Self-Care and What it Means to Take Care of Yourself
Self-care and what it means to take care of yourself. So when we talk about self-care,. I think the simplest definition is taking care of yourself. It sounds simple, but the part that gets kind of weird is that when we’re talking about taking care of ourselves we’re really thinking or we should be thinking about these on a foundational level. Are you eating well? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you exercise? Are you engaging in positive emotional connections? Is your level of stress reasonable? These are all things that we look at when we talk about self-care. Self-care is not necessarily something that's going to make you feel good, it's really the opposite. When you’re engaging in self-care it's usually doing something that you don't really want to do, but you know it's good for you. Self-care could be exercising; who really wants to go exercising? so if you exercise it’s taking care of yourself, it's taking care of your body and that’s engaging in really good self-care. Meditating, even if it's just for a few minutes a day, can be self-care. If you take that time to get yourself to meditate and practice mindfulness that is taking care of yourself. But that can be hard to find the time to make it happen or to get yourself to actually do it.
Take a Mental Heath Day
Sometimes it's taking time off for a mental health day, which then kind of goes into what I'm going to talk about next. What is self-indulgence? Often when we think about being in care of ourselves, we’re actually just being indulgent. Taking care of yourself is taking this mental health day or realizing it would be helpful if you took sometime in your schedule to come in a little bit later or to leave a little bit earlier or take a little bit of a longer lunch. Actions like that that are engaging in self-care. A big part of self-care is setting healthy boundaries or going to therapy or even simple things like joining a book club or hiking. These are all things that people kind of say “Gosh you know. I really want to do that, but we never actually take the time to do it.” We’re neglecting our self and we're, not taking care of ourselves and that's where self-care always kind of falls off.
Self-care vs. Self-indulgence
As I mentioned before, there's a huge misunderstanding between self-care and self-indulgence. When we're talking about self-indulgence, we're talking about going out with friends or getting your nails done or going shopping, eating out or drinking, watching TV, going to the movies, eating junk food. These are all things that people confuse with “I'm taking care of myself because I’m allowing myself to do these things that I don’t usually get to do and it feels good and its fun, and re-energizes me. That’s all true, but that's similar to what you hear someone that might be addicted to cocaine say. “Oh you know what; it just really helps me out in that moment. It's really good. I have it under control. It's not a big deal.” Participating in self-indulgence is not quite as drastic as doing cocaine, but it's not good for you. These things are not good for you if you're not balancing them with the things that are good for you. So I'm not trying to say that going out and drinking or having dinner or whatever is a terrible thing and you should never do that. What I'm saying is if that’s the only kind of self-care that you’re doing you're not actually taking care of yourself.
So when you think about self-care, if you can imagine there is a plate of really yummy, as yummy as they can look carrots sitting in front of you and then you right next to them there's a plate of chocolate cake. The most delicious chocolate cake you've ever seen in your life. If you’re, not thinking about it, which one of these plates are you probably going to go for? I think most of you are going to say chocolate cake’ (unless you have a thing for carrots) Most people are going to go for the chocolate cake that is self-indulgence. It's saying “I deserve that chocolate cake because I've been working so hard. I deserve that and it's going to taste good and I'm going to feel good and it will be all right.” Now technically it’s the carrots that are the thing that are good for you. Eating the carrots is self-care. It’s about making the hard decision to do what's best for you; to take the carrots instead of the chocolate cake. Doing what’s right could mean going to bed early instead of staying up late and watching an extra show on Netflix. It could mean waking up early so that you can exercise or meditate instead of getting that extra 30 minutes of sleep and then you're going to be rushing around to try to get out of the House. If you think about all the choices that you make in your life there are a lot of times when you’re going to be caught between “Do I go with the carrots or do I go with chocolate cake.” Again, I'm not saying you should only eat carrots. What I'm saying is it’s got to have some kind of a balance. You're not going to be taking care of yourself. If you're never eating carrots and that's where I think a lot of us get stuck.
