We’re all familiar with treating others how we would want to be treated. Too often, though, we’re so focused on treating others with kindness and respect that we forget to give ourselves some TLC too. Self-care has been around for a long time – dating back to ancient times – but in the past few years, it has gone from a simple trend to a full-on lifestyle. While social media and self-care may not always seem to go hand in hand, often having to give one up to indulge in the other, Instagram has been flooded with hashtags and accounts dedicated to users tending to themselves.

Self-care may be about putting yourself first and tending to your own needs, but ways of expressing self-care vary from person to person. While some people express self-care through relaxing bubble baths, others exercise self-care by taking a mental health day from work. To further explore what lies under the umbrella of self-care, we surveyed over 900 people on their self-care habits and routines to see which methods are the most common and effective. Do yourself a favor and keep reading to see what we learned.

Weighing the Importance of Wellness

It’s clear the majority of people view self-care as important. Forty-seven percent of respondents rated it as very important, and another 32.4 percent said self-care was extremely important. But the types of self-care prioritized differed. While 53 percent prioritized physical wellness, 32.8 percent put their emotional wellness above everything else.

It seems like physical health has always been treated openly, while mental health has been stigmatized and kept under wraps. But in recent years, more importance has been placed on mental health. Even though the symptoms of people’s physical health may be more visible, mental health issues can be just as, if not more, detrimental.

Time for Self-Care

Self-care has been largely aimed at women, urging them to take time for themselves and run a bath or light a candle. But it’s often forgotten that self-care is not gender exclusive, and men need it too. This gap was evident in our findings. While women spent around 57 hours or 33.8 percent of their week dedicated to self-care, men only spent around 50 hours or 29.7 percent of their week doing the same.

There are also significant differences in the time spent on self-care based on age, despite all ages benefiting from the practice. Millennials may be perceived as obsessed with self-care, but they seem to be practicing it the least. While people in their 20s spent about 56 hours each week caring for themselves, those in their 30s only spent around 48 hours each week doing the same. Respondents in their 50s and 60s and older, however, reported spending 64.4 and 60.1 hours on self-care activities per week, respectively.

Spending time taking care of yourself is easier when there are fewer people around to take care of, so how often do parents find time for themselves? Compared to nonparents who spent 56.4 hours or 33.6 percent of their week on self-care, parents only spent 50.3 hours or 29.9 percent of the week practicing self-care. While the difference is seemingly small, parents may benefit from self-care in more ways than those without kids. Not only does self-care provide time for parents to relax and regroup, but also it benefits children’s emotional well-being.

Popular Practices

The root of humanity is socialization, and with social media, we’re more connected than ever. However, the level of connection that social media brings can have a negative effect. Sitting at home scrolling through pictures of seemingly perfect lives creates the sense that we’re missing out on something, exacerbating feelings of depression and loneliness. This real fear of missing out (otherwise known as FOMO) leaves people scared of being alone.

Despite our social nature, spending time alone is vital to overall happiness. Spending time in solitude not only increases empathy, but also it allows for introspection, productivity, and an increase in mental strength. With 70.4 percent of respondents choosing solitude, it was the most popular self-care practice. Taking a bath or shower closely followed, along with watching a movie or TV and exercising.

Exercising Self-Care

Exercise is the best physical medicine, but working up a sweat is also loaded with mental health benefits. While nearly 67 percent of people reported exercise to be a part of their self-care routine, men were more likely to do so than women. People without kids were also more likely than their parental counterparts to use exercise for self-care. Of those who did exercise, though, they spent an average of 4.2 days per week exercising, for an average of almost 50 minutes per session.

Care to Clean?

Tidying up has been all the rage since Marie Kondo hit TV screens, but cleaning up goes deeper than just appearances. They say decluttering your environment declutters your head, and more than 54 percent seemed to follow a similar philosophy by practicing cleaning as self-care. Women were significantly more likely to use cleaning as a means of self-care (almost 63 percent), with just 45 percent of men doing the same. Nonparents were also slightly more likely than parents to use cleaning and decluttering as a means of self-care.

Self-Care and Children

With little ones running and tiring out their parents on a daily basis, one could argue that self-care is even more crucial for parents than those without children. For nonparents, their main form of self-care was spending time alone (75.1 percent). The top self-care practice for parents actually was spending time with family or friends (71.4 percent). Only 59.4 percent of nonparents said socializing was self-care for them. Taking a bath or shower was a top self-care practice among parents as well.

