Self-Care: Selfish or Crucial?

Do you sometimes feel like you don’t have the time or energy to make good self-care a priority?

A couple of weeks ago I led a series of workshops at the magnificent Red Mountain Spa and Resort in southern Utah. We’d rise at the crack of dawn. Hike to frightening heights and witness some of the most magnificent vistas imaginable.

At night I led discussions about a variety of topics, the most animated of which was the concept of self-care. To my surprise, although many of the women wanted to care for themselves, they felt varying degrees of guilt about doing so.

Somehow the idea of self-care seemed self indulgent. Yet what I have repeatedly observed over the years is that women who make the time to care for themselves are generally happier, more relational and have the wherewithal to be better caretakers for the people in their lives.

So many of us grew up with the notion that self care is selfish and even narcissistic. The truth is that the renewal and energy we derive from caring for ourselves in meaningful ways fills us mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

I can remember my early years as a psychologist when I would see private patients, lecture at BU Medical School and conduct research. There was no balance. There was no self-care and I, like so many people in the depths of helping others was often on the verge, if not in the throes of burnout—operating on fumes.

Do you sometimes find yourself feeling overextended and exhausted more than you know is in your best interest?

It took a major wake up call for me to realize that this had to change. In order for me to continue my work and live out my purpose, I realized I had to include not only self-care but self-love into the equation. This was already in place with my family—but the self-neglect had to come to a screeching halt or the effects would be devastating to my health and well-being.

I might add that by self care I don’t mean getting a manicure, a massage, a facial or taking a vacation even though those are lovely aspects of self care. I needed to make some deeper changes regarding life style. That is, living my days differently, making sure that sleep, nourishment, healthy relationships, exercise and gratitude became an integral part of my day.

Here are my recommendations for self-care. I suggest wholeheartedly that you incorporate these ideas into your everyday life as best as possible. You’ll feel better in your own skin and will have sweeter energy for friends, family, colleagues, clients and whomever else touches your life.

  1. Get enough sleep consistently. Try to keep a regular sleep cycle for greater calm, clarity and rejuvenation.
  2. Feed yourself with beautiful, colorful, nourishing food and drink. Balance your energy and moods with whole foods that bring you pleasure and give yourself time to savor meals.
  3. Surround yourself with people that lift your spirits. As much as possible surround yourself with people that emanate positive energy and kindness. Leave the gossip and negativity behind as it impacts your own sense of inner peace and well-being.
  4. Find moments of time to just be or purposely relax during the day. Taking the time to regulate the breath and initiate a deep sense of relaxation through meditation or just sitting still and breathing abdominally has a profound effect on the nervous system and gives us tremendous vitality and inner strength. Once or twice a day of deliberate relaxation for just a few moments at a time has a transformative effect on the mind and body.
  5. Move your body—ideally in fresh air. Find something physical that brings you joy and commit to doing it several times a week. It will get those feel good hormones going and you’ll feel more enlivened and better in your body.
  6. Ramp up gratitude. It usually takes practice for most of us to truly appreciate the many gifts that we’ve been blessed with. Most of the time we focus on what’s gone wrong or not to our liking rather than noticing the multitude of kindnesses and blessings that are bestowed upon us every day. Practice a gratitude meditation where you think specifically about what you truly feel grateful for. You can do this even when you face inevitable challenges and loss.

Every night you can record in a gratitude journal and reflect on some positive aspects from the day. You’ll be building your aptitude for positivity, resilience and optimism…and you’ll be happier.

How are you attending to your own self-care? As always I’d love to here from you!

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