Self-Care or just Selfish?
Self-care seems to be a buzzword that pops up every few months in the mental health field. What is self-care? Is it going on a shopping spree? Is it taking a long bubble bath while your significant other watches the kids? Is it taking 30 minutes to read your favorite novel? Is it dinking around in the garage or the garden? The short answer is yes. Self-care can consist of all of those things, it really just depends on you and what types of activities help you feel re-charged and energized.
One of the most common excuses I hear from others (and maybe myself now and then) for not engaging in self-care activities is, "I feel like I'm being selfish!" Another excuse is, "I don't have time!" The problem with these excuses is that they are flawed. Most of us can make time to play games on our phones or binge watch our favorite shows, but we choose not to make the healthy choices that truly improve our well-being. Sure, playing video games and watching TV can be considered self-care, but how often do we truly feel re-charged after doing them?
Our culture today values doing. If you aren't being productive than you're being lazy. If you aren't doing for others than you are being selfish. Women especially run into this dilemma. Women are taught from a very young age to put spouse, children, and even pets before themselves. But what ultimately happens when you get sick and can't take care of everyone else first? Does the house turn to shambles? Does everyone still come to you asking what is for dinner despite the fact that you have a fever of 105 and you're sweaty and clammy?
One question to ask yourself when you start feeling guilty about taking some time for yourself is "What would I tell my best friend in this situation?" Often times we are much more compassionate with others than we are ourselves, does that mean we are any less deserving of it?
So what can we do to take better care of ourselves? Well start by looking back at old hobbies you used to enjoy that you haven't done in a while. Talk to friends and see what they do that is helpful to them. You can even research self-care activities and give them a try. I personally love Ted Talks and there is a good video here discussing "emotional hygiene" and how to take care of your emotional self. I also recommend looking at the work done by Kristin Neff who is leading the research in self-compassion. There is a short video here where she speaks about tips for self-compassion.