This makes sense considering parents often run to the bathroom for a few minutes of alone time. While the sad truth is that many parents hide in the restroom to let out a cry, more than half also just take extra time on the toilet for a quick break from the demands of parenting. Running a bath or taking a shower combines alone time with relaxation, making it the perfect self-care activity for parents.

Self-Care and Gender

Everyone is different, and the self-care experiences of men and women are as well. Women were more likely to spend time alone, take a bath or shower, or sit back and watch a movie or TV. Men, on the other hand, would much rather exercise. Compared to just 58.9 percent of women, 74.7 percent of men chose to exercise as a way of practicing self-care. Men were also more likely to play a game compared to their female counterparts.

The differences between men and women’s self-care practices may not be strictly tied to gender. Instead, it is likely due to the connotations associated with self-care, leaving men to avoid or think self-care is unnecessary. But the methods frequently advertised (bubble baths and spa treatments) are just one facet of self-care. There is no strict list of activities to choose from to practice self-care. It’s simply doing what you need to do when you need to do it – regardless of gender or stereotypes.

Stress-Relieving TLC

There are, however, common activities that people have found to lower stress levels. For people with low stress, 71 percent turned to exercise for self-care. Another 69 percent took care of themselves by taking a bath or a shower – an activity 68 percent of people with high-stress levels also did. However, watching a movie or TV and spending time alone tied for first place when looking at the self-care habits of people with high stress – 77.7 percent of people scoring high on the stress scale reported turning to both of those activities.

Taking Time for Yourself

With busy schedules, it can be difficult to find time to dedicate to self-care. But when people do, how much time do they spend on each activity? For those choosing to play with a pet as a form of self-care, they did so on an average of 6.2 days each week. Simply owning a pet has numerous benefits, and putting aside time for some extra playtime not only improves mood but can also lower blood pressure and stress levels.

Practicing self-care through praying was also done most days of the week. Of those who chose to care for themselves spiritually, they prayed an average of six days each week. Taking a bath or shower wasn’t too far behind. People choosing bathing as their self-care activity indulged in one an average of 5.9 days each week.

People spent the most time with family and friends, averaging around 98 minutes each time they engaged in the activity. Watching a movie or TV was the second practice performed for the longest duration at almost 93 minutes per session.

Staying Happy and Healthy

While practicing self-care should be an everyday thing, extra TLC doesn’t always need to come in the same form. Mixing it up and attending to personal needs is the best way to help yourself. Whether it is exercising, reading, or spending time with family and friends, taking some time for yourself is necessary and warranted – regardless of gender or age. Finding time to care for yourself can be difficult when there are children involved, but squeezing in some self-care time will benefit them as well.

Making sure you and your family are healthy and happy is the goal for us here at Smart Healthy Living. From health tips to product-buying advice, we have all the information you need to implement or reinvigorate your healthy lifestyle. Visit us online today to access articles and guides with information from our experts, all at no cost to you.

Sources

Methodology

We surveyed 906 people about the ways they practice self-care. Respondents were 51.9 percent women and 48.1 percent men. The average age of respondents was 37.9 with a standard deviation of 12.4.

Respondents were asked to select all the self-care activities they do from a comprehensive list. Respondents were given 47 self-care activities in total. We chose to present the top 25 activities in various categories and demographics in our final visualization of the data. Once they reported all their activities, respondents reported how many days per week they did each activity and for how long in minutes they did each per session.

Using the reported days and minutes for the activities they selected, we calculated the total amount of time spent on self-care for each respondent and used those calculations to create averages by different demographics, including gender, age, and parental status.

The data were calculated to exclude outliers. We did this by finding initial averages and standard deviations for the data. Then, the standard deviation was multiplied by three and added to the initial average. Any data point above that calculated number was then excluded from the data.

A part of our survey included a validated perceived stress scale. All respondents completed the validated perceived stress scale developed by Cohen et al. Using their responses to the 10 scale questions, respondents were given a score from 0 to 40. Based on this, we separated respondents into two groups: low stress and high stress. People with scores putting them above the 75th percentile were classified as having high stress. All other respondents were considered to have low stress.

Limitations

All of the data presented here are self-reported. There are some problems with self-reported data, such as selective memory and exaggeration. Respondents were asked about the number of days and minutes they did self-care activities. The days and times reported could have been exaggerated or based on selective experiences and memories.

Fair Use Statement

Know someone who should spend more time taking care of themselves? Feel free to send them this study (for noncommercial purposes, though). We only ask that you link back here so that they can see the entire study, and it gives our contributors credit for all their hard work.

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