What is Self-Care?
Taking personal responsibility for one’s own physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health
Good for your mind, body, spirit, life, and soul
A habit that makes you flourish, not just function
A deliberate effort
Making yourself a priority
A lifelong practice
The High Price Of Not Caring For Yourself
Ignoring your needs and not taking care of your self has serious physical, emotional, spiritual and lifestyle quality ramifications.
One of the greatest consequences of a lack of self-care is chronic stress, which numerous studies have shown to play a critical role in chronic disease, including heart attacks, stroke, overweight and obesity and others.
As the stress hormone cortisol surges through the body it causes serious complications, including reduced immunity, deteriorating organ function and accelerated aging of both the mind and body.
According to Stress.org, 3 out of 4 doctor office visits are stress related and stress is the basic cause of 60% of all human illness and disease.
Stress increases risk of heart disease by 40%, risk of heart attack by 25% and risk of stroke by 50%.
Hectic lifestyles that lack some type of self-care component also result in unhealthy diets and lack of exercise that further increase risks for chronic health problems, one of which is type 2 diabetes, which is at epidemic levels in the United States.
According to the Mayo Clinic, stressed out women are more likely to suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome and thyroid disorders, both of which are believed by experts to be caused at least in part by hectic health-compromising lifestyle.
When we do not take care of our needs, we become exhausted, angry, bitter, and anxious. Often, these feelings can lead to resentment that can spill over into personal relationships, such as marriages. Studies have shown that women who follow a regular self-care routine have happier marriages.
A lack of self-care can result in depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. In fact, women suffer from depression at a four times higher rate than men do. Burnout, overwhelm and brain fog are some of the disastrous consequences of a hectic lifestyle that does not address self-care.
Our spirits can suffer profoundly from a lack of self-care, as our needs go ignored as we place all our attention and energy on everyone else’s needs.
Anna Quindlen summarizes this consequence well in her book, Being Perfect, “Someday, sometime, you will be sitting somewhere…. And something bad will have happened: You will have lost someone you loved, or failed at something at which you badly wanted to succeed. And sitting there, you will fall into the center of yourself. You will look for some core to sustain you. And if you have been perfect all your life and have managed to meet all the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where that core ought to be.”
Roadblocks To Self-Care
Before you can begin to take action towards self-care, it is important to identify the roadblocks, this can help you better understand and overcome the deterrents.
Women Are Nurturers To Everyone But Themselves
It is very common for women to nurture everyone else but themselves. We can dedicate our energy and find time where there is none to help our kids, friends, bosses, and family but we can never seem to find time for our own needs.
Everything else ranks higher. The concept of self-care is lost amid the needs of everyone and everything else that is constantly bombarding us with big things to worry about.
Everything else takes precedence over our own fundamental needs, which includes critical things like calm, quiet, rest, and even fun.
Somehow, there is always something that is more important, and so we push our own self-care needs down the list, till they fall right off.
In part, this can be blamed on the socialization of women who are taught to care for others as making sacrifices is intertwined with being a mother and a wife. We feel guilty when we say no, or worry that we are being selfish when we take time for ourselves or say no to someone’s request.
It is important to acknowledge these facts and begin to understand that these are just our own perceptions, they are not reality. Saying no, taking time for yourself and caring about your own self-care is not only beneficial, it is imperative, not only for yourself, but so that you can be there whole and repaired for your loved ones.
Giving Yourself Permission For Self-Care
A major part in improving your self-care practices is to give yourself permission to do so.
This may take some convincing, but you can do it!
Go ahead and refill your own cup.
You deserve it.
You need it.
It is your right, and your obligation to yourself.
As soon as you begin to reap the benefits of taking the time for you, you will be glad you did, and it will motivate you to continue.
Not Asking For Help – Doing It All Yourself
If there’s one thing that most women can agree on it’s that we are driven to do everything by ourselves. Asking for help is what weak people do, and we’re not weak, right? Heap more responsibility on my head! I can take it all!
Of course, you will reach a point where it all becomes too much and you’re desperate to ask for help but too afraid to do so.
Have you ever found yourself in a position that you fought to get, thus insisted on doing yourself? Even though you weren’t entirely sure of the full specifications and expectations you didn’t want to speak up to clarify or ask for support, you thought you’d figure it out only to have it all blow up in your face. It’s something that has happened to all of us at some point, yet we don’t learn the lesson after the first dozen times.
Tips For Asking For Help
In the past when you have been too afraid or too stubborn to ask for help what has been the main reason? You were afraid of appearing weak or incapable. The truth is the opposite, though; there is strength in asking for help.
