Self-Care is Not About Being Selfish

Are you a single parent?

  • Stay at home Mom or Dad?

  • Do you work extra shifts or two jobs to provide for your family?

  • Are you a caretaker, a giver, always helping others?

Too often we become so focused on our jobs, or kids, or other people needing us that we forget to take care of ourselves.  

Have you ever heard the term “Self-Care”? Self-Care includes any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental and emotional health. Self care isn’t about being selfish, its about addressing your own needs so you can continue your work to help others.  

A recent client reported her struggle with self care:

Young woman takes time for herself with exercise as she gets ready for a run.

“I don’t know how I got here.  I am not happy with myself at all.  I’m two years post baby and I still haven’t lost the baby weight.  I feel like there is such incongruence with myself.  I work so hard for my child to eat healthy and have nutritious snacks, and I am shoveling a pop-tart and an iced-coffee down as were flying out the door.  My child has become my whole life - and while I love it, it’s consuming me.  I do not get a break until she’s asleep and then I have a house to clean and the feeling of everything that needs to be done that I can’t get done during the day. I spend so much time being a mother, a wife, house cleaner, laundry washer, family chef, that I find I’m becoming not very
good at any of my jobs”.  

This client’s story is all too true for many individuals.  We often get so busy helping everyone else that suddenly we aren’t good at any one thing.  Think of it like a gas tank - you first start out with a full tank and your engine is running well.  You can be busy and help so many people on a full tank.  Over time, you start burning up your fuel and your tank runs empty.  Now if you were a car with an empty tank you’d just stop completely.  As humans we do not come to a complete stop, but functioning on empty isn’t healthy.  You need to put fuel back into your engine for you to be back to running again.  

What are some things you can do to refuel your tank?
The wonderful part of self-care is that it is completely unique and varies from person to person. 

Sometimes, 20 minutes of quiet with a hot cup of coffee can be enough to reset your tank and allow you to continue through the day.  Self-care does not always need to be grandiose or expensive.  But maybe you are so burned out from your job that you do need a weekend away to unplug from technology and
breath the salty sea air. 

Here are some other ways to incorporate self-care in your life:

Food - As the client above stated, she works so hard to make sure her children are eating nutritious food that she is neglecting herself.  There are many research studies showing the link between good nutrition and mental health.  You actually feel better when you eat better.  In order for you to get your healthy breakfast in, maybe you wake up for your day 30 minutes earlier.  By making your nutrition a priority, you are actually feeding your brain and refueling your body.

Exercise - Do you just sit in your break room at work and eat your lunch? What if you ate at your desk for the first few minutes and then used the remainder of your lunch period to walk outside around your business complex? Of course going to the gym and maintaining good physical health is important,
but a simple lunch break walk can give you some fresh air and vitamin D to get back to the task at hand.  Walks around your neighborhood are another good way to get out and learn about your surroundings.  

Hobby - Do you have something to look forward to when you get home from work? Do you have a project or task that is just yours? It’s important to find something that fills your tank.  Maybe you work all week, and your hobby is volunteering at a soup kitchen.  You come back from that feeling good about yourself and ability to help others.  Maybe you work with people all week, and painting by yourself helps boost your creativity.  Whatever it is, make sure your hobby is something enjoyable and refills your tank and not something that causes you more stress.

Schedule - Are you someone who schedules appointments back to back? You come home from work to be off to your spin class etc.  If you are good at scheduling then it will be important for you to schedule self care.  Yes, actually put time in your calendar where you aren’t committed to anyone and then keep it.  This self care appointment is just as important as all your other appointments.  If you aren’t a big scheduler, then start with a general frame of your day.  Maybe you aren’t planned down to the minute, but create some time each day for your own refueling.

Counseling - Counseling or therapy is great self-care time.  It is a safe place for you to process what’s happening in your life.  You are the only subject, and you get to decide what your time is spent on.  Counseling also offers many ways to help you incorporate self care into your life, and strategies to learn how to balance our care for ourselves and the care for others. 

Do not wait for your gas tank to reach empty! Self-care is not a one time thing.  Try incorporating one new idea into your life and see how you feel afterward.  Maybe find something small you can do each day to help you take care of yourself. 

If you need help with self care, or learning how to set boundaries so your gas tank isn’t always on empty - Therapy can help instill good self-care, contact Hope Therapy Center today and consider counseling as good self-care.