A few years ago, the concept of self care was foreign to me. Work was all consuming. If I wasn’t working, I felt guilty. If I felt tired, I would simply push myself through the uncomfortableness. The only time I allowed myself to rest was when I passed out. And eventually I crashed, hard, in the form of a nervous breakdown. Some of us are just so stubborn that the Universe intervenes and forces us to listen. That’s me. I’m some of us.
The message was loud and clear: Self care actually keeps your batteries charged. Imagine driving your car without stopping for gas, or bringing it in for an oil change or a tune up. Those time outs for repair are what keep the car running. Without it, you’ll find yourself broken down on the side of the road. Our bodies work the same way. Whether it’s your muscles or your brain, we need time to recoup the energy we’ve exerted out into the world. Self care is how we keep going.
“There is one thing that must be understood: self care is about you, not anyone else.”
It doesn’t surprise me that I’m not the only one who had trouble understanding the concept of self care. Society demands so much from us. School, work, partnership, children, and family are priorities in most people’s lives. Sometimes those priorities become overwhelming and it’s easy to forget about ourselves. These are the times we must stop and think: What good am I if I run myself into the ground?
Self care comes in many forms. But there is one thing that must be understood: self care is about you, not anyone else. Self care is not doing something someone else wants to do. Self care is not putting your needs aside to take care of someone else. Self care is about your needs.
Self care is saying no to someone else when you already have plans for yourself. If you’ve started running a bath, and your partner or child calls for you to do something, you have the right to say no. You have the right to take that hour to just be without interruption. Unless there’s fire, flood or blood, there’s no need for you to stop what you’re doing. It can wait.
Same goes for plans. It’s true that some occasions call for you to suck it up and go, especially if it’s important to a loved one. But there is a line to be drawn. There is no reason to put yourself in a bad predicament for someone else’s enjoyment. Bad predicaments can be financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. If you don’t have money, don’t go. If you have work tomorrow and missing it would severely hurt your financial situation, don’t go. There is a measure of guilt, but at the end of the day, you’ll feel good about making the choice that was right for you.
“There is no reason to put yourself in a bad predicament for someone else’s enjoyment.”
Which brings me to my next point. Don’t wait around for someone to do things with. Trust me, I know it’s frustrating to always be alone. But it’s even more aggravating when you sit around wasting precious time you could’ve been using to do the things that you love. Whether that’s hiking, seeing a movie, eating out, or going to a museum or gym, it’s important that you don’t neglect yourself just because no one else in your life is interested in the same activities.
Take time for yourself while making your priorities a priority. This means getting your work done when it’s supposed to be done and not waiting until the last minute which results in a half ass product, or no product at all. Many people love to self sabotage with procrastination. All this does is continue a cycle of shame and guilt that keeps you locked in a cage of self hate.
You might lie to yourself and claim that trip or that date was necessary, but when it detracts from the goals you set for yourself all it becomes is a distraction. Putting in work to reach your goals builds self esteem and confidence. Neglecting responsibilities only drags you into despair.
“We are responsible for the choices we make.”
There are two polar opposites: those who give themselves too much, and those who deny themselves of everything. Neither one of these choices are healthy. An excess of anything is unhealthy. Someone or something is always on the hurt end of the stick. Whether it’s your credit, your parent’s retirement fund, or your goals, excessiveness will catch up eventually. Spending money on trips, clothes, and other experiences are nice and provide us with a sense security and well roundedness. Yet when it’s done to such excess that it negatively affects our day to day lives, the fun and niceties have become a problem.
On the other hand, making yourself a martyr and denying yourself any pleasures is just as bad and is no doubt hurting you. Making yourself a martyr breeds resentment. Eventually, this resentment is directed toward your kids, your spouse, or whoever it is you feel you have to deny yourself for. At the end of the day though, it’s more than likely no one asked you to forgo every little luxury. We are responsible for the choices we make. The key is to find a healthy balance.
Maybe you can’t afford much, but if none of your clothes fit, is it really going to break the bank to spend less than $50 on a pair of pants at Target or a thrift store? Giving ourselves what we need, be it a pair of pants, higher education, or a spa day, it necessary for our ultimate fulfillment so we can be our best selves for the ones we love.
“Whether it’s saying yes to more things, or saying no, it all starts with acknowledging what you need.”
So do yourself a favor, and take a deep breath in and slowly let it out. Know that no one is perfect and we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. We are here to learn, not have it all figured out. There’s a great deal of self control that comes with self care. Wherever you fall on the self-care spectrum, know that you have the power to balance it out and bring stability into your life.
Whether it’s saying yes to more things, or saying no, it all starts with acknowledging what you need. Be honest with yourself about what you really want, then take that first step. Once you do, you’ll be empowered to do it again, and again, and again. Next thing you know, self care becomes second nature.
Listen to your thoughts. Take a moment to feel the sensations in your body. Our minds and body tell us when something doesn’t feel right, when it’s time to relax, and when we must make a decision that is better for us in the long run. Follow your gut feeling; don’t ignore them. The sooner you start taking care of yourself, the quicker you’ll restore yourself to sanity.