not least area we can implement self care is with our emotional wellbeing! 

We saved this one for last because all those other categories really flow into emotional wellbeing. 

For example, if you’re starting small with implementing self care and just moving your body for ten minutes a day (physical wellbeing) this for sure also influences emotional. They all do, right? 

A huge way we can care for our emotional well being is by asking ourselves how we’re really doing. 

We ask others all the time but when others ask us, how often are we honest? How often do we just say “I’m fine!” or “I’m good!” 

Do a true honest check in with yourself, simply processing and feeling our emotions actually really helps our emotional wellbeing! 

Some ways to do this are:

  • Journaling (here’s a post with some fun, non-traditional journaling ideas)
  • Addressing needs, asking yourself when you’re having a hard day, “what do I need right now?” One of Holly’s favorite quotes is this: “Behind every behavior is a feeling is a need.” Do that check in list that Dr. Vora shared in her episode to try and figure out the need beneath the hard feeling. Having awareness of what you use to numb hard emotions (mine is scrolling on my phone! For you it might be working, watching TV, shopping, eating, etc. we all have a way we numb. Knowing what yours is can really help to not use the numbing “tool” to numb and instead try and sit with the emotion and finding the need. 
  • Incorporate essential oils! Take a deep breath of your favorite essential oils and sit with your emotions. Check out our essential oils for anxiety (or read about it here) for more helpful tips on this!
  • Therapy if you have access to it can also be very helpful for emotional wellbeing.

Questions to ask yourself on what self care practices are right for you

Some questions Holly came up with for you to ask yourself to figure out which self care activities are right for you along with making sure you’re engaging in true self care are: 

  1. Am I engaging in this self care activity to purely benefit myself and my wellbeing or is there an ulterior motive? Is this to benefit someone else or to get a cute Instagram story or is it true self care for my wellbeing?
  1. Is this self care activity meeting a need or a want? Remember that self care is a necessity! Now your activity can be a need AND a want such as a walk in nature; you might want to do it because you enjoy it but you also need it! You need the vitamin D from the sunshine and the fresh air and that boost of serotonin. Maybe reading or journaling is a want because you really enjoy it but it’s also a need because you feel better, happier and recharged when you do so. A bowl of ice cream, while it’s something I want 99% of time, it isn’t something I need. The sugar usually makes me feel not so great afterwards and can lead to more cravings. 
  1. What makes me happy? We don’t ask ourselves this enough! Once we know what makes us truly happy and recharged we can narrow down which self care activities are right for us!
  1. What do I need today? Our emotions, stressors, and life events change daily and therefore our needs often do as well! Asking yourself what you need each day will help you stay in touch with yourself when it can be easy in our busy world to fall out of touch. When you know what you need each day you’ll be best equipped to meet that need with an appropriate self care activity. If asking what you need feels overwhelming and your answer is that you don’t know, you could try breaking it up…
    1. What does my body need today?
    2. What does my mind or emotions need today?
    3. What does my soul need today?

Rapid fire closing questions

At the end of each episode I ask all our guests the same set of rapid fire questions. 

Here are Holly’s responses:

  1. What is something you do for yourself each day for the simple fact that it makes you happy?

“I exercise everyday; sometimes that’s a run, sometimes just stretching, sometimes it’s jumping on the trampoline with my kids! And I meditate everyday!”

  1. What is one new thing you’ve implemented this year (2021) that has made you overall happier and healthier?

“I’ve been much more intentional with my emotional wellbeing. I’ve really paid attention to when I’m feeling stressed and have been much better about asking for help which is hard for me as an Enneagram 2 who just wants to give, give, give, give!

  1. Where can listeners find you and stay connected with you?

@scienceofessentials over on Instagram!” 

Episode Resources:

Want to pair some Whimsy with your self-care practices? Here are some ideas:

If skin care is your thing then I think you’ll like our self care kit! It comes with a gemstone facial roller, a dropper bottle to mix up your own facial serum in, and two beautiful crystals! Now for some, skincare feels like a drag – if that’s the case for you then don’t use it as self-care! Like we said above, self care is going to look different for everyone. Do what feels good for YOU and discard the rest!

I don’t know about you but mixing things up and making something is so relaxing to me! If it is for you too, grab our Beyond Lavender essential oil recipe book that our founder Haylee wrote just for you!

The root of self-care starts with loving yourself enough to prioritize it! Grab our rose quartz filled roller bottle to boost self-love and remind yourself you are worth it!!

Oh and pssst!! Get 10% off at Whimsy + Wellness by using the code: PODCAST on your next order!

Let’s stay in touch! Make sure you’re subscribed to our show and follow Whimsy + Wellness and Whimsy + Wellness Podcast over on Instagram!
Thank you so much for reading this post from the Whimsy & Wellness Podcast brought to you by Whimsy & Wellness and hosted by Meg Ryan! If you enjoyed it and learned something please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and subscribe so you never miss an episode. Your single review makes a bigger impact than you know, so thank you!

I'm Haylee!

Haylee is the CEO of Whimsy + Wellness and the brains behind the business. She has her hand in every area of the company…from product creation to supply chain solution to online marketing. When she’s not looking at spreadsheets she’s mom to Mason, Posey, and Golden. Her kids inspire her to run a company that values community over competition and people before profit.

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