Self-care can be defined as anything that brings you joy - that re-energizes you and supports you in being your best self.
Most people know that they should be taking care of themselves. They know they’ll be able to help others more effectively if they are themselves replenished. But internalizing the value and making self-care a regular practice can be difficult to prioritize and accomplish.
In coaching, we find that people generally know what to do. But we work together to help patients attach that knowledge to their values. To make self-care a part of your life, you need to accept that it’s important and worth the effort. Then you can put a plan into place that helps you actually do it!
Why Prioritizing Self-Care Is Difficult
Life is full of responsibilities. People bear the weight of other’s expectations; real or perceived. Usually that means there’s no time or energy left over for proactive self-care.
Some see self-care as being selfish. Guilt makes it hard to take time off. I see this often with parents and with those in caring or giving fields of work, like teachers, healthcare workers, therapists and more. They feel guilty taking time for themselves because they view it as taking time away from caring for the other people in their lives. It’s hard for them to detach self-care from their purpose of caring for others.
Making time for self-care is really about mindset. Buying into the concept of self-care because it takes practice and consistency. This belief is essential: A better, healthier you will help be better and healthier in all aspects of your life - such as taking care of others, being happy and satisfied at home or work, managing stress, and more.
The Benefits of Self-Care
I had one patient who worked in a giving field who felt rundown. She was beginning to really dislike her job that she once loved. We started by exploring what brought her joy? It didn’t have to be big or monumental, but we explored what little moments of rejuvenation would look like for her. She started making time for small moments in the week that brought her joy - reading, journaling, a relaxing bath. At the end of our coaching term, she talked about realizing that taking time for self-care was worth it, and that she was worth it. Self-care brought her more joy in her relationships, and re-energized her so that she even started enjoying her job again.
Self-care can help prevent burnout. It can also help you replenish and reenergize to help prevent you from hitting a wall. It helps with self-appreciation, so you re-learn what you love and appreciate about yourself. When you take care of yourself, you’re a happier, healthier version of yourself. That leaks out at home, at work, wherever you go. You can share what you have with others. It’s difficult to share something that you don’t have.
If you think that incorporating self-care into your life might be just what you need - start by thinking about what brings you joy. Sometimes it’s been quite a while since people have really thought about what they like to do, or what makes them happy. Reconnecting with those things is a fantastic place to start.
Once you have your list of joy-giving activities - break them up. Some might be big - like a trip - and you’ll have to plan for it. Some might be smaller, like a weekly bubble bath to relax, doing meditation, going for a walk, taking your lunch outside, or sitting on your porch for 10 minutes when you get home from work.
Whatever you decide, it has to come from you and what you enjoy doing. Think about the possibilities and try them out.
Working with a health coach on strategies is another great way to get started. Coaching is a form of self-care - it gives you permission to do something proactive for yourself.
There is no right or wrong to self-care, as long as it makes you feel good - try it out! Goals are just experiments, so there is no failing unless you don’t attempt it or consider it a failure yourself. Sit with yourself and think about what things that used to bring you joy that you can try, or bring back into your life. It can be whatever you want it to be.