Self Care Is Not Selfish

Young brunette female stretching neck while practicing yoga during workout

As a mental health therapist, it has been part of my education, training, and work, to encourage self-care. Taking care of oneself can be such an abstract idea and isn’t as black and white as other things. What defines self-care?

I believe that varies individual to individual. If I could define self-care, it would be anything that fills you, gives you perspective to see things more clearly, and gives you the space to re-engage in your every-day responsibilities.

When I meet with clients, by in large, the most important thing I encourage them to do is find a self-care routine or practice. We all are doing the best we can; going to school, keeping jobs, paying bills, in relationships with others around us, raising children, supporting our elderly parents, discovering what we want in life. Whatever phase of life you’re in — you are likely being pulled in a hundred different directions — feeling the need to keep all the balls in the air. Let’s be honest for one second — life can be hard. Life can be difficult, painful, excruciating, messy, beautiful, and everything wrapped up in one. But how do we stay focused on what we want, care for ourselves, and be intentional? I believe the answer is self-care.

How To Practice What I Preach

Last night, during the final 10 minutes or so of my session with a client, I began to feel nauseous and had a horrible headache. I rarely get migraines, but when I do, it isn’t pretty. I immediately recognized the need to cancel my two remaining sessions and go home. On my drive home, I thought about how busy life had been for me over the past three months. With the holidays, hosting family, meeting with additional clients in need of support over the holidays, and the overall busyness of life hit me. It is common to have physical symptoms be the first sign that we are stretched too thin or are anxious or depressed. It became clear to me; I needed to carve out some time the next morning to rest and do some self-care. I canceled plans with dear friends who were, of course, understanding and supportive.

Re-Evaluating Priorities

Spring represents so much — new life, rebirth, renewal, the awakening of beauty around us, and a fresh start. As I head into this spring season, I am going to invite all of us to renew, refresh, and refocus on what is important. I often tell my clients to evaluate their top two or three priorities? Many say family, faith, friendships, work, active lifestyle, wellness, health, the list goes on. I would encourage you to identify and consider what your top priorities are and use those as your framework to how you live your life. What does that mean? I believe those priorities become the lens you view your life through and guide where and how you spend your time.

Consider this with me; time is truly our most precious resource. None of us is guaranteed we will live past today, tomorrow, or even through the next hour. Once we realize that, we view things differently. The commitments we have made may need to be re-evaluated; we may need to learn to say no to things that take us away from our priorities. We need to find a balance. Life should not be a list where we check off each of our commitments. Instead of dreading life and all we need and want to accomplish, we should be intentional and present with the time we have.

So how do we do that? How do we learn to find balance, intention, and joy in all that we do? I would strongly suggest that we achieve those things by recognizing our need for self-care and making ourselves a priority. Self-care has a positive ripple effect on all those we come in contact with. The opposite is also true if we are not taking care of ourselves; we can have a negative impact on those around us.

What are some practical ways to practice self-care? First: recognize your need for self-care. How do you feel physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally? Your awareness is going to be the most critical aspect of self-care. If you don’t recognize your need for it, it will not become a priority. Second: think about the things that fill you emotionally and spiritually. What brings you joy, creativity, and helps you feel balanced? I encourage all of us to embrace all that spring represents and find balance and renewal in our lives. If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for professional support.

What Does Self-Care Look Like?

Getting outside to enjoy some fresh air
Go for a walk
Journal
Find an artistic outlet (painting, drawing, etc.)
Read a book
Turn off your cell phone
Plan an activity with friends
Learn to say no to commitments or things that take you away from your priorities
Spend time with people you love
Try a new hobby
Bake
Take a nap
Take a bubble bath
Listen to calming music
Spend some time with yourself
Exercise
Meditate
Meet with a professional

learn more information at CCPC Counseling Center  |  970-217-1273  |  ccofpc.org