What’s Stopping You from Taking Care of Yourself?
As women, we take care of everything and everyone from the minute we wake till we fall asleep, most nights from sheer exhaustion. Shouldn’t that be enough? But it isn’t, because the most important person in that equation is being the one most marginalized.
It’s exhausting, and it has to stop!
We have to take a step back and ask ourselves one fundamental question: “If we don’t start taking care of ourselves, who will?”
The answer is, no one!
But like achieving any other success, improving your self-care skills requires a strategy, remember that self-care is a deliberate effort.
Here are some practical strategies to help you start on the path of some much needed self-care:
Make You a Priority
Our culture is immersed in this idea that it is selfish to put yourself first. When you are in a relationship you’re expected to put the needs of someone else first before you act you should consider their interests and needs. Then you have children and it’s the same but an even bigger thing.
Suddenly you are in third place behind your partner and kids, maybe even fourth place if you have a job to juggle, too.
It’s understandable that you want to consider the needs and happiness of others and it’s completely normal that you want to ensure they feel understood and heard.
However, in loving others there is room to love yourself. In fact, if you don’t love yourself how on earth can you be expected to love anyone else?
Treat Yourself With Respect and Compassion
This is so simple, if you live your life and make decisions from this simple standpoint, then everything else will fall into place. You will begin to make yourself a priority, and look out for your own needs.
What does this phrase even mean? Well, quite simply it means that you make yourself a priority and that you take care of you.
When you do, it becomes easier to care for others, because your own happiness is overflowing. You become a better person when you learn to love yourself. You have more to give to your partner, your children, your family, your friends, and even your job.
Maybe the biggest issue with the thought, culturally, is that we associate putting yourself with forgetting about everyone else. In fact, the opposite is true. Putting everyone else before you can lead to frustration and resentment, especially when you suffer in silence.
Don’t Apologize For Putting You First
Who do you spend the most time with? You. So, why on earth would you ever feel the need to apologize for making yourself a priority? You need to invest in making your own passions and goals come true, rather than being completely focused on doing the same for others.
The situations that life throws at you quickly sap your resources, and generally, those situations require time or money. You don’t empty your bank account without topping it up; you need to top yourself up, too. Therefore, when you need some me time, don’t you dare apologize for it. Prioritize yourself so that you can give everyone else what they need.
Putting Yourself First Pays Off
You know that saying that if you aren’t first, you’re last … it’s really accurate in this situation because if you don’t put yourself first you will be last on your agenda and it will be easier and easier for other things to slide in ahead of you. Here’s how putting yourself first pays off:
- Healthy & Happy
The people that you love want you to be happy and healthy. Now, think about all of your friendships and relationships and how they improve when you feel your best (mentally, emotionally, and physically). Just think about how you feel when you eat well, exercise regularly, and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Compare that with your relationships when you’re exhausted and irritable, too caught up in filling everyone else’s needs and desires rather than your own. You can’t give your best when you’re not at your best.
- Burnout Saps Your Joy
Have you ever tried to indulge in one of your favorite activities when you’re completely burned out? It isn’t enjoyable, is it? When you’re exhausted and overworked, you’re stressed out and wracked with anxiety, so much so that even a relaxing dinner with friends is just another chore to add to your list. The truth is you need a proper break to remember how to be present for the moments that you should be enjoying.
Burnout depletes your levels of happy hormones and when you’re in survival mode, you are at greater risk for mental health issues. Learn how to say no to others and say yes to yourself.
- Resting Is Compulsory
There are probably a bunch of items on your to do list that you can cross off and forget about, whereas you can’t cross rest off your list. You wouldn’t keep driving your car with a flat tire; let the oil or gas run out, so why on earth would you do it yourself? It can be difficult, though, because you feel that you have to say yes, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. What about your feelings?
A failure to rest is going to increase your cortisol levels and just make your situation worse and feed into the vicious cycle of burnout. It’s okay to put yourself first and choose the couch over a big night out.
