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Lately, “self-care” has become a hot topic among doctors, psychologists, and health care providers. Although the term is a clinical one, it simply means personal health maintenance and includes any activities you can do to improve health and treat or prevent disease. Article after article offers tips, principles, and plans for self-care. Yet, few of these articles explain why self-care (which we like to call self-love) is so important and that practicing it not only reduces stress, but also improves overall health and boosts self-esteem. It’s more than just a stress reducer. It’s a commitment to yourself that says, “I’m important. I matter.”

When we’re less stressed, more relaxed, and we feel good about ourselves, we’re better able to deal with life’s difficulties. If you’ve ever experienced depression or anxiety, you know that it can make every little thing that much harder. When you have a routine of taking care of yourself, it is easier to cope with challenges and relieve symptoms.

It’s important to keep in mind that self-care is not the same as pampering. Sure, it feels great to indulge in a glass of wine and slice of chocolate cake or to veg out in front of the TV. While these activities may make us feel better in the moment, they do not contribute to our overall health and well-being.

Self-love is the daily and weekly upkeep of our health. This includes showering daily, getting exercise, and sticking to a healthy diet. It also means relaxing, taking medication if needed, and going to therapy and/or support groups.

There’s a fun part, too. Self-love should include doing fulfilling activities, like making art, taking a yoga class, or playing sports. What self-love activities do you do to show that you matter? Whatever they are, make them a priority and include them in your daily or weekly routine. They don’t have to be expensive or elaborate. They just have to be for you.

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