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Making Your Way Towards Self-care amidst the Filipino Culture

Over the years, I have witnessed the shift of mental health towards the awareness of people. From being taboo and kept discreet or toppled over excuses to define the situations and emotions we go through, people and myself have transitioned towards a better mindset of receiving education about these matters and taking care of others and ourselves.

This is where self-care comes in.

Usually, people’s idea of self-care is about getting pampered in the salon, going on vacation, staying at home and binging on that insanely good series on Netflix, and so on; and because of this common ideation, it seems like self-care is challenging to attain as it may sound luxurious or time-consuming, and one might think “I don’t have time for that” (saying you don’t have time to rest or saying you don’t need rest). Otherwise, you’d feel like you’re only procrastinating. But, people don’t see that it’s not only about the self or making impractical choices.

In the Filipino culture, we have the impression that taking care of ourselves has a negative connotation. Usually, we get labeled lazy, selfish, and rude when we refuse to favor others, especially family members and acquaintances. For the longest time, we have become ignorant and insensitive not to other’s needs but to ourselves. But thankfully, times have changed, and people have become more aware of prioritizing themselves to give more in quality shape.

Fresh eyes on Self-care

Self-care is not merely about rewarding oneself with material things, but it’s about creating a relationship with the self. Yes, it may sound cliche, but it’s part of the job and the responsibility for oneself. Being at peace is incredibly hard nowadays, considering how we’re battling with duties at home, at work, in school, for our families. In this pandemic, we even extended ourselves a bit more just to help those in need. Because of all these at hand, we think that the easiest way to handle things is to sacrifice ourselves. When we believe it's the best choice, but it’s the worst.

The habit of self-care, of course, doesn’t happen automatically. It takes constant practice for us to adapt to it. It is not individualistic, nor is it selfish. RatherInstead taking care of oneself is also to taking care of others. The habit of lowering and sacrificing oneself for others does not give many benefits. It may lead to burnout or fatigue where it won’t be healthy enough to be done long-term—your result in making efforts and decisions to gain none in return.

The holistic approach thoroughly evaluates and treats the human as a whole, including physical, mental, and social factors. This is what self-care is all about - putting oneself first to provide quality to those who need us. How do you take self-care into practice?

Limit yourself. This is an important habit to learn. In the Filipino culture, we always tend to think about our debt of gratitude (utang na loob) - a concept of owing someone favors when they gave things for your benefit at first. This is common in families and sometimes even strangers. Limiting yourself does not necessarily mean restricting or depriving yours to know what you want especially and need - if you can’t grant favors for others because you already have much on your plate, say it; if you don’t have the energy nor are you in the right mind to give your friends advice, say it. Communicate.

Acknowledge your emotions. This is a hard-to-swallow pill. This is where the abuse of toxic positivity comes in. We tend to say “kaya mo yan” or “maliit na bagay lang yun” and other typical lines to cover up what needs to be addressed. In acknowledging the situation and emotions you are currently feeling, it will help you gain relief and be a better head state, so you can only plan your best actions.

Ask for help. Sometimes we’re either too proud or too shy to ask for help, even in times that we need it most. This is again where the concept of utang na loob comes in. Many Filipinos are hesitant to ask for help in fear of “needing” to grant favors for the other next time. But, setting that aside, it is vital to recognize that you can only handle so much.

Fix your eyes on the prize. We have a habit of living as if we’re running a race to win over others as a sign of victory, but in the end, it will only tire us out. I say, know your reasons and know what or whom they are for. The people around us so pressure us that we tend to forget what we’re aiming for.

There are plenty more ways to practice self-care, but it already sounds a lot each of the points given. But, to tell you honestly, by incorporating these five (5) points little by little, you may come to realize how inexpensive and efficient self-care is, as they are not attached to material things. Still, it is a responsibility for oneself—learning to set boundaries, knowing what makes you happy and comfortable, labeling your feelings and asking for help, and aiming for what’s good for you. Then, you may only realize how far gone you have helped not only yourself but other people as well.

Live your best and authentic life.


Baratta, M. (2018). Self Care 101 10 Ways to take better care of you. Psychology Today. URL: |Self Care 101

Glowiak, M. (2020). What is Self-Care and Why is it Important For You? Southern New Hampshire University Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program

Su, A. (2017). 6 Ways to Weave Self-care into Your Workday. Harvard Business Review. URL: 6 Ways to Weave Self-Care into Your Workday


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