Self-care goes deeper than what meets the eye. 

During the month of February, it is easy to get caught up in the frenzy of affection. Buying chocolate, picking out flowers and writing love letters are all popular ways to show affection to those you adore, but what about yourself? In what ways are you showing yourself love?

Though related, self-love and self-care are not the same thing. While self-love pertains more to loving and appreciating all aspects of yourself, self-care is more about keeping yourself healthy. 

The reality of self-care

The definition of self-care tends to vary from person to person. At first, one might think it means taking a night off, or buying an occasional treat. Though these things can be important, they only touch the surface of what caring for yourself really entails. In reality, self-care encompasses all components of health, from engaging in physical exercise, to eating well, to practicing healthy mental-health habits. 

Alvin Almira, a sophomore majoring in business at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, explained that he practices both self-love and self-care by taking time to put his own interests first. 

“Most of my self care is centered around being alone and relaxing,” Almira said. “Prioritizing my own needs contributes to my self-love because I need to be okay before I can go asking if other people are okay.” 

Kanani Prakoso, a biology major at UHM, had a similar outlook. “One way to love myself is to know when I need to take care of myself,” Prakoso said in a text interview. “I’d also describe it as being able to say ‘I am okay and I accept myself where I am.’” 

The importance of self-care

Even from a professional standpoint, taking care of your own health is crucial. “Lack of self-care can lead to burn-out, which is when the coals in the fire just won’t burn anymore. You need to give yourself daily rest, reflection, and rejuvenation, and not just for the one week yearly vacation,” Amy Brown, associate professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, said. 

Brown currently teaches classes on mindfulness meditation and clinical nutrition at UH Mānoa. She emphasizes the importance of self-care, particularly through meditation. 

“Mindfulness meditation is exercise for the brain, and it can even increase your gray matter,” Brown said. “People focus on the physical fitness, but not that of the brain, heart and soul. Is that really healthy? ” 

In addition to meditation, Brown also stressed the importance of having a well balanced diet. She explained that overeating is a huge factor when it comes to unhealthy food intake. In fact, she said that by training yourself to avoid overeating, “You’ll feel better and reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and diverticulosis, which are pockets in your large intestine from age, stress and not eating enough fiber for life,” Brown said. 

Being mindful of the foods you ingest can help you feel more nourished and give your body the proper nutrients it needs to be happier and healthier.

Taking steps

Recognizing that you need to take care of your well-being is a great way to start showing yourself love. UH Mānoa’s Counseling and Student Development Center is a helpful resource for both students and faculty members, as it offers different forms of therapy sessions by appointment and for emergencies. According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a non-profit organization that provides support groups, talking to a counselor can be a greatly beneficial method of improving your mental health, as it can teach clients how to manage stress, cope with anxiety and start implementing healthier mindsets. 

For those interested in learning more about meditation, UH has several resources that students can take advantage of. 

Brown leads a free meditation class online on Google Classroom, as well as a for-credit class on campus. Another on-campus resource is the Pause Space, which is a meditation room available to both students and staff. Guided sessions are available Monday through Thursday, at times varying from 1 to 4 p.m. More information can be found at

Practicing well-rounded self-care is a way to feel more at ease on an individual level. This includes taking part in several tasks, which can range from taking a day to focus on yourself, to getting a proper amount of sleep, to eating well-balanced meals. Self-care is also an acknowledgement of your own personal needs, and teaching yourself that you deserve to feel healthy.