“What do you do to take care of yourself?” When I ask this
question in my conversations with clients, the most frequent response I get is, “I don’t even know.” Other common replies are, “I don’t even know what that means,” or “There is no time left for myself after I take care of everyone else.” And, the consistent belief which underlies these thoughts/responses is that, “Taking time to take care of myself is selfish.”
Often our greatest strengths and gifts become the cause of our problems. The last label I would put on those that struggle with this is “selfish,” and in fact, the complete opposite. They are typically so selfless and giving that they do not even consider the need to take care of themselves as much as they are working to take care of others. And, before they know it, they find themselves fatigued, depressed, anxious, and most of all, depleted.
How can I take time for myself and not be selfish? I would encourage you to re-frame this thought and challenge the belief that drives it. Perhaps, taking care of yourself is actually as beneficial to others as it is to you. If you are running on empty, you may be going thru the motions but you are usually not able to be as effective, genuine or present as you would like to be. By taking time to take care of yourself, others will benefit because they will get the “full” you, not the one running on empty.
So what does self-care even mean, and how would I ever find time for it? Self-care does not have to be time-consuming or expensive. The smallest things can make the biggest differences. Some examples would be:
Taking a (cold or warm – whichever is relaxing to you) bath or shower, even if you don’t “need” one;
Putting on lotion every morning or night;
Have relaxing music playing while you work;
Sit outside for 10 minutes or take a walk around the block;
Journal positive thoughts;
Take 5 or 10 minutes (or even 2 or 3!) to deep breath and stretch;
Pray and/or read a short devotional;
Schedule a massage once a month;
Have a friend over for coffee;
Go to bed 30 minutes earlier;
Go see a movie;
Read a “for fun” book/novel;
Get your hair or nails done;
20-30 minutes of exercise;
Make sure you are drinking enough water every day;
Have one “no cooking” night each week (it doesn’t mean you have to go out, just keep it easy with sandwiches, etc.);
Call a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile.
Take a multi-vitamin daily
Really, the list is endless and different things are appealing to different people. If nothing else, I encourage you to ask yourself each morning, “What is one thing I am going to do for myself today?”
Finally, Be Kind to Yourself. Perhaps the most important part of self-care is paying attention to our thoughts we have towards ourselves. A good guide – if you wouldn’t say it to someone else than don’t say (or think it) towards yourself. I wish you well on your journey to better self-care. I think you will find that it only helps you to have more to give in the long-run.
Katrina Jones, M.S., LCMFT, RPT