Self-care is a term everyone knows. We hear it often: “Take care of yourself – go do something you enjoy”. We smile and nod in agreement, but when it comes down to it, we find ourselves conveniently making excuses to not take care of ourselves.
We may tell ourselves that we lack the time, money or the energy to follow through; usually because we are focused on putting other people first. “That sounds great! I’ll get to that once I’ve finished this or have tended to that”. We continue chipping away at the never ending to-do list, intending to enjoy ourselves later, while the stress and anxiety build and we risk experiencing burnout.
Why then is it so difficult to put ourselves first?
For one, we may have been taught by our parents to think of others. What better way to learn about self-care than through role-modelling? Additionally, this message is reinforced by society, who has groomed us to be kind, considerate and unselfish. For many people, engaging in activities for no other reason than the sake of enjoyment can result in feelings of guilt.
This is why somewhere along the way, the message of prioritizing others before yourself turned into “you’ll be a better person for it”. Take care of yourself and you will be a better parent, you will work more efficiently, and you will be kinder to others.
By shifting the benefits away from ourselves and onto others, we can enjoy our activities guiltlessly… or can we? I wonder if that does not just add to the list of things we need to do for others in our lives, invariably creating more pressure for ourselves.
So, here is another perspective: By engaging in self-care, YOU are placing a “value” on yourself. That value tells YOU and others that you’re just as important and valuable. In turn, this might improve your self-image,and bring balance between stress and pleasure in your life, prompting others to take greater notice and value you more.
An added benefit to self-care is that when we take better care of ourselves, we also have more energy and strength to take care of others.
So, it’s a win – win situation!
There are many ways a person can engage in self-care, but ultimately it comes down to what you enjoy and find meaningful. It could be playing an instrument or it could be writing a book. Choose something you enjoy and make time in your schedule to participate in it (note that I did not say “find” time). Whatever it is, do it for you. You are important and your health is worth it. You may just find yourself feeling more fulfilled because of it.
If you find yourself at a breaking point and your usual activities are no longer enjoyable to you, even when you make time to fit them in, you may want to consider speaking to a psychologist to explore what is interfering with your self-care and to learn about different tools of stress management.