“Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too.” – L.R. Knost
When I was younger, I rarely took time for myself. If I did, I’d be trampled by feelings of guilt, self-indulgence, laziness, and shame. Who wants to deal with those four horsemen? Self care was a foreign concept; I was more into martyrdom. I wanted people to see me as a young woman who self-sacrifices for her family. She works, cleans, cooks, does laundry, volunteers, chauffeurs children, monitors homework, organizes the social calendar, plans vacations, makes appointments–you get the picture. Instead of feeling validated and proud of my supermom abilities, I was exhausted, cranky, and sick most of the time.
Suggested Read: How to Age with Your Health Intact
Here’s Why Self Care Isn’t Selfish
Is self care selfish or selfless?
I’m not sure where we get the notion that busier is better. How often do we answer the question, “How have you been?” with “So busy!” Maybe, it’s our illogical need to appear purposeful or please other people. This need for outside validation will never fill us up; it’s a seven course meal that leaves us craving an eighth. Until we learn to validate ourselves by taking time for self care, we aren’t doing ourselves or those we love any favors.
Suggested Read: Life Is Too Short: Go After The Things That Matter Most
1. Neglecting Ourselves
The relationship you have with yourself reflects upon every other relationship. If you neglect yourself, your relationships will also be neglected. When we ignore our own needs like getting enough sleep, eating nourishing meals, taking time for friends, and participating in activities we enjoy, we fail to show up for others with vitality and enthusiasm. Instead, being depleted of energy will more likely cause us to approach others with resentment and obligation.
2. Understanding Our Boundaries
Taking time for ourselves is an act of self-respect. It means we understand boundaries. When we fail to say “no” and pile more and more on our plates, we allow people to violate our boundaries. Maya Angelou questions, “If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?” Self care teaches others that our time is valuable, and we are important.
Self care includes learning to manage our thoughts through self-compassion. Notice the voice in your head–does it put you down or build you up? When we speak to ourselves as we would a best friend, we become less critical of ourselves. A negative inner voice leads to lower self-esteem and unhealthy reactivity. Exercising self-compassion cultivates kindness and acceptance of ourselves. Practicing self-compassion is a healthy way to change our mindset toward ourselves and others.
The Different Forms of Self-Care
1. Social Time
Social interactions can help you feel fulfilled, seen, and loved—but too many nights out with friends or endless Zoom calls after work can leave you feeling drained and exhausted. To truly practice social self-care with your community, learn to set boundaries when you need them. Maybe you feel like you’ve neglected to give yourself quality alone time, or maybe you haven’t seen your friends in a while and you’re excited to reconnect.
2. Leisure, Rest, and Relaxation
Hustle culture is far too common—I’m here to tell you that your leisure time is absolutely vital! Give yourself the space to embrace leisure, whether that means watching your favorite show on Netflix, painting, reading, listening to music, or simply hanging out with family without multitasking. When you spend time doing “nothing,” try to take a meditative approach: Keep your mind clear and focus solely on whatever activity you’re doing. Notice if you feel rested and relaxed.
3. Quiet Spaces
For busy families, having a moment of deep quietude can be a glorious gift. Try to carve out some time for yourself to spend time in a quiet space once a week. Maybe that’s an hour-long yoga class, a hike at your local park, or just a walk around your neighborhood. Turn off your headphones, silence your cell phone, and pay attention to your body, your breathing, and the quality of your mind.
No self-care list is complete without a mention of moving your body. Whether you opt for weight-lifting, a hike in the fresh air, spin class, or an online pilates class, work to provide yourself with 30 minutes to an hour each day to devote to your body. Even just a brief walk has a tremendous impact on the body, mind, and spirit—giving you an extra boost to take on the day or keep moving forward.
5. Environmental Self-Care
Taking care of your surrounding environment has a resounding impact on your state of well-being. Practice taking care of the space around you. Maybe it’s as simple as picking up your children’s toys on the floor, raking the leaves outside, or maybe it’s a quick re-organization of your pantry. These tasks can help you feel grounded in your space—and in your body.
When we are physically and emotionally depleted, it is difficult to maneuver through life’s biggest challenges such as a family member’s illness or death. We are more emotionally resilient and physically strong if we are nurturing our mind, body, and spirit. In fact, research shows self care will enhance your quality of life and make you happier, too!
This week, engage in some self care by doing something special for yourself.