Self-Care: The Path to Loving Others Well
Self-Care has become a cultural buzzword over the last decade. Doctors, therapists, and social media influencers instruct us to take time for a spa day, a round of golf, a bubble bath, reading a book, or a weekend getaway. While all of these are relaxing, the intense demands of life seem to deserve higher priority. Perhaps you find yourself wondering how you’re supposed to be available for something so “frivolous and selfish” in the face of serious concerns like the physical/mental health of family members, work demands, and the everyday balance of keeping life and family going. Maybe you find yourself asking “What is self-care and what’s the point?”
At a surface level, self-care is a break, a moment for yourself, a space to calm, leisure, enjoyment, and fun. Self-care, however, goes much deeper than this. When we keep overfilled schedules, attempt to please everyone, expect perfection from ourselves, avoid saying no, and care for others in high gear daily, our human bodies and brains eventually hit a wall. We become resentful, exhausted, short-tempered, depressed, anxious, and emotionally/spiritually run down. Often, the consequences of not taking care of ourselves result in the unintentional destruction of the very relationships we are working hard to manage well.
We accidentally embrace a belief and lifestyle that says we are less important, lovable, and valuable than those we love. We jump from healthy sacrificial love to a place of ignoring our own needs and failing to take care of ourselves. At its heart, self-care is the practice of remembering through action that you are as loved, lovable, and valuable as everyone else in your life. Self-care is about admitting to yourself that you are a more loving, more present parent, partner, and friend when you prioritize your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. When you embrace the deeper meaning of self-care, it moves from frivolous selfishness to the path of loving others well.
5 WAYS TO BEGIN SELF-CARE PRACTICE
1. Identify 3-5 activities that feel like a life exhale. Start small. One minute of deep breathing, a 15-minute walk, a 5-minute devotional/meditation, and a 10-minute cup of coffee are short examples of slowing down to acknowledge your value. You can work toward longer activities like a dance class, a full game of your favorite hobby, a long bath, or lunch with a friend.
2. Do one thing at a time. Set aside time for your self-care activity and do your best not to multitask. Our brains feel more relaxed and satisfied when we do one thing at a time. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to communicate to yourself that you are loved and worth the time.
3. Avoid numbing. Taking care of yourself is different than numbing out. Numbing is avoiding and becomes a cycle of not wanting to re-engage. Self-care is an intentional calming time to fill your cup - so you show up as a more full, energized version of yourself. Typical numbing activities include drinking alcohol, spending, and scrolling electronics. Try noticing when you’re confusing numbing with self-care.
4. Set boundaries with others. When possible, tell others in your life that you’re taking time for yourself and ask them not to interrupt you unless there is an emergency. You may feel guilty at first, and that is okay. Stick with self-care and remember you are a better version of yourself for others when you take care of yourself. People in your life can and will learn to respect your self-care time through time and repetition.
5. Relax in the moment and enjoy. It may take some practice to let go and enjoy your self-care moments. Take a few deep breaths and release tension where you notice it. Release expectations of yourself for a few minutes. Small pockets of reprieve from life stress are a gift to your body, your soul, and your loved ones.
As with anything new, starting a self-care practice will likely feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Give yourself 30 days to embrace the new habit. Remember not to overcomplicate it. There is no right or perfect way to take a moment to remember you are loved, you matter, and you are worth the time. As you extend grace to yourself along your self-care journey, we are cheering you on and you can find us at www.journeybravely.com.
MEET STEPHENIE CRAIG: Stephenie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 20 years of experience specializing in emotional/relational health counseling. Stephenie loves hearing others’ stories and helping people find new perspectives that produce peace, healing, and connection through individual counseling. Stephenie provides treatment for adults, teenagers, couples, and families with anxiety symptoms, parenting struggles, teen issues, depression, grief, divorce, and other life transitions.