Why does it seem easier to take care of everything else and everyone else of yourself?
We often don’t think twice about taking on that meeting, signing the kids up for another thing, or ditching the gym for a conference call. The excuses, justification, and reasons become second nature, and then we believe them to be true.
Let’s get real: self-care is not a reward. It is a critical component to living a balanced and happy life.
It seems that we have been taught that the harder we work, the greater the payoff. However true that may ring to you, the payoff comes at a cost. Countless studies have shown that wearing down the body, overworking the brain, not sleeping enough and remaining in a constant state of stress is entirely counterproductive to our mental health, as well as our physical health.
It’s easy to neglect yourself when you are busy and overwhelmed, so even a small moment of reprieve feels luxurious.
If you take time for lunch, leave the work before 7 pm or make it to that yoga class, you feel good for doing something for yourself. Yet, many times, that good feeling turns into a guilty feeling for not being “productive enough” in the right areas – causing you to negate the yoga class you just did.
What if you started telling yourself that you need time for yourself – that it’s crucial?
It’s time to change the conversation in your head – make it about longevity and wellness rather than work and achievements. When you keep putting yourself at the bottom of the priority list, you are actually saying, “I am not worth it.”
So, let’s work on taking care of this amazing mind and body of yours. Just as there are tons of negatives from a lack of self-care, there are a ton of benefits from self-care type of support!
Self-Care Prevents Overload Burnout
Do you find yourself thinking, “I am done,” or feeling like everything wants to shut down? If you find yourself in this place, you have gone too far – end of story. The body literally cannot do much more, and this is the critical point. You are forced to stop, which means you won’t have the energy for the nurturing things in life either.
Instead of waiting until you reach the point of burning-out, find ways to take time to yourself – even if it is taking 30 seconds to breathe. Slowing down during a hectic day is crucial for overcoming stress and its weight.
Self-Care Reduces Stress In The Body
Our body literally and actually reacts in such a negative way to stress that it shuts itself down when we put too much stress on it. The stress hormones can have a negative impact on your heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, and mental health. Stress causes increased cortisol levels – a hormone that leads to insulin over-production and weight brain. Cortisol also destroys collagen production – hello wrinkles!
If you find yourself over-stressing before OR after 6 pm, take a walk rather than having a snack or grinding through the rest of the hour. Stress and cortisol make us hungry and cranky, but a light stroll brings mindfulness and peace to our busy day.
Self-Care Helps You Re-focus
Finding yourself struggling to finish a simple task? It pays off big time to give your brain a rest. Take some deep breaths, relax, close your eyes and relax your shoulders. The body needs a moment to come down, too.
Self-Care Means Nourishing Your Body
Taking in healthy foods full of vibrant colors, smells and flavors is the best fuel for your system. If you are demanding a lot from yourself, providing the body with nutritious foods can help sustain energy levels, as well as focus and foster a harmonious system. Take some time to sit down with your meal, taste it, be aware of your chewing and appreciate it.
Self-Care is Telling Yourself That it is Okay to Slow Down
Depression and anxiety are a growing condition, so allowing yourself to take a break is incredibly important. You often are asking too much of yourself; you are taught that if you can’t deliver – no matter the cost – you aren’t good enough.
Don’t believe the hype – take the time to make time for yourself, cater to your needs and know that it is necessary to take care of your needs first.
Self-Care is Actually Doing the Things You Enjoy
Feeling down? Let the serotonin be released! Take that Yoga class, go for a run, watch a movie or paint a picture – come back to your happy place and feel rejuvenated and recharged. The mental break is greatly needed! Best of all, when you go back to your to-do list or the office, you will feel more replenished and refreshed!
Self-Care is Protecting Your Schedule
Feeling overworked, unappreciated, or even violated? It is your responsibility and possibly your most important self-care act to set boundaries! Setting boundaries with your time may take practice, but it will create a more balanced lifestyle. Say no when you feel hesitation to say yes. Let people know when it is appropriate (or inappropriate) to call or email you. Your schedule is your life!
Self-Care Means Your Personal and Intimate Relationships Suffer Less
Bringing a more balanced and happy self to a relationship will garner more connection. Self-care by both partners means more connection more often. It also means more authenticity, more empathy and more heartfelt moments. Make time for important people in your life because we aren’t designed to be isolated and alone.
Now is a great time to take a few minutes to think about what your self-care practices are!
Imagine how would feel on that walk, or how you would feel without your phone ringing at dinner, or how nice it would be to be wrapped in comfortable and cozy silence with your partner on the couch – without interruptions.
If you feel bold and ready, make a list of the things you do each day that prevent you from providing basic and necessary self-care acts. Next to or below it, make a list of simple self-care practices that you can set in place to ensure you are happier, healthier and more present.
Don’t forget that couples therapy and individual therapy are both phenomenal and safe ways to learn how to provide better self-care to yourself and love to your partner, family and friends.
Traci Freeman, AMFT
Traci is an MFT Associate in San Francisco. She works with couples and individuals to help improve the quality of your life and relationships. She welcomes all parts of you, no matter your age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, background or race, as we explore the obstacles and challenges that may be holding you back. Sometimes it’s too difficult to live with the self-critic, the hopelessness, loneliness, an unsatisfying relationship or stressful family dynamics. Everything in your world is being impacted and it’s exhausting. Traci has been there, and she understands.