“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”
Many of us regard self-care as a luxury. But caring for ourselves and making sure we have what we need to be well is as Audre Lorde put it, “self-preservation.” Without tending to our own needs first, we cannot effectively serve in any of our roles as parents, partners, friends, children, workers, or community members. And if you think you currently are serving effectively in all of these areas while neglecting your own self-care, I guarantee you won’t be able to sustain it for much longer.
Self-care is also vital for healthy self-esteem. It is daily commitment and validation to yourself that declares you are worthy to be cared for and that your needs deserve to be prioritized and met. Let’s be clear – your self-worth is not conditional on anyone or anything. This means it’s not something you should only give to yourself after everyone else’s needs are met and when you feel you have accomplished enough. You do not have to earn rest or wellness.
Self-care is not a luxury. It’s not bubble baths, candles, massages, or Netflix. It’s not about unplugging and checking out at the end of the day as an escape (although this kind of respite may be a part of your self-care routine). It’s about checking in with yourself, connecting with your needs, and prioritizing your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health.
So, what does it look like for you to move towards wellness in each of these areas?
What we do with our body has a direct impact on our mood and energy levels, so check in with it. Ask yourself, what does my body need to be healthy? Am I sleeping enough? Do I have some kind of routine that involves movement? Does my current diet provide me the energy and nutrients I need? Do I have a routine for releasing the tension and stress my body creates and holds each week?
Whether you are tuned into yours, we are emotional beings, and ignoring and avoiding our emotions has steep consequences for our overall health. Are you aware of what’s happening for you emotionally when you’re busy, stressed, in transition or the middle of a conflict, facing uncertainty, etc.? Do you check in with yourself and your emotional needs? Do you currently feel supported in what you’re going through? When you struggle, do you know what you need to feel comforted and do you do it?
Spiritual self-care fosters our sense of purpose and belonging, helps ground us in the present, and connects us more deeply to ourselves and others. Are you engaged in regular routines, rituals, or practices that further your connection with yourself, your world, or a higher power? Are you oriented towards personal growth and do you feel anchored to purposeful work? Try meditation, yoga, prayer, reconnecting and engaging with the natural world, a spiritual community, or a trusted advisor.
Mental wellness is focused on how your mind is processing information, making sense of your experiences, and how you are developing belief systems about it all. Do you feel like you have the mental clarity and peace to be able to make balanced rational and emotional decisions? Are you aware of some of your limiting beliefs and actively challenging them when they come up? Do you have boundaries set up for the type and amount of media you take in or the number of other people’s opinions and expectations you put stock in?
This is nowhere near a comprehensive list of what physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental wellness can look like – it will definitely look different for each person. Rather the above is a framework for you to use to begin thinking about what moving towards wellness in each of these categories looks like for YOU. This will ensure you start checking in with yourself about what’s draining you and what you need to be filled up. You don’t need to have all the answers or have bulletproof routines but checking in with yourself regularly and even taking baby steps towards wellness has hugely positive impacts on our mood and connection to ourselves.
While many know that we should prioritize self-care more, yet still many of us don’t follow through on creating rituals and routines that reflect it. So what’s getting in the way? Here are a few common self-care obstacles hat that I notice for myself and my clients:
Not having a plan. We often come up with a vague idea about a new goal for a new habit or routine, without working through the specifics and logistics of how to achieve it. Take a day at the beginning of the week or month and plan out what it looks like to accomplish your goal and carve out at least 2 hours each week for you to move towards wellness. Then make plan B!
Not feeling in control. You have to believe you are in control of your life and your schedule or else you will never be well. Thinking that you are not in control of these two things is a limiting belief that will leave you in a state of overwhelm where you are always running behind and ready to give up your schedule and time to anyone who asks for it. You are in control of your life and your schedule. You have choices every day and as an adult, you get to choose! Even when you don’t like the choices that are in front of you, you have to believe that you are in control of making the one that works best for you or leaving those choices behind and going in a different direction.
Too busy. To move towards self-care and wellness, you have to be okay with letting things go and letting some things fall through the cracks. There will always be work to be done so you can’t wait on that to choose yourself and prioritize your self-care. When you are the busiest and most stressed out – that is when you need self-care and time spent on things that comfort and energize your body and spirit the most. If an email goes unanswered a little longer, if the dishes pile up, if the kids are bored, it still doesn’t justify your wellness coming last.
Feeling selfish. Boundaries are completely vital to this process. You have to believe that your wellness is so valuable that it needs to be protected with everything you have, because it is. Some people may be angry or upset that you are choosing to protect time for yourself over them and their needs but those are the people who are draining you the most and the people who you need boundaries with the most. Boundaries are not to keep people out, they are to protect your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental energy so that you have the capacity to connect with them in healthy ways. It’s also healthy to have boundaries with your children – for you to have the energy to be the best parent you can be to them and for them to learn how to respect boundaries and how to prioritize their own self-care as individuals.
Is Therapy part of your self-care?
If you’ve seen yourself falling into any of these common self-care obstacles, would like some more support, or want to better understand what physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental wellness could look like in your life, therapy could be a great addition to your self-care routine. We can help you better understand your needs and obstacles in new ways that lead to actual change. Reach out to us to schedule a session.