Why Self-Care Isn't Selfish

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An example of my self-care: reading outside with coffee or tea.

Have you seen #SelfCareSaturday or #SelfCareSunday floating around online? Me too, and I’m really, really happy about it! Self-care is any intentional action you take to maintain or improve your mental, emotional, or physical health. Self-care may seem like a luxury, but it is an absolutely necessary practice that helps us stay healthy, avoid burnout, and live fulfilling lives! Also, self-care is an example of White Space! To find out more about my self-care, take a look at my post about the Women on a Mission Interview.

When I ask my clients what stops them from practicing self-care, they usually cite reasons like not having enough time. Though when we dig deeper, a much bigger reason emerges: people don’t want to appear selfish, and believe that doing something for ourselves –much less putting ourselves first– is exactly that, selfish. Good news: self-care is not selfish! 

Self-care is one of the least selfish things you can do because when you take care of yourself, others don’t have to. Taking the unselfishness to the next level even, when others see you taking responsibility for your health and happiness, it not only sets a good example for those around you, it inspires them to do the same. This does not mean doing every single thing every single day for yourself, though it does mean not feeling bad about setting aside 5 minutes of your time to meditate, or saying no to going out with friends when you feel like staying in, or going out for a glass of wine by yourself, or going to bed early to make sure you get 8 hours of solid rest before your big presentation/test/conversation/interview/trip tomorrow.

What does your self-care look like? These are some ideas for self-care I’ve cultivated over the years organized by time commitment (of course you could always do more or less):

0-5 minutes:

Breathe: I realize this seems like a funny thing to list, but sitting and breathing mindfully is one of the easiest ways to reset the nervous system. Spend four seconds breathing in, hold your breath for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, and hold your breath out for four seconds. Repeat if desired.

Brain dump: When feeling stressed, take a couple minutes to write down everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) that is stressing you out. If you have more time, prioritize and knock one off the to-do list.

Dance Party: Turn on your favorite song-of-the-moment and jam!

5-10 minutes:

Meditate: Set your phone timer for 5 minutes, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. I also love the app Insight Timer for guided meditations of various lengths.

Sit Mindfully: Don’t feel like closing your eyes? Sit quietly and focus on a sense; maybe the way the sun feels on your skin, how the birds sound when they sing/chirp, or how colorful the plants/sky are.

Journal: Free-write; write whatever comes into your head or heart and get it down on paper. If you like some more structure in your journaling, write about a positive experience from the last 24 hours or about the many things for which you are grateful; both have been shown to increase happiness levels.

10-20 minutes:

Catch some rays: Put on some sunblock, grab a chair, and sit outside.

Read: A book. It’s the paper thing with ink on the pages. E-readers accepted here as well, but stay away from anything with a browser or app that can attention/energy-suck.

Stretch your legs: Take a lap around your workplace or neighborhood, or find a small flight of stairs and walk up/down three times.

Don’t wait until “Self-Care Saturday”; what are you going to do for your self-care today? Now? #SelfCareEveryday

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