Self-care simply means doing things to look after your own health and well-being. It’s very broad and can include anything from sleep to hobbies to going to a doctor’s appointment to taking on new challenges.
It’s no surprise that caring for yourself provides the basis for good mental health. It sounds simple yet so many of us struggle with it. Why? I believe it’s partly due to two common misconceptions.
1.) We think that self-care is selfish
I think many of us believe that self-care is selfish. Why should I care for myself? Why should I focus on myself? There are other people that are struggling way more than me! I should be there for them. I don’t need to care for myself, I am fine!
Caring for ourselves is not selfish. We all have needs, and if we cannot meet these needs ourselves we tend to over rely on others. The other truth is that if we are able to care for ourselves we are better able to be present and there for the people in our life. Self-care can actually make us less selfish!
2.) We think that self-care should only give rise to pleasant feelings
Another misconception about self-care is that it is supposed to give rise to only pleasant feelings. While sometimes this can be the case, for example when we make time to pursue a new hobby or engage in some type of pleasurable activity, self-care can also give rise to very difficult feelings, for example when we have to go to that doctor’s appointment we have been putting off or when we need to be assertive with an aggressive person in our life.
If we only use self-care as a way to give rise to pleasant feelings, and avoid the necessary self-care that produces difficult feelings our health and well-being will most likely suffer in the long run.
Where to start?
Food, sleep, and exercise make up the essentials of self-care. This is always a good place to start, and can be difficult in itself to maintain. Remember, there is no need to be perfect. We cannot eat healthy all the time, and exercise all the time. Even small changes can make a big difference.
Another thing to do is brainstorm a list of self-care ideas. Are there certain activities you used to enjoy but have not had time for? Is there a new hobby you have always wanted to try? Is there a simple way you could break up your workday, like taking a walk around the block at lunch? Is there something difficult you have been putting off that you know needs to get done?
Once you have a list, try scheduling out some self-care time during the week. Start small, you don’t need to do everything all at once!