Mindful Self-Care

“Self-care, as a contemporary practice, is defined as the daily process of being aware of an attending to one's’ basic physiological and emotional needs, including the shaping of one’s daily routine, relationships, and environment as needed to promote self-care (Norcross & Guy, 2007). Self-care is seen as the foundational work required for physical and emotional well-being. Self-care is associated with positive physical health, emotional well-being, and mental health” (Cook-Cottone, 2015, p. 297).

“Specifically, a steady and intentional practice of mindful self-care may be protective, preventing the onset of symptoms and decreasing symptoms associated with mental illness, preventing and decreasing job/school burnout, and improving work and school productivity (Cook-Cottone 2015a ). Further, mindful self-care practices are believed to enhance physiological stability and support emotional regulation (Linehan 1993 ; McCusker et al. 2015 ; Riegel et al. 2012 ).” (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018, p. 162).

“Mindful self-care goes beyond a basic assessment of and engagement in self-care behaviors. It is the integration of the practice of mindful awareness and self-care. Mindful self-care is a critical aspect of embodied self-regulation designed to help [people] negotiate personal needs and challenges and external demands.” (p. 299)

“Mindful self-care progress involves four steps (p. 301):

  1. mindful awareness of self-care as essential to well-being
  2. assessment of self-care domains
  3. assessment-drive self-care goal setting
  4. engagement in self-care behaviors

“Mindful self-care is an iterative process that involves

  • mindful awareness and assessment of one’s internal needs and external demands
  • intentional engagement in specific practices of self-care to address needs and demands in a manner that serves one’s well-being and personal effectiveness (Cook-Cottone 2015a ).

With its roots in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), mindful self-care is an integration of mindfulness and practices indicated in more traditional conceptualizations of self-care (e.g., Christopher and Maris 2010 ; Cook-Cottone 2015a ; Grabovac et al. 2011 ; Linehan 1993 ; Linehan 2015 ; Norcross and Guy 2007 ; McCusker et al. 2015 ; Richard and Shea 2011 ; Riegel et al. 2012 ; Shapiro et al. 2007). Rather than a set of prescribed behaviors performed to attain an externally constructed objective, such as increased health according to various medical markers, mindful self-care is a set of practices that support positive embodiment, a way of inhabiting the body (Cook-Cottone 2015a ; Piran 2015 ; Piran and Teall 2012 ). When not positively embodied, an individual may experience a sense of disconnection, burnout, conflict, or self-harm as in dissociation, disturbance of body image or body dissatisfaction, substance-use problems, and disordered eating (Cook-Cottone 2015a ; Homan and Tylka 2014 ; Woertman 2012). Giving form to positive embodiment, mindful self-care extends traditional self-care conceptualizations by integrating mindful awareness, active mindful practices, and mindful care of each aspect of the self.” (Cook-Cottone & Guyker, 2018, p. 161).