We suck at taking care of ourselves. From consistently putting others first to something as small as putting off using the restroom when the urge arises because...who knows why-- we have become accustomed to ignoring our needs and delaying basic care. For some, this behavior may have been modeled to us. For others, they might have been so torn down that they are now convinced they’re not worth it. Beginning to take care of yourself requires a fundamental shift in how you perceive and value yourself.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care consists of the daily activities people do that are meant to care for oneself, ensuring their physical, emotional, and mental health. It eradicates the idea that putting oneself first is selfish. In fact, self-care highlights the fact that self-prioritization is healthy and lends one to being able to better show up for others.
So Why Is It Important?
What could possibly be more important than your physical, mental, and emotional health? When asked this bluntly, our natural response is “nothing,” but our daily practices often show us otherwise.
In today’s world, chronic stress is rampant and that typically only accounts for stressors from the workplace. Add in illness, financial stress, and toxic relationships (romantic or otherwise), and the level of stress we are actually carrying is exponential. How many of us have gone through months or years of feeling as if there isn’t a single area of life that offers some form of respite? I definitely have, and it broke me.
For me, failing to implement self-care resulted in job loss, depression, and CPTSD. For others, I have seen it result in illness and, ultimately, leaving the dependent on others.
Breaking Down Self-Care
We don’t have to wait until we are so ill and depressed from not caring for ourselves to begin implementing this concept. Self-care is just as important when we are happy and healthy as it is when we are feeling down or depressed. In fact, it is often the daily act of taking care of ourselves that keeps us in lifted spirits even when external circumstances are stressful.
If you are new to self-care and are finding yourself resistant to the idea-- maybe thinking this is ridiculous or that so-and-so really is more important than you all of the time-- then, I’m here to tell you that self-care doesn’t have to be a massive shift that you take all at once. It can be small actions that you take every day or even a few times a week.
What Self-Care Can Look Like?
If you’re coming from a place of initial resistance, it is best to start off small. Pick one thing you can add to your daily life (or can do however often you think is realistic, ie, 3 times per week) and carve out time for it. Again, it doesn’t need to be anything extravagant. Ten minutes of alone time would be enough. Think of something that is going to be impactful and fulfilling. For me, that’s taking time to read every morning.
Self-care can also look less tangible. It can be setting boundaries in your personal or work life. Finally going on vacation. Eating healthy and starting to exercise regularly. Getting coaching or therapy. Ending a bad relationship.
Self-care is an expansive concept encompassing all aspects of life that impact your overall health and well-being. That is why the examples above are so varied yet equal in validity. However you choose to take care of yourself is valid. Just make sure that you are in fact the priority in those moments.