I feel so selfish if I take time or do something for me. That’s time I should be ____ “ (insert with my children/husband/wife/partner/friends or working/cleaning/running errands, or anything or anyone besides the person themselves). This statement, or something similar, is something that I hear frequently from my clients. There appears to be this negative perception or a sense of guilt attached to taking care of or spending time for ourselves. We often feel selfish, like it is a bad thing. Many of us feel that we need to put others in our lives or our responsibilities before anything else, ourselves included. But as cliché as the saying may seem to some, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.

If you are not taking care of yourself, physically, mentally, and/or emotionally then you are not going to be able to be in your best form or be able to take on all that life, your roles, and your responsibilities throw at you. In order to be a good mother/father, husband/wife/partner, friend, employee, etc., you need to be selfish and take care of yourself first and foremost. Self-care, or selfishness, can be anything from getting enough sleep, to eating healthy or exercising, to taking a break during the work day, to mediating, to reading a book, or going to therapy. Whatever you find that works for you and helps you to “recharge” and focus on you, and only you, do that.

Not taking care of ourselves can have negative consequences, such as increased stress levels, lower levels of self-confidence, lower productivity or work quality, symptoms of anxiety or depression, or an increased risk for getting sick. Many of the clients I work with also make comments such as, “I feel like I am just a wife/husband/partner, friend, employee, mother/father, etc. I have lost myself and who I am” when they are feeling overwhelmed or not appreciated for all they are doing for others. Not making time for yourself or the things you enjoy can also lead to anger and resentment towards your husband/wife/partner, children, job, or even at yourself.

Practicing self-care can have a significant positive impact on both ourselves and our lives. There are multiple ways to “sneak” in time to take care of ourselves and do more of what we enjoy. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Get enough sleep- set bedtimes and stick to them to make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  2. Exercise- take a yoga/Pilates/spin class, join a group fitness class, lift weights, run outside, dance, just move for at least 10 minutes a day.
  3. Take a walk- go outside and take a short walk or even walk around the office for a quick break.
  4. Meditate- sit in a quite space, count breaths, repeat a mantra, or just be with the silence and let your mind be calm.
  5. Read- set some time aside, hopefully each day, to read something you enjoy and is not related to school/work/family.
  6. Make sure to take your lunch break (no work allowed!) each day.
  7. Log off- set a time each night where you “unplug” and stop checking all social media and email.
  8. Indulge- get a manicure, pedicure, massage, or spa treatment.
  9. Self-reflect- go to therapy.
  10. Make healthy habits- eat nutritious food, drink plenty of water, and make appointments for check-ups when needed.

Taking care of yourself should not be considered a selfish act. We all need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves and that our physical, emotional, and mental health are our top priorities. We all want to do well and feel accomplished in whatever we set out to do, whether it is in a relationship, our jobs, or just being ourselves, and in order to present the best selves we can be we NEED to take care of ourselves and practice self-care DAILY.

Please contact Symmetry Counseling today to schedule an appointment with a therapist if you are struggling with self-care in your daily life or if practicing self-care results in negative or guilty feelings.