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One of the most difficult questions to answer for the majority of the women I’ve met is “What do you do for self-care?”
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with women of all different ages and stages of life who struggle to adequately care for themselves. As a licensed psychologist, I’ve counseled and supported these same women while they develop their sense of self, adjust through tough transitions, and address a range of stressors such as work, relationships, parenting, loss, and self-worth.
In my personal life, I also see similar challenges with my adult daughters, sister, friends, and even my own mother. And of course, being completely transparent (and no surprise), I admit that I too have struggled with self-care.
After I inquire what these women do to take care of themselves, they often look at me as if I’m speaking another language. Sometimes, they’re unsure of the meaning of ‘self-care’ and when it could possibly fit into their day.
I’m frequently met with reluctance such as how much they have to do, all the other people they have to take care of, how guilty they feel if they do something for themselves, and a fear of being selfish if they stop and think about what they may need.
“Just because women can do anything, doesn’t mean they should do everything.”
In order to recognize and appreciate all that you do, it’s important to simultaneously recognize that we are much better mothers, partners, daughters, friends when we take care of ourselves. Know that a “balanced self-care regimen” will not only benefit ourselves, it will also benefit those we love.
Common myths regarding self-care
- Self-care means neglecting someone or something. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you’re neglecting someone you love or something else you care about. It means that you are investing in being the best version of you! So often we worry about putting everyone else first – our partners, our children, our parents, our careers – that we go right to the bottom of the list. Yet we know, in order to be truly present for people and things we care about, we need to be nourished, fueled, and recharged.
- There’s no time. Self-care is not all-or-nothing. Rather, it includes taking care of your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health. It can range from pedicures and bubble baths, to date nights and girls’ nights, a yoga class, quiet time at the beach or taking time for medical appointments. How do we do this when we may already feel like we’re working 2 full time jobs? What I often hear is “all this sounds like more work!” Fair, initially it may be; however, long term it’s worthy investment!
Start with small steps, prioritize what you need most AND what is most doable. I want you to be successful, not set you up to fail. Have a specific and concrete plan that includes scheduling these activities on your calendar, setting boundaries, and being flexible with your plan.
- Self-care is selfish. Remind yourself that self-care is NOT selfish. It’s allowing you to be your best self. You’re not giving up on, neglecting or eliminating other relationships or values. Think of what you would do for those you love, and do it for yourself. Try giving yourself mental permission to engage in health promoting behaviors. Another belief that may get in the way is the thought that “I’m obligated” to put others first, which may make you feel a lack of control and frustration in your own life.
- If I don’t know what I need then I shouldn’t bother. Sometimes not knowing what we need gets in the way, so a few questions to ask yourself:
- What am I craving or missing, think about your mind, body, and spirit?
- What “fills” you up? What brings you joy, energizes and restores you?
- Do you need time alone or time with others to recharge?
- What does your body need? Scheduling doctor’s appointments, exercise, and being nourished can act as “brain candy.”
- I don’t deserve self-care. So many of the women I know struggle with perfectionism, and the act of self-care doesn’t “fit” into the perfect image they feel they must be. I encourage you to gently challenge that belief, along with the other myths above. Know that being and doing your best is all you can do. Hustling for perfection will keep you feeling like you’re never enough.
People-pleasing and guilt over self-care
Keep in mind, there may be lots of things that interfere with your ability to prioritize a balanced self-care routine. For example, if you’re a people pleaser, you may quickly put others’ needs first, so you may need to slow down and sometimes say no. Or, if you struggle with guilt, acknowledge the guilt, and remember guilt is when you actually “do” something against your values. Taking action for your well being is doing something right!
Related to all of the myths listed above, some of those beliefs may contribute to developing anxiety, depression, feeling like you’re not enough or resentment towards those you love. It may make it really hard to do anything when you’re feeling that way; yet self-care activities will actually build your sense of self, improve your mood, and likely make you feel more empowered in your day-to-day life.
Creating a balanced self-care routine that you can count on benefits you and the people you love. You’ll feel better and more fulfilled, more present, healthier, and your family, friends, and loved ones will benefit from your energy and enthusiasm! And if it feels too difficult to do it alone, please reach out to me or another mental health professional to guide and support you. Reaching out to a therapist could be your first step to self-care!
Copyright © 2023 The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale, LLC
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