- Improved Health
You will be in far better health when you learn to prioritize your self-care. Exhaustion, anxiety, and stress contribute to a variety of illnesses. Stress triggers a chain reaction that draws all of the available resources just to get you through the situation, leaving other areas of your body lacking.
You bring a certain energy to every situation that you are involved in. If you carry an angry energy, the people around you will see it, the same as they can feel your happy energy. It doesn’t even have to be that obvious an energy for it to transfer to others. So, be mindful of the fact that your stress and moodiness can transfer to those around you.
The best thing that you can do for the people in your life is to put yourself first, practice self-care, and be the best you possible. If that means saying no sometimes then be brave and say no. When your body and mind are trying to tell you to slow down, listen.
Ditch The Guilt
Have you ever felt guilty about taking care of your son, daughter, mother, sister, or spouse? Think about this for a moment. Likely, your answer is no, but you likely do feel guilt when taking time to do something to take care of yourself.
One way to overcome this type of guilt is to understand the big picture, without self-care you end up running on empty and you cannot care for or give to others from an empty cup.
Paul Hewitt, PhD, says, “I don’t think needing to be perfect is in any way adaptive.” With over 20 years of research behind them, both Hewitt and his colleague, Gordon Flett, PhD have found that perfectionism correlates with anxiety, eating disorders, depression, and a host of other mental health problems along with several studies that show it to contribute to psychopathology.
At the root of perfectionism is control, but perfectionism can never truly be achieved, and it’s exhausting. You don’t have to be perfect, in fact it takes way too much of valuable time that can be spent caring for yourself instead. Your house need not be perfect, you don’t have to be perfectly organized, and it’s okay if your car did not get a wash today.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes, focus on your own self-care instead and it will help you release the need for control.
Let go of perfection, it’s exhausting and nobody is perfect. Life is too short! If you find it difficult to let go of being perfect, seek professional help from a qualified therapist or psychologist.
Superwoman Does Not Exist
Stop trying to be a superwoman who can do it all, after all, you are only human!
Plan to be Spontaneous
Spontaneity is a key component of emotional and mental wellness. Remember that self-care need not be a planned time intensive event, even a few minutes each day can have a profound impact. Spontaneity is something that can help in this regard.
Whenever you have a few moments of free time, for example while the baby is napping or a lunch break at work, choose to do something for yourself.
You can also set up time that can be used to be spontaneous; this means planning time in your schedule without any plans, an hour here, an hour there can really add up and make a great impact on your wellness.
Those holes in your schedule can be used to…
- Take a drive
- Read a book
- Take a hot bath
- Call a friend
- Watch a movie
- Just sit in your garden and enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of coffee
Making Self-Care Your Own
It is important to make your self-care ritual your own. What may work for some women may not be ideal for you. While some women love taking hot baths, others are better served lifting weights. Some women practice their rituals first thing in the morning, so they get up extra early to do so, while others prefer afternoons or evenings for their rituals.
The point is that the self-care techniques your adopt help you to destress, stay calm, and take good care of yourself.
You do not need any authority to tell you what you need, you are the only one that can answer that question, and this may take some introspection, especially if you have not regularly been in touch with your needs in the past.
You may have to try a few things to find those that make you feel more centered, calmer, destressed, refreshed, and cared for.
You should create a standing appointment with you. Find something that you love and dedicate time to indulge in it, whether it’s painting, writing, or having a mani-pedi. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it brings you happiness. Make everyone understand that nothing should be scheduled around this appointment, it’s yours.
Having an activity that you enjoy allows you to relax, de-stress, and eases some of the emotional tension you experience. You can make a special appointment once a week, but do find quiet time for yourself every day, whether it’s as little as 10 minutes or as much as an hour.
You’re worth it. It isn’t escaping from your life, it’s the direct opposite, it’s enjoying it by embracing it for yourself.
Make a deal with yourself now, that you’ll stop putting yourself on the back burner and start making you a priority on your to do list. The smartest investment you can make is in your own self.
Understand the big picture, without self-care, you end up running on empty, and you cannot care for or give to others from an empty cup.