The key is in asking the right way:
- Don’t wait until the last minute
- Ask the right person
- Don’t make them feel like they have no choice
- Be clear about what you need
- Ask them face to face and follow it up in an email
- Thank them
- If you can, help others when they need it
You don’t need to know everything and bumbling along is only going to have an impact on your stress levels and fill you with anxiety.
Lack Of Self-Awareness
Often, we don’t realize how their lives lack self-care until they are either tearing their hair out, screaming at someone and/or are too exhausted to lift their head off the pillow. Sound familiar?
Begin to notice how you feel throughout the day. Are you run down? Tired? Can’t think straight? Eating a lot of carbs and sugar filled junk? These are all signs that you are not centered, overly stressed, and headed towards major burnout.
Self-awareness is the ability to identify, recognize, and understand that is really going inside yourself.
Consider turning down the volume in your daily life for at least a few moments. Spend time alone reflecting and considering what your truest and most deepest needs for health really are and then you can move on to considering how you will fulfill these needs. Spending those moments alone on self-reflection is in itself an act of self-care.
Mindfulness is another great approach to gaining self-awareness. By becoming aware of the present moment, you can improve all your future ones.
Not Knowing The Word No
This maybe an uncomfortable change to make, but one that is necessary to avoid the overload that occurs as a result of never saying no, and especially saying yes, when it will have a negative effect. For some of us, it never even occurs to say no, we just agree to any request, and then when we realize what a hardship it is, or that we really are already so overextended we feel regret, anxiety, resentment and maybe even some guilt at letting our own selves down.
Worse yet, is when we are okay with sacrificing our needs to help someone else, this habit is perpetually self-destructive as it slowly eats away at our own reserves.
Begin learning to say no by not agreeing to requests right away, and instead let the person know that you need to make sure that you are not otherwise engaged and then consider your answer carefully and get back to them.
Remember that we are not responsible for other people’s reactions, we are only responsible for ourselves, so while some may get upset and try to make you feel guilty, let it go and keep yourself in mind first.
The truth is that those people who cannot respect your boundaries are not real friends and doing things out of guilt is not the foundation for a healthy relationship, but instead breeds resentment and will harm you more in the long run.
Saying no maybe a difficult change to make, but it offers the opportunity for growth, and most important it is being done with your self-care and needs in mind and that is the best reason to do anything. Your real friends and loved ones will understand because they care about you and not what they can get from you.
The Disease Called “Too Busy”
Have you ever found yourself so entirely consumed by the activities in your daily life that you forgot to look after what should be your first priority (you)? Being “too busy” is yet another major roadblock to self-care.
What do you do every day and each week to make sure that you are taken care of? Do you often forget to eat lunch, or make a variety of different meals every night just to cater to everyone else’s tastes?
Busy truly is a disease because you get so caught up with your to do list you neglect yourself and forget all about self-care.
Essentially, you are that pot of rice that you’ve shifted to the back burner while focusing on the rest of dinner. Even though there is nothing worse than bad rice and it plays a major role in the meal, you forget all about it. Much like you forget about yourself in your race to take care of everything and everyone else.
Being overly busy is a sickness and there’s only one way to make sure you come out the other side alive. Learn how to truly practice self-care.
Like achieving any other success, improving your self-care skills requires a strategy, remember that self-care is a deliberate effort.
Make You A Priority
Our culture is immersed in this idea that it is selfish to put yourself first. When you are in a relationship you’re expected to put the needs of someone else first before you act you should consider their interests and needs. Then you have children and it’s the same but an even bigger thing.
Suddenly you are in third place behind your partner and kids, maybe even fourth place if you have a job to juggle, too.
It’s understandable that you want to consider the needs and happiness of others and it’s completely normal that you want to ensure they feel understood and heard.
However, in loving others there is room to love yourself. In fact, if you don’t love yourself how on earth can you be expected to love anyone else?
Treat Yourself With Respect and Compassion
This is so simple, if you live your life and make decisions from this simple standpoint, then everything else will fall into place. You will begin to make yourself a priority, and look out for your own needs.
What does this phrase even mean? Well, quite simply it means that you make yourself a priority and that you take care of you.
When you do, it becomes easier to care for others, because your own happiness is overflowing. You become a better person when you learn to love yourself. You have more to give to your partner, your children, your family, your friends, and even your job.
Maybe the biggest issue with the thought, culturally, is that we associate putting yourself with forgetting about everyone else. In fact, the opposite is true. Putting everyone else before you can lead to frustration and resentment, especially when you suffer in silence.
Don’t Apologize For Putting You First
Who do you spend the most time with? You. So, why on earth would you ever feel the need to apologize for making yourself a priority? You need to invest in making your own passions and goals come true, rather than being completely focused on doing the same for others.
