Self-care is something that I often talk about with my clients but seems to be a topic that is ignored outside of the mental health community. I first want to clear up a common misconception. Living in our busy society today fosters the idea that taking time away from our responsibilities is impossible and selfish. That is completely false. Self-care is a responsibility we have to ourselves.
When the idea of self-care is brought into conversation I often hear comments about taking care of personal hygiene, getting enough sleep, eating properly, etc.. The thought is that if I’m meeting my basic needs, then I am practicing self-care. While that is true, self-care goes beyond these things. Just as we take care of our physical health we need to take care of our mental health as well. Feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, etc., are all signs that we may need to assess our self-care habits and look for ways to improve. Ignoring self-care is what can lead to the aforementioned emotions intensifying, a sense of overwhelm with responsibilities, and difficulties functioning in our daily lives.
I would like you to pause for a moment to think of three things that you enjoy doing for yourself. Do you have those ideas? Good. Continue.
I’m guessing that at least one, if not all, of things that I asked you to think about are things that you do not do on a regular basis. These are perfect ideas for self-care. Looking at self-care beyond our basic needs is important because we all need to “refill our tanks” in some way. Self-care is going to look different for everyone. For me, my self-care routine includes running, yoga, and writing. For someone else it may include bubble baths, reading, and playing with a pet. Taking the time to do things that we enjoy is one of the healthiest choices that we can make. Generally speaking, engaging in a regular self-care routine can help us to better manage our emotions and our functioning in our day to day lives.
I encourage a discussion about self-care with those around you. Inquire about their habits, discuss your own, or brainstorm ideas. Make plans with a friend. Go to the movies. Spend time at the park. Meditate. Play outside with your children. Take your dog for a walk. Enjoy a hot bath. Drink tea. Do something for yourself every day, no matter how big or how small. Taking care of ourselves in little ways can have a large impact on our lives. Self-care is not selfish – it’s awesome.