Sign up for an extra project at work: Check
Pick up a second part-time job in college: Check
Juggle four organizations and school: Check
Take care of my family while supporting myself: Check
Help a friend with their problem: Check
One more errand before bed: Check
Take care of myself: ….?
Truth. We all know that we should take care of ourselves and that we are important. The reality? Sometimes we just don’t. It isn’t that we don’t think we are worth it but instead that we don’t see self-care as our top priority. We have a million other things going on whether it is our education, our job, friends, family, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, finding time to exercise, holiday shopping, fixing that drawer that keeps jamming in the kitchen, etc. that we forget to just breathe.
We’re built to constantly keep going in a world that is seamlessly connected to technology. There isn’t really a time that we can fully disconnect and thus we keep pushing forward. Another task, another text, another e-mail, another errand, another, and another, and another until we are out of seconds in our day. When we get home we’re exhausted and just want to get those few hours of sleep until we have to get up and do it all over again. The problem is that we don’t just do this for a few days at a time to get things done. We do it for weeks. Then months. Then years. We do it until it becomes ingrained as a part of who we are.
I’ll be honest – self-care has always seemed to trickle down to the bottom of my to-do list. I normally see myself as your stereotypical doesn’t-slow-down, Type A, ambitious person that is always looking for the next challenge. Having free time is something that I always tried to fill with another task. I couldn’t mentally feel at ease if I didn’t have something to do. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, I wasn’t working hard enough, I wasn’t enough. The problem is that none of these tasks ever helped me just breathe. I was brought up in a world where I had to grind to get ahead in life and my viewpoint is that there is nothing wrong with that mindset. The hard part is when we let that take over everything we do.
If we do finally do something for our own self-care we shame ourselves – or even worse, we feel judged by others – because we start to question if we deserve the care and compassion in the first place. We start thinking “well I have 100 things to do, I really shouldn’t be taking a break”, or “my co-worker is probably working on this project now and I can’t let them beat me out for the next promotion”, or anything we can mentally think to convince ourselves to get back to work. If not for ourselves, we do it for other people. We can mentally wrap our heads around taking care of someone else even if we can’t fathom taking care of ourselves.
This is an even bigger challenge when you begin to look at college campuses. We have students that are constantly forgetting to take care of themselves while simultaneously being more stressed out, away from home, experiencing higher levels of anxiety, and possibly fighting other mental-illness challenges all at once. Once you begin to combine all these factors on top of school the lack of self-care occurring is even more dangerous. We need to be able to teach our upcoming generations that they don’t need to feel guilty about caring for themselves. How can we expect them to be our future and take care of our world if they don’t feel like it is worth it for them to take care of themselves?
So how do we stop the cycle? We have to start to acknowledge that we matter. We have to stop beating ourselves up for having an extra cookie, for taking time off when we are genuinely sick, for taking a nap so we can re-charge, doing something a little selfish, un-pluging for an hour, going on a run, or practically anything we do just for us. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we judge ourselves more than we think others are judging us.
It’s not a change that we are going to be able to make overnight either. It could take six months, maybe even a year, to fully get the hang of doing things for purely self-care. It’s something we have to train ourselves to do just as much as we have trained ourselves not to. It takes effort to re-organize your mind and your schedule and you shouldn’t feel bad if you can’t flip a switch and fix it overnight. Thus, to help validate that effort, here are some great benefits to self-care:
- “Tends to improve our immunity, increase positive thinking, and make us less susceptible to stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotional health issues.”2
- “Self-care makes you a better caregiver. People who neglect their own needs and forget to nurture themselves are at danger of a deeper level of unhappiness, low self-esteem, and feelings of resentment.”2
- Some of the main benefits:
- “Your mind and body get the chance to slow down and relax.
- You gain a fresh new perspective towards life, feeling positive.
- You get the joy of time by being with yourself, another of the benefits of self-care.
- You create positive feelings of happiness, calm and peace within.
- You are able to refill your energy level back for all the caring, giving, serving, helping
- You attain a balanced living both in terms of self-care and the care from others that you are open to receiving, which is one of the main benefits of self-care.
- You minimize any stress by doing your favorite things, while increasing your overall health and well-being.
- You feel healthy and good about your body.
- Your soul feels at peace and remains in harmony with what’s going on around.”3
As I mentioned earlier, we must also keep in mind what self-care is not. Self-care is not selfish, it is an acknowledgement that we deserve our own love, compassion, and generosity as much as the next person.
As Deborah Day said, “Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” Remind yourself of that simple fact. You are worth the effort and you are worth letting yourself breathe.
Chanway, Nichole. “Mental Stealth: Self-Care 101.” Mental Stealth: Self-Care 101 | Learning Commons. The University of British Columbia, 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Stacey. “The Benefits of Self-Care.” Living Self-Care. WordPress, 17 July 2011. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
“The Main Benefits Of Self Care.” Discover the Benefits of Self Care in Boosting Your Strength. Jomoi, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.