Make Purposeful Choices
So what does taking care of yourself kind of look like practically? Well the first thing you can try to take care of yourself is to make choices and be purposeful, which is a kind of mindfulness. If you're going through life and you are just reacting to things then you are not making choices. You’re on automatic pilot. That is reacting to your environment. If you can do the opposite of reacting, then that is an example of taking care of yourself. Deciding what comes next; planning ahead of time, doing things that you know are good for you and that will make you ultimately feel better, even if you don't really want to. It takes effort. But effort is the part of self-care where you actually take care of yourself. That means you're doing good for yourself when you're not putting much effort you're not actually taking care of yourself in most circumstances. Think about when you go to the gym. Most people I know don’t really love going to the gym. If you're like me going to the gym is not something that I love doing. However, every single time I say okay I'm going to go to the gym today and I go and I do what I need to do afterwards I always feel better. I'm always kind of thankful to myself that I did It and I actually feel good about it and my body feels good and it was a good thing. It was a struggle but I did it, I made the choice to go to the gym. So when we are making choices and being purposeful, were almost always taking care of ourselves because we're making ourselves the priority.
Another example might be having kids in elementary school and the request for you to volunteer is its pinnacle. So your kids are at school. You’re working. You’re a mom. You’re a dad and these opportunities come up to help in the classroom or on a field trip or to participate in these crafts or this event, and we think “I think my son or daughter would really appreciate having me in the classroom and I know that teachers need the help and so I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to volunteer now.” What happens, though, if you’re volunteering, when you're already kind of tapped out you don't really have the bandwidth to put forth that extra effort to help out so on the outside it seems like you're doing a good thing, but for yourself It’s really not such a good thing. So be mindful and make choices; decide if volunteering is actually going to benefit you or is it just going to feel good in the moment because you did something kind of good for your kids, or good for the environment, but it's not really good for you. Don't overextend yourself; really think about is this something that's going to be helpful to me.
The next aspect of self-care is setting boundaries. When people think about setting boundaries I think the most common boundary is to say “no thank you” and there's a lot of power in saying “no thank you” the more you can say “no thank you” the better it is going to be for yourself because we tend to over extend ourselves. Setting a boundary is really figuring out where does my kind of personal bandwidth end and is it here is it here where how much space do I need to keep myself, nice and healthy. When we’re saying yes to too many things, our boundaries get pushed back toward us and our space gets smaller and smaller until we have no space left and that’s when we start feeling super stressed out grouchy frustrated tired just exhausted. All of that it's because we don't have enough space. When we're creating boundaries, we want to try to push things away to give us a little bit more space. If our body is a container and it’s holding all of our emotions, it's holding everything that we go through in a day. It gets filled up to a certain point. Our container gets filled we’ve got just a little bit of room remaining. That little bit of remaining space is the room for extra stuff that you can take into your life.
Sometimes people running on no remaining space which means they really cannot take on extra things. So taking self-care is recognizing how much space, how much bandwidth you have to take on additional tasks. Now creating the space for yourself is self-care. Setting boundaries is really important because you can't keep doing things. You can’t keep putting yourself out there and giving yourself away if you have no additional bandwidth. Decide how much you can actually handle. I find with many people when they set boundaries FOMO (fear of missing out) sets in. If you can manage your anxiety about missing out on something or disappointing somebody else or not being around for whatever you're actually taking care of yourself because, what's more important than being at that event or participating in this or doing that is that you are feeling healthy and relatively stress free and you'll be able to give more of yourself. That's the idea about self-care. You want to be able to take care of yourself so that you can give more of yourself. It’s like the oxygen mask example. When you're in the airplane and it's going extreme turbulence, they say, put the oxygen mask on you first and then your kids and your neighbors because if you are not able to breathe you can't help the people around you. When you’re setting boundaries always think about “am I putting my mask on first?” You’ll find that a lot of times you're not. I find myself doing this. It’s hard to do because we're not trained to take care of ourselves first. Most of us have been taught that when we take care of ourselves we're being selfish and that's just not true. So if you are taking care of yourself too much, then that could be considered selfish for sure, but that's why it’s all about this balance between self-care and self-indulgence. When everything is in balance you're going to feel great and you're going to be able to do way more.
