“Self-care is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self-preservation.” – Audrey Lorde
As a woman, mother, and psychotherapist- I tend to run on the care-taking side. I grew up in an alcoholic household as the oldest of five desperately wanting to make sure everyone else was taken care of. For a long time, I ignored that I needed to charge my own batteries and often felt myself running on empty. Even though my graduate training expressed the importance of self-care in conjunction with my role as a mental health professional, it wasn’t until I became a person in recovery, that I realized how vital self care is. Today, my self care is a non-negotiable.
Self-care is a preventative “medicine” for everyone but especially a necessity to help those avoid relapse, mental health issues, weight gain, and insomnia-to name a few. I suggest my patients create a “prescription card” to carry with them of a list of self care ideas so they can commit to engaging and putting themselves first 3 to 5 times daily – even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time. If we don’t make US a priority, we can’t take care of anyone else effectively. Below are some examples I personally like to engage in.
- going for a bike ride
- sitting and drinking coffee
- lighting a candle and taking a couple of cleansing breathes.
Benefits of self care include increased positive thinking, less susceptibility to stress, and provoked feelings of calm and feeling taken care of. When we neglect our needs, we can become angry, resentful, and burned out resulting in conflict in relationships and low self-esteem.
Self care IS NOT selfish! I hear this way too often when I first introduce my patients to this concept. They fear their desires of wanting to do something for themselves will be judged by other people. I educate them by explaining a selfish person would view others as a means to get what they want-maybe when they were actively using drugs or alcohol, this was the case. Selfish people are often manipulative, narcissistic, and have a fear of loss of control. Choosing to get your nails done doesn’t qualify as selfish but rather self care.
It’s okay to have your needs met- some of us aren’t sure what our needs are or at the beginning stages of learning what they are. It is a conscious choice to put YOU first and make YOU a priority. Other people will greatly benefit when you are your best self- you will have more to share. “Self care is learned, purposeful, and continuous. It is the cultivation of self in a comprehensive sense, focusing in particular on the soul and the knowledge of self.” (wikepedia)