Self-Care, Mental Health, Stress
3 Reasons Why You Think You Don’t Have Time For Self-Care
What self-care is and why it matters.
The concept of self-care has generated a lot of attention in recent years, and with good merit. However, most people are confused about exactly what self-care is and how to do it. This article aims to simplify the concept of self-care, help you identify the barriers to your self-care, and give you tips on ways to improve your self-care practice.
What is Self-Care?
Most people feel daunted by the idea of improving their self-care. This is in part due to the broad scope of the definition of what self-care is. According to the World Health Organization, self-care is defined as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” In essence, self-care is the process of taking care of yourself physically and emotionally so that you can be at optimal performance and be better able to take care of others.
You are probably reading this and thinking that there is no way you can find the time to dedicate to these areas of your life. Life is so hectic with all of the things you have to juggle already! Life is hard, so why add more things to your already impossible to-do list, right? Well, the truth is that if you practice self-care effectively, the things on your to-do list won’t seem that impossible and will become easier to manage. By finding self-care techniques that work for you, the things you have to do should get easier to manage, and you will become less stressed in the process.
This article examines three reasons you think you don’t have time for self-care and offers tips on removing these barriers.
3. You Think Self-Care is Selfish.
Let me stop you right there. Repeat after me, “Self-care is not selfish.” Say this as often and as loudly as you need to get the message across.
Most people think that taking care of yourself is a secondary task that should not come before your other, most important tasks. When in reality, SELF-CARE IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT TASK! You cannot take care of others if you do not take care of yourself first. You cannot pour from an empty cup. You must put the oxygen mask on yourself first. If not for yourself, when you put yourself first you are modeling to your children and family what healthy coping and healthy boundaries look like. If you’ve never heard this before, let me be the first to tell you that your life should be all about you, you, YOU, and that is OKAY.
2. You Don’t Know What Self-Care Really Is.
As described above, the definition of self-care is broad in scope. Let’s break down what this means to you, starting with the physical aspects of self-care. Most people who are not used to physical self-care are intimated by even beginning the process. This is understandable, especially given the number of products and information that are going around about physical fitness. This billion-dollar industry is designed to persuade us into buying their products or services. In the meantime, we lose the point of why we need to take physical care in the first place.
The amount of physical care you need is determined by you, and you alone. You do not have to be at a certain weight to be able to take good physical care. Although diet and exercise do have a huge impact on how we feel, it is not all about weight for the purposes of self-care. From my perspective, physical self-care is all about reducing the impact of the fight-or-flight response on the body.
The fight-or-flight response causes stress hormones to be released that increase our chances for survival, but it is activated in response to lower-level stressors too. This means that every time you experience anxiety, your brain is responding to some threat. More importantly, your brain sends signals to your body to start the physical changes that are more likely to keep you alive (e.g., heart rate increases, muscles get tight, breathing gets rapid and shallow). What most people don’t know is that these chemicals also prevent you from thinking clearly. READ THAT AGAIN. Yes, it is true that if you are anxious, you are not thinking clearly. This means that you should strive to be in a state of peace as much as possible. What this means to you and what you can do to reduce anxiety is a very individualized thing that is more appropriate to discuss in therapy. Physical exercise is a great way to reduce your stress levels, but you can also do this via body-based relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness. I encourage you to find ways to relax your body as much as possible. This is an essential part of self-care.
1. You Don’t Know What You Need.
This is the number one reason why people don’t think they have time for self-care. To take proper care of yourself, you must know what you need. We live in a society that is inundated by advertisements and distractions. Most people are not in-tune with themselves enough to know when their body is trying to tell them something. It is up to you as an individual to have the strength to detach yourself from all the bullshit that is being thrown at you through the radio, TV, or your cell phone in order to reflect on what your body is trying to tell you. Our bodies give us subtle signals when we are tense or stressed, but most of us ignore them or do not pay attention.
Our bodies tell us when we need to take care of ourselves and how. Sometimes, this can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths. Other times, it might be a good cry. But if you are not in-tune with yourself and are instead coping by distracting yourself with technology or other means, you likely have no idea what you need. Being in tune with yourself is the only way to determine what and how you need to take care of yourself.
Self-care is a broad topic, but it is not as complicated as you think. If you are struggling in any of these three areas and are ready to start putting yourself first, therapy is a great place to start learning ways to take care of yourself. You deserve to be your best self, and your loved ones deserve it too!
Take great care.