I think people get confused on feeling that if they do something for themselves, they are being selfish.
Let me be clear. Self-care is not selfish.
If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it is okay to take a walk, read a book, spend time by yourself, turn off your phone. We have turned into a society that is accessible 24/7 because of smartphones and email. Things like taking time for yourself have gone out the window.
In the past, my husband had a very demanding job and there was an expectation that if there was a phone call or an email, you had to be available regardless of the time of day. He could get a phone call at any time and that never fully gave him an opportunity to relax and calm his mind; his fight or flight response was always on.
Whether we were having a family dinner, or putting the kids to bed, he was only half present because he was responding to emails or making phone calls. Eventually we debated that if we were at the movies, would his work expect him to take a phone call?
He said they wouldn’t.
So we implemented a rule. Every night between family dinner and putting the kids to bed, he would pretend he was at the movies and turn his phone off. He was expected to be present and the end result was that he could allow himself to relax a little and spend time with his family. After the kids went to bed, he could then catch up on his missed emails and phone calls, but our kids needed that time with their dad and it was also a time he needed with the kids. Putting up that boundary was self-care for him and a small step to improving his mental health.
And self-care can take many forms and here are some options:
- Go for a walk
- Go to the park
- Exercise (but check with your doctor first to make sure medically you are cleared to exercise)
- Talk to a friend or therapist
- Enjoy a hobby (cooking, music lessons, art, architecture)
- At home spa day (the internet has some great face mask recipes!)
- Take a break from social media
- Set healthy boundaries with friends, family and especially work
- A good cry
It can be something as simple as turning your phone off, or as extravagant as taking a trip. But when we do not take care of ourselves and allow our fight or flight response to turn off, then we are in a constant state of stress and that can turn into anxiety. And that's not good for anyone.
Make time for you!