Do you ever wonder how some people can manage to work all day, take care of their children, cart them off to various after-school activities, make dinner, spend time with their spouse and repeat the same routine every single day without burning out? Or perhaps those same people are, in fact, burnt out, but have done an impeccable job hiding it. Life can demand so much from us, which is why it is important to take time for ourselves. If we don’t invest in our self-care, it can lead to whole host of other problems that can make our lives more stressful. But with so many competing responsibilities pulling us in different directions, how can we possibly squeeze in time for ourselves?
Well, we simply have to make it a priority.
Think of a car. Cars undergo a significant amount of wear and tear over time. Tire treading can erode. Engines can overheat. We rely on our cars to transport us, so we spend the time and money needed to maintain them. Skipping an oil change or failing to buy new tires could completely disrupt our daily lives. The same way we invest time and money for the maintenance of our cars, we should also do for the maintenance of ourselves. If we do not, we could potentially break down.
These break downs can manifest themselves in a number of ways, such as:
- Stress-related illness (i.e. migraines, chest pains)
- Abuse or dependence on alcohol and drugs
- Relational and occupational issues
- Depression and/or anxiety
Stress can make it even more difficult to make self-care a priority, because one can lack the energy and motivation needed to do so. Stress, when unmanaged, also can erode our self-esteem, thus making it so that we do not value ourselves. This is why it’s important to make it a regular practice so that small problems do not grow into large ones.
So what does self-care look like? There is a misconception that self-care has to be selfish. However, taking care of ourselves ultimately benefits our relationships- we are happier, calmer, and thus easier to get along with.
Also, there are many ways in which we can include our loved ones in our self-care practices. For instance, you can:
- Go to lunch or movie with a friend/significant other/spouse
- Take your dog for a walk
- Put together a puzzle with your children
However, if time is an issue, or prefer spending time alone, there are plenty of other methods for practicing self-care, such as:
- Reading a book
- Sipping a cup of your favorite tea
- Talking with a therapist/counselor, coach
It is especially important for people who are caregivers or working in helping professions to practice good self-care. Our work makes us vulnerable to what is known as compassion fatigue, which is the stress resulting from constant tending to the needs and suffering of others. Without proper self-care, we cannot be as effective in our work, which can ultimately hurt our clients (and our business).
Self-care also means maintaining healthy boundaries. Sometimes it can be difficult to say no to those whom we care for (see: ‘The Power of No’), but saying no is also a great way to practice self-care! It is a way to show others: “Yes, I care about you, but I also matter”. People that genuinely value their relationship with you will understand and not take it personally.
As I explained before, the goal of self-care is not to be self-indulgent. It is simply a way to insure us against the chaos life can bring.