Self-Care is not Selfish

Do you put the needs of others before your own? So many of us do. And it isn’t surprising. We have people relying on us all the time. Families need us. Friends need us. Work needs us. And when it comes to us needing us, as women, many of us have been taught that our own self-care is selfish. It does not help that many of the “self-care” posts we see in social media lead us to believe that self-care is bubble baths, shopping trips and days at the spa. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, but when we define self-care in these terms, we do a great disservice to ourselves and each other. No wonder we believe self-care is indulgent and a luxury. The truth is that self-care is essential for our well-being, and it’s not selfish at all. When we take care of ourselves, we are less stressed, we are happier, we have more energy to give to others, and we can perform at our best.

Self-care is, quite simply, the practice of taking care of our physical, emotional, and mental well-being, and it’s different for everyone. It can include things like exercise, meditation, journaling, reading, or spending time with loved ones. For some, self-care is taking a day to spend alone, taking a nap or petting your dog. For others, it may be a dinner with a friend you have missed. Or maybe it is intentionally eating well, staying hydrated and setting aside time each day to get outside and walk in the park. The key is to find what works for you and make it a part of your daily routine.

One of the most important aspects of self-care is setting boundaries. I am probably the worst person to talk about boundaries and I am by no means an expert. A recovering people-pleaser, boundary setting has not come naturally to me. I am prone to want to say yes, even if I mean no, because I want people to like me, or to see me in a positive way. Or maybe I just have heard the phrase “you are selfish” too many times, and I counter that by having loose boundaries. I have been working with my therapist on setting and holding boundaries and learning that boundaries are loving limits I can place so I can love others as well as myself. But while boundaries may be hard, they are actually quite simple. Setting boundaries means learning to say no to things that don’t serve you and creating time and space for yourself. It’s important to set boundaries with others, and also with ourselves. It means learning to be kind to ourselves and to treat ourselves as we would treat a dear friend or someone we love. I am getting much better at this, but I do have a long way to go.

It’s also important to care for our bodies by eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water and exercising regularly. This not only helps with physical health but also with mental health. Eating well and exercising regularly can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and can also boost mood. I have been practicing eating well over the last few months, cooking daily with an occasional take-out. When I feel stressed, I tend to not take care of my body very well. I fall into some bad habits and forget to give this body extra care so she can gather strength to face whatever is causing the stress. I know that right now, I have some areas to work on in terms of caring for my physical well-being.

Another important aspect of self-care is taking time to relax and unwind. This means taking time out of our busy schedule to do things that we enjoy, such as reading a book, meditating, taking a relaxing bath, or spending time in nature. This can help to reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being. This may be the most difficult aspect of self-care for me, and for many people I know. There just seems to be no time. And even the suggestion of “adding in” time to relax means many of us have to juggle our schedules, which does not feel very relaxing at all. But even a short time each day can help our minds repair themselves. Unplugging and recharging are necessary for our phones and our computers. How much more necessary is it for us?

Sometimes, we need a little help and some tools to get us on track. There is so much positive that I have found in speaking with a therapist. Getting professional help is not shameful or a sign of weakness. We are complex beings living complex lives and a therapist or a coach can help us to process difficult emotions and help us find and practice new ways to cope with worry, stress, anxiety and the messiness of being human. A good therapist can be an essential member of your health-care team. Our mental health affects our relationships, our productivity and drive, our physical well-being and more.

I have struggled with the term “self-care” for some time, mostly because of the connotation that it is a self-indulgent luxury. But maybe if we can think of it as filling ourselves with what we need, we will not see self-care as selfish, but rather “self-full”. Self-care is essential for our well-being as women. It is not selfish. It’s about taking care of our physical, emotional and mental well-being, and it’s different for everyone. By setting boundaries, taking care of our body, relaxing and unwinding, and taking care of our mental health, we can prioritize ourselves and thrive in our personal and professional lives.

What will you do this week to prioritize your self-care?

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