Overcoming These Roadblocks to Self-Care is Not Only Beneficial, But Imperative For Improving Your Self-Care Practices

barriers to self-care for women

It is very common for women to nurture everyone else but themselves. We can dedicate our energy and find time where there is none to help our kids, friends, bosses, and family but we can never seem to find time for our own needs.

Everything else ranks higher. The concept of self-care is lost amid the needs of everyone and everything else that is constantly bombarding us with big things to worry about.

Everything else takes precedence over our own fundamental needs, which includes critical things like calm, quiet, rest, and even fun.

Somehow, there is always something that is more important, and so we push our own self-care needs down the list, till they fall right off.

In part, this can be blamed on the socialization of women who are taught to care for others as making sacrifices is intertwined with being a mother and a wife. We feel guilty when we say no, or worry that we are being selfish when we take time for ourselves or say no to someone’s request.  

It is important to acknowledge these facts and begin to understand that these are just our own perceptions, they are not reality. Saying no, taking time for yourself and caring about your own self-care is not only beneficial, it is imperative, not only for yourself, but so that you can be there whole and repaired for your loved ones.

This is part 2 in a series about How to Make Your Self Care a Top Priority in Your Life. Here’s part 1 if you missed it and it covers What is Self-Care and the High Price of Not Caring For Yourself.

Giving Yourself Permission For Self-Care

For some inane reason, Mother’s Day is a perfectly “ok” day to take it easy and pamper ourselves, but somehow any other day is not.

A major part in improving your self-care practices is to give yourself permission to do so.

This may take some convincing, but you can do it! 

Go ahead and refill your own cup.

You deserve it.

You need it.

It is your right, and your obligation to yourself.

As soon as you begin to reap the benefits of taking the time for you, you will be glad you did, and it will motivate you to continue.

Not Asking For Help – Doing It All Yourself

If there’s one thing that most women can agree on it’s that we are driven to do everything by ourselves. Asking for help is what weak people do, and we’re not weak, right? Heap more responsibility on my head! I can take it all!

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Of course, you will reach a point where it all becomes too much and you’re desperate to ask for help but too afraid to do so.

Have you ever found yourself in a position that you fought to get, thus insisted on doing yourself? Even though you weren’t entirely sure of the full specifications and expectations you didn’t want to speak up to clarify or ask for support, you thought you’d figure it out only to have it all blow up in your face. It’s something that has happened to all of us at some point, yet we don’t learn the lesson after the first dozen times.

Here’s what happens when you insist on doing it all yourself and refuse to just ask for help.

The Alienation Of Others

One of the biggest aspects of not asking for help is a failure to communicate your struggles with the people around you, whether it’s at home or in a work situation. By refusing to ask for help, it makes it more difficult for other people to reach out to you.

In regards to self-care, alienating others in turn alienates you and in that alienation makes the stress of doing too much that much worse.

There’s A Lack Of Trust

Being too afraid (or stubborn) to ask for help indicates a certain lack of self-awareness, at least it can to other people. The people around you doubt whether you realize that your insistence on taking it all upon yourself and are then concerned with how it could impact on them if you drop the ball along the way. This causes a breakdown of trust, and again this can happen at home, as well as in the workplace. In the workplace, it can be even more damaging.

Self-Care Out The Window

One of the biggest issues with not requesting help when you need it is that it shows disrespect to you. You’re disrespecting your self-care by taking on more than you can handle. You don’t have to say yes to absolutely everything, nor must you struggle along with everything that is on your plate now. Speak up!

Tips For Asking For Help

In the past when you have been too afraid or too stubborn to ask for help what has been the main reason? You were afraid of appearing weak or incapable. The truth is the opposite, though; there is strength in asking for help.

The key is in asking the right way:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute
  • Ask the right person
  • Don’t make them feel like they have no choice
  • Be clear about what you need
  • Ask them face to face and follow it up in an email
  • Thank them
  • If you can, help others when they need it

You don’t need to know everything and bumbling along is only going to have an impact on your stress levels and fill you with anxiety.