The situations that life throws at you quickly sap your resources, and generally, those situations require time or money. You don’t empty your bank account without topping it up; you need to top yourself up, too. Therefore, when you need some me time, don’t you dare apologize for it. Prioritize yourself so that you can give everyone else what they need.
Putting Yourself First Pays Off
You know that saying that if you aren’t first, you’re last … it’s really accurate in this situation because if you don’t put yourself first you will be last on your agenda and it will be easier and easier for other things to slide in ahead of you. Here’s how putting yourself first pays off:
- Healthy & Happy
The people that you love want you to be happy and healthy. Now, think about all of your friendships and relationships and how they improve when you feel your best (mentally, emotionally, and physically). Just think about how you feel when you eat well, exercise regularly, and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Compare that with your relationships when you’re exhausted and irritable, too caught up in filling everyone else’s needs and desires rather than your own. You can’t give your best when you’re not at your best.
Burnout Saps Your Joy
Have you ever tried to indulge in one of your favorite activities when you’re completely burned out? It isn’t enjoyable, is it? When you’re exhausted and overworked, you’re stressed out and wracked with anxiety, so much so that even a relaxing dinner with friends is just another chore to add to your list. The truth is you need a proper break to remember how to be present for the moments that you should be enjoying.
Burnout depletes your levels of happy hormones and when you’re in survival mode, you are at greater risk for mental health issues. Learn how to say no to others and say yes to yourself.
- Resting Is Compulsory
There are probably a bunch of items on your to do list that you can cross off and forget about, whereas you can’t cross rest off your list. You wouldn’t keep driving your car with a flat tire; let the oil or gas run out, so why on earth would you do it yourself? It can be difficult, though, because you feel that you have to say yes, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. What about your feelings?
A failure to rest is going to increase your cortisol levels and just make your situation worse and feed into the vicious cycle of burnout. It’s okay to put yourself first and choose the couch over a big night out.
- Improved Health
You will be in far better health when you learn to prioritize your self-care. Exhaustion, anxiety, and stress contribute to a variety of illnesses. Stress triggers a chain reaction that draws all of the available resources just to get you through the situation, leaving other areas of your body lacking.
You bring a certain energy to every situation that you are involved in. If you carry an angry energy, the people around you will see it, the same as they can feel your happy energy. It doesn’t even have to be that obvious an energy for it to transfer to others. So, be mindful of the fact that your stress and moodiness can transfer to those around you.
The best thing that you can do for the people in your life is to put yourself first, practice self-care, and be the best you possible. If that means saying no sometimes then be brave and say no. When your body and mind are trying to tell you to slow down, listen.
Ditch The Guilt
Have you ever felt guilty about taking care of your son, daughter, mother, sister, or spouse? Think about this for a moment. Likely, your answer is no, but you likely do feel guilt when taking time to do something to take care of yourself.
One way to overcome this type of guilt is to understand the big picture, without self-care you end up running on empty and you cannot care for or give to others from an empty cup.
At the root of perfectionism is control, but perfectionism can never truly be achieved, and it’s exhausting. You don’t have to be perfect, in fact it takes way too much of valuable time that can be spent caring for yourself instead. Your house need not be perfect, you don’t have to be perfectly organized, and it’s okay if your car did not get a wash today.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes, focus on your own self-care instead and it will help you release the need for control.
Let go of perfection, it’s exhausting and nobody is perfect. Life is too short! If you find it difficult to let go of being perfect, seek professional help from a qualified therapist or psychologist.
Plan To Be Spontaneous
Spontaneity is a key component of emotional and mental wellness. Remember that self-care need not be a planned time intensive event, even a few minutes each day can have a profound impact. Spontaneity is something that can help in this regard.
Whenever you have a few moments of free time, for example while the baby is napping or a lunch break at work, choose to do something for yourself.
You can also set up time that can be used to be spontaneous; this means planning time in your schedule without any plans, an hour here, an hour there can really add up and make a great impact on your wellness.
It’s okay to be honest with the people in your life and tell them that you take free time. Maybe you’ll inspire others to do the same and if not, they’ll be secretly jealous that they haven’t done the same for themselves.
Make a deal with yourself now, that you’ll stop putting yourself on the back burner and start making you a priority on your to do list. The smartest investment you can make is in your own self.
Understand the big picture, without self-care, you end up running on empty, and you cannot care for or give to others from an empty cup.
If you missed January-September of the 12 Months to a Healthier You Series, be sure to catch up on those. It’s never too late to get healthy!
Subscribe to the free Resource Library or subscribe to the website to access to 61 Self Care Ideals, and more goodies! The Library Resource has information and resources that you can’t get unless you’re a member. What do you have to lose when it’s free?!
Eat well. Be well. Repeat.
Because Being Healthy is Boss.