Self-Care is Essential, Not Selfish

Self-Care is Essential, Not Selfish

09/16/21 Laura Gibbons

You may have been hearing more about the importance of self-care, especially during these uncertain times. For some, it can seem more like a luxury or even selfish. But self-care is not selfish – you can’t pour from an empty cup – and it is essentially caring for yourself so that you can be positive, healthy, and productive in both your personal and professional life.

When you practice self-care, it gives attention to the many parts that make up your overall well-being. This can include your physical, mental, emotional, social/relational, spiritual, financial, and professional health. Living in a culture of busyness and trying to meet the demands of work and home – as well as staying safe and healthy in this pandemic – stress can creep in and creep up.

How is your stress adding up?
Self-care can help manage stress and is best when practiced regularly, but can also be a resource for when you feel triggered and need some relief. Use this inventory to see how stress is adding up in your life.

It is important to notice how we feel and the symptoms of stress we are experiencing. When we take the time to reflect on what is going on we can dig deeper into what we need. For example, you may feel lonely but notice your tendency to isolate. You feel sluggish, but know your sleeping and eating habits have suffered due to stress. You feel unproductive but notice your focus and concentration has lessened due to being easily distracted. You feel overwhelmed but know your anxiety rises when you feel pressure to please others or strive for perfection versus progress.

And so name your feelings (click here to clarify what you are really feeling) and notice your stress symptoms so that you can start identifying what you need by asking yourself deeper questions: Where do I feel deprived? What do I miss? What do I need more of? What do I need less of? What gives me joy? What depletes me?

As we can better identify our feelings, stress symptoms, and needs, we can better devise a self-care plan. Using the above examples, below are possible connections on self-care needs:

  • Feeling lonely and isolated: you may realize that you need to reach out to family and friends and or return to a group activity or hobby to feel more connected.
  • Sluggish and not eating or sleeping well: you may realize you have been getting less sleep due to increased screen time and need to unplug. In addition, you may realize that comfort food is weighing you down and you need to replace with more nutritious foods, along with exercise, to improve energy.
  • Feeling unproductive due to lack of focus and concentration: you may need to review your workspace, eliminate distractions, take more breaks during the work day, and set small goals to start feeling more productive.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and anxious: you may realize that you need to identify more realistic expectations, set healthier boundaries, and practice more self-compassion to feel more at ease.

Remember, self-care looks different for everyone. It must be based on what you are experiencing and your specific needs. It can be something that boosts your mood, addresses your basic needs, helps you process feelings, uses problem-solving skills, relieves stress, peaks your interest through hobbies and activities, exercises for relaxation, and asking for help.

Here are just a few examples of self-care which are often interconnected just as our health and wellness:

Physical: Sleep, exercise, sports, stretch, walk, eat healthy, yoga, massage, relaxation strategies
Emotional/Mental: Mindfulness, forgiveness, self-compassion, journaling, practicing gratitude, unplugging, positive self-talk, letting yourself cry, counseling, problem-solving, setting realistic expectations, managing time
Social/Relational: Setting boundaries, connecting with family & friends, volunteering, acts of kindness, improving communication skills, asking for help
Personal: Hobbies (read, garden, cook, hike), creative expression (paint, draw, write, knit, play music), develop your talents/skills, watch favorite tv show, listen to music, declutter/organize, treat yourself to your favorite meal or drink, set personal goals
Financial: Saving, budgeting, paying bills, eliminating debt, overall money management
Work: Time management, work boundaries, create a healthy workspace, take breaks, learn something new at work or enhance skills
Spiritual/Soulful time: Time alone, meditation/prayer, be in nature, journal, find purpose, laugh

Developing a self-care plan is just that: it is based on your personal needs, your time, and what small changes will have the biggest impact in your life. And so use these tools to develop your own self-care plan to fill your wellness buckets and improve your overall health and well-being.

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