When Less is More
We’ve discussed self-care and what it means to take care of yourself. What self-care really means and the misunderstanding between self-care and self-indulgence. We've covered a way to take care of yourself through making choices and being purposeful and we just finished talking about setting boundaries. Now let’s cover how doing less is sometimes doing more. Taking care of yourself is really again understanding what your limits are and when you are taking care of yourself, you might actually feel kind of lazy or you might feel like you’re being selfish or you're just not being a productive person. That’s not true. Now If you're always laying around and resting and you’re not engaging in the things that you’re supposed to be doing or that you need to be doing and your life is crumbling around you then sure that’s not a good thing; but taking a day to sleep in taking a day to not do chores but to go to a yoga class or go for a hike or to go to the gym or to go grocery shopping to buy food so that you can have really nice healthy, balanced meals for the week. These are Things that you're doing less actually ends up being more. You don't have to pack your day full of cleaning, errands, this practice, that practice this event, etc. if you feel like you are your bandwidth limit. You have to rest so doing less is sometimes much more
Nothing Wrong With Asking for Help
The next thing I want to talk about is asking for help. Often times when we are not taking care of ourselves we're, not asking for help ever help doesn’t necessarily mean. Like help me do this or help me. Do that help is meaning like distributing responsibility help can sometimes mean Delegating help can mean actually getting somebody to help or do something for you instead of you doing it yourself. There's no rule in life that you have to do everything yourself. I know that seem silly, but many people’s internal dialogue with themselves is that well, if I can do it, then I'm going to do it and if I can why would I need help with that. I don't need to ask for help. You know folding Laundry. I don't have to ask for help putting the dishes away. I don’t have to ask for help. Getting to a meeting or taking the car to the shop. I don’t have to ask for help. That we don’t actually have to do, but we think oh it’s so easy. I'm just going to do it anyway. Well the trick is, if it's so easy. Maybe you can have somebody else to do it for you and that's going to give you just a tiny bit more band wears because when you have more bandwidth you're going to have more read Internal resources to be able to do the things that are actually really important and that you have to and want to do so delegating is really good. Self-care.
Look at your plate and see what can you just get rid of and what can you delegate so kind of like the volunteering do you have to volunteer or can you just kind of take that off your plate just make it go away. There are certain things you can't just make go away, but I mean, let's just say I don't know, like housework and stuff is really overwhelming right now because you're working a lot maybe part of that is, is getting a housekeeper or taking your laundry to fluff and fold. Like I think, a lot of us have this idea that we are being What’s, the word kind of like stuck up or privileged, if we're not suffering and that's not ok, we shouldn't have to be suffering and that’s why taking care of our self is so hard because for some reason, we've all grown up thinking we have to suffer if you're suffering you're, trying really hard in that's good trying really hard is excellent, but you shouldn't have to suffer so really look at what you have going on in your life and see what you Shave off and take a look at what you can delegate or get help like if you needed for example again like laundry, I don't know what that’s like one. That comes to mind for me if you have to do it all by yourself, no, you can train or teach your kids in the rest of your family to help out so you teach one of your kids to put the detergent in and get the clothes in there. You can teach the other one to move the close from the washer to the dryer. You can teach one of the others or whoever to fold And then you don't have to do it and they don’t have to feel overwhelmed by doing the whole thing either or may be that each of them. Everybody does like one load. So that everyone is sharing in the responsibility. But if if doing the laundry is stressing, you out and making you feel overwhelmed that we got to do something about it and that means taking care of yourself live and yeah. I don't know
I'd like to say that self-care taking care of yourself is not easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. It is like going to the gym right if going to the gym and working out and exercising were easy. We all be doing it and we all be Super thin and Super fit, but it's not Easy it's really hard so it takes a ton of practice and that's why really focusing on one or two of these things in your day is going to help you practice being mindful of what you need and when you need something when you need time away when you need a break when you need to delegate when you need to take things off of your plate adjust say no It's really easy for us to get caught up in our own destructive self-care and we often don't even realize we're doing it.
When I talk about destructive self-care. I'm talking about like indulgence so I know many, many, many, many people that feel that taking care of themselves at the end of the night means having a glass or two of wine that is not actually taking care of yourself that's a little more on the destructive side because The alcohol is not actually helping your body and your nervous system it's just putting a little band aid on it and then sometimes, if you have a you know, a third or fourth glass of wine. It actually ends. It’s leaving you the next day, not feeling so well and how is that helpful. So it’s Important to notice if you find yourself tired angry grouchy frustrated easily annoyed or doing more self-indulgence than usual. That's usually a sign that you need some practice and self-care and if you’re interested in coming to see a therapist that’s one of the things that we do best is help people develop a sense of what self-care means and a plan to maintain a healthy lifestyle where you’re focused on taking care of yourself Eating well, getting enough sleep taking time to rest, exercising and engaging in positive relationships