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Lack Of Self-Awareness

Often, women don’t realize how their lives lack self-care until they are either tearing their hair out, screaming at someone and/or are too exhausted to lift their head off the pillow. Sound familiar?

Begin to notice how you feel throughout the day. Are you run down? Tired? Can’t think straight? Eating a lot of carbs and sugar filled junk? These are all signs that you are not centered, overly stressed, and headed towards major burnout.

Self-awareness is the ability to identify, recognize, and understand that is really going inside yourself.

Psychology professor Dan McAdams of Northwestern University explains that, “The stories we tell ourselves about our lives don’t just shape our personalities –- they are our personalities.”

Often, self-awareness into how we are feeling, and doing in general on a day-to-day basis escapes us as we are running around without taking even a minute to stop, check in with ourselves, and just be.

Consider turning down the volume in your daily life for at least a few moments. Spend time alone reflecting and considering what your truest and most deepest needs for health really are and then you can move on to considering how you will fulfill these needs. Spending those moments alone on self-reflection is in itself an act of self-care.

Mindfulness is another great approach to gaining self-awareness. By becoming aware of the present moment, you can improve all your future ones.

Research from Wisconsin’s Richard Davidson demonstrated a direct correlation between actual brain changes and mindfulness that took subjects away from anger and anxiety and toward a sense of calm and well-being.

Not Knowing The Word No

In her book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care, Cheryl Richardson explains the reasons we have a hard time saying no…

“We don’t want to feel guilty.

We don’t want to disappoint others because we know how bad it feels.

We don’t have the language to let someone down with grace and love.

Our fear of conflict and our desire to keep the peace keep us from telling the truth.

We want people to like us and are uncomfortable when they don’t.”

Richardson further explains that in order to become healthy we must say at times say no, and this means, “You must learn to manage the anxiety that arises when other people are disappointed, angry, or hurt. And they will be. When you decide to break your pattern of self-sacrifice and deprivation, you’ll need to start saying no, setting limits, and putting boundaries in place to protect your time, energy, and emotional needs.”

This maybe an uncomfortable change to make, but one that is necessary to avoid the overload that occurs as a result of never saying no, and especially saying yes, when it will have a negative effect. For some of us, it never even occurs to say no, we just agree to any request, and then when we realize what a hardship it is, or that we really are already so overextended we feel regret, anxiety, resentment and maybe even some guilt at letting our own selves down.

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Worse yet, is when we are okay with sacrificing our needs to help someone else, this habit is perpetually self-destructive as it slowly eats away at our own reserves.

Begin learning to say no by not agreeing to requests right away, and instead let the person know that you need to make sure that you are not otherwise engaged and then consider your answer carefully and get back to them.

Remember that we are not responsible for other people’s reactions, we are only responsible for ourselves, so while some may get upset and try to make you feel guilty, let it go and keep yourself in mind first.

The truth is that those people who cannot respect your boundaries are not real friends and doing things out of guilt is not the foundation for a healthy relationship, but instead breeds resentment and will harm you more in the long run.

Saying no maybe a difficult change to make, but it offers the opportunity for growth, and most important it is being done with your self-care and needs in mind and that is the best reason to do anything. Your real friends and loved ones will understand because they care about you and not what they can get from you.

The Disease Called “Too Busy” 

Have you ever found yourself so entirely consumed by the activities in your daily life that you forgot to look after what should be your first priority (you)? Being “too busy” is yet another major roadblock to self-care.

What do you do every day and each week to make sure that you are taken care of? Do you often forget to eat lunch, or make a variety of different meals every night just to cater to everyone else’s tastes?

Busy truly is a disease because you get so caught up with your to do list you neglect yourself and forget all about self-care.

Essentially, you are that pot of rice that you’ve shifted to the back burner while focusing on the rest of dinner. Even though there is nothing worse than bad rice and it plays a major role in the meal, you forget all about it. Much like you forget about yourself in your race to take care of everything and everyone else.

Being overly busy is a sickness and there’s only one way to make sure you come out the other side alive. Learn how to truly practice self-care.

In PART 3… Are You Giving Yourself Enough Self Care

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