Self-Care When You're Told Not To
As a society, we continue to struggle to give ourselves permission to practice self-care or furthermore giving other people permission to practice self-care. Our country values hard work and, in turn, we fail to allow ourselves the time to pause, catch our breath, and nourish our bodies and souls with rest. We’re fearful that if we stop to rest, we will fall behind and be unable to catch up. We’re fearful that those around us may look at us as “lazy” if we take the needed day off, limit our access to work emails and calls while we’re home, or say “no” to offered overtime.
Outside of the workplace, we find ourselves guilty of this as well. Whether you find yourself saying “yes” to going out with friends despite feeling exhausted from work and could really use a night in, or you’re a mother who doesn’t go work-out because she feels guilty leaving her children at the gym’s child care center. We often put our own self-care needs on the back-burner for others. We convince ourselves that we must keep going no matter the cost. If this sounds like you, keep reading. If this doesn’t sound like you, continue being your best self and use this as validation for the commitment you’ve already made towards yourself and those around you. The truth is that in order to be your best self, you must practice self-care.
The definition of self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. Simply put, it’s what you do to stay healthy. Despite the definition, we still treat self-care as something that is unnecessary and something that only the privileged have the opportunity to do. Privileged, meaning those that can financially afford to get massages, take trips to tropical climates, or who can even afford to take time off work. First off, self-care is absolutely necessary. Taking the time now to commit to self-care saves you time in the long run. When we’re burnt out and stressed, we’re more likely to make mistakes, be unproductive, and get sick than we are when we’re rested and rejuvenated. Though it may seem counterproductive to take a day off work when you’re feeling burnt out, it is exactly what you need to do. Taking that day off to relax, do something you enjoy, or sleep, allows you to increase the energy you need to go back to work and focus on the job that you need to do more effectively. You don’t need to take a trip to the Bahamas or get weekly massages in order to practice self-care. Self care could looks like making sure to eat breakfast even if it’s on the go. Self-care could be listening to meditative music on your way to work or taking a minute each day to stretch. Don’t make excuses. Don’t over complicate something that doesn’t need to be complicated. Identify a reasonable commitment you can make towards practicing self-care and actually do it. See how you feel and how self-care affects and lends itself to your everyday and work life.
For myself, self-care looks like saying no and giving myself permission to put away my work at night to spend time with my husband or enjoy a good movie. As a business owner and a mother of two young children, I can always be doing something, so giving myself permission to just rest and be still can sometimes be uncomfortable yet also liberating. Despite my fears, not doing work after the kids go to asleep does not lead to me falling behind at work. Instead, I feel motivated to get my notes done earlier or find time elsewhere in the day so that I can fully enjoy the time at night to just rest and recharge for the next day. I know that I am a better mom when I’ve had my time to rest and I'm definitely a better clinician as well. During a time when clinician burnout is a real thing, taking this time to rest is a MUST. I’m sharing with you the simple shift I made with myself, for the purpose of encouraging you to look for the simple ways in which you can practice self-care. Sometimes these simple acts of self-care can lead to significant change.
The list below shows categories to evaluate your self-care and potentially explore ideas for yourself to practice self-care. To evaluate your current self-care, go through each category of and rank each from 0-5 (0 being that you never engage in that activity towards self-care and 5 being that you engage in it often). Calculate your average for each category in order to fully assess what your self-care “grade” is for each. If you’re not interested in a grade, simply use this evaluation for reflection. When you’ve reviewed all the categories, identify two things you can do in the next week to practice self-care. At the end of the week, reflect on your time practicing self-care. Did it take up time? Did you fall behind on the work you needed to do? How did you feel after engaging in self-care? Did anyone notice anything different about you? Did you notice anything different about yourself?
Eat Regularly and Balanced
Get Regular Medical care for prevention
Get medical care when needed
Take time off when needed
Dance, swim, walk, bike, play sports, run, sing, or another enjoyable physical activity
Get enough sleep
Wear clothes you like
Make time for reflection
Go to therapy
Write in a journal
Read for fun
Let others know different aspects of yourself
Notice your inner experiences-listen to your thoughts, judgements, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings
Engage in new experiences (got to an art museum, history exhibit, sports event, or music/performance event)
Practice asking for and receiving help
Say “no” to extra responsibilities and sometimes.
Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
Stay in contact with important people in your life
Give yourself affirmations, praise yourself regularly
Re-read favorite books or re-watch favorite movies
Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places and seek them out
Allow yourself to cry
Find things that make you laugh
Make time for reflection
Spend time with nature
Find a spiritual connection or community
Be open to inspiration
Cherish your optimism and hope
Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life
Try at times not to be in charge or the expert, be okay with not knowing
Identify what is meaningful to you and notice its place in your life
Have experiences of awe
Read inspirational literature
Pray and engage in valued living
Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
Set time limits for yourself
Say “no” when you don’t want to do something, if you are asked something on the spot, have your go-to answer be “I need to check and get back to you”
Set boundaries, relationships thrive off of clear and concise expectations of how we can and cannot treat one another
Take time for yourself that benefits only you
Practice vulnerability and honest sharing of your feelings and internal experiences
Process your concerns and fears with those you trust and allow them to support you
set/maintain professional boundaries
Balance your work schedule and life demands so no one day or one week is too much
Make time throughout the work day for intermittent self-care breaks (i.e. lunch or afternoon walk; social time with co-workers; listen to relaxing music
Create a healthy work space
Develop a short list (2-3 items) of top priorities each day
Before committing to a project, first consider your needs and available resources, and whether it will lead to overextending yourself - a sure way to compromise your self-care
Take time off when you need it
I hope that you’ve found this information both informative and motivating to begin prioritizing your own self-care. If you find that you’re having difficulty taking the steps towards self-care, please don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with a clinician at Blackberry Counseling Center by email at Contact.Blackberry@Blackberrycounselingcenter.com or by calling us at (217) 471-4229.