You’re overwhelmed at work. You have a ton of projects piling up at home, and your calendar is packed with overdue tasks and responsibilities. To make room for all of this stuff, you skip meals, stop working out, and what shreds of a social life you have seems to be put even further onto the back burner. When we’re stressed, self-care is usually the first thing to go. And that’s when things only seem to get worse.
As indulgent as the phrase self-care may sound, the habit of caring for yourself in an intentional and directional manner, is truly functional to your entire being.
Most of us grew up believing in self-sacrifice. Believing that the more you gave up, the bigger the reward. In high school, I routinely signed up for a debate tournament and speech events that often simultaneously went on during the same weekend. I forced myself to stay up all night preparing. I pushed myself each tournament to the point of exhaustion, going from room to room, from floor to floor, just to receive small academic accolades at the end of each district meet. I believed that by pushing myself to the brink everything would eventually pay off. Of course, the next day and beyond, I was so exhausted I could barely form coherent sentences, especially in school the following week. Mentally and socially this pace caused me to tank.
I know first hand that it’s easy to take the hard work pays off adage too far, to the point that it becomes counterproductive to your overall well-being and success. Your abilities become worn through. Your skills aren’t as sharp. You lose that laser focus. You run yourself into the ground. While you might think you’re working hard, in some ways, you’re not working efficiently at all. It’s easy to neglect taking care of ourselves because when we’re busy and overwhelmed, even a small reprieve feels like a luxury. So actually taking the time to eat lunch, exercise, and hang out with friends? That just feels like slacking.
It’s easy to neglect to care for ourselves when we’re busy and overwhelmed when even a small reprieve feels like a luxury. When taking the time to eat lunch, exercise, and hang out with our own family feels like slacking. But like with all flawed mindsets, backfires are inevitable as self-care actually helps you make progressive strides in life faster than the constant grind.
Take for example these few reasons why self-care should be a necessity in your life:
Self-care prevents burnout: We’ve all been there: you push yourself to the point that you can’t take anymore, causing you to just give up and let go of those important progressions in life. Self-care actually helps you avoid getting to that point initially by reduces the stress that makes you consider throwing in the towel at all. An unstressed mind prepared for battles ahead and does not dwell on past failures.
Self-care gives you perspective: While a small amount of stress can serve the purpose of outward momentum, but after a while serves to do little more than break down the virtue and sanctity of your down your mind and body. Self-care enabled you to care enough about your mental wellbeing to create healthy barriers that allow you to keep stress from taking over your life and your full functionality. Self-care helps you refocus: When I was stuck on a complicated math problem in school, my teacher would suggest walking away and coming back—taking a break, basically. Breaks are the epitome of
Self-care refocuses your senses: Self-care enables you with the gift of discernment. It allows you to know that sometimes in life you need to walk away from difficult situations, from difficult people, and from difficult attachments in your life. Self-care lets you know you need a break. It allows you to think your heart and soul, to know when it’s sometimes necessary to come back into a situation refreshed. Breaks are the epitome of self-care and are essential for helping you perform better.
I’ve said all that to say self-care is not a reward. It’s part of a process. A necessary process that sometimes gets mislabeled as rewarding rather than nourishing or enriching. We aren’t rewarding ourselves with lunch or even a trip to the bathroom, though, we are providing basic ourselves with the basic necessities of life.
While rewards can motivate us to work hard, they are not the light at the end of the tunnel. Self-care is.
When you care for yourself first you give yourself back the ability to strive and not just function. It’s better to care for yourself if even for a few minutes a day than later undergoing the arduous, messy, and altogether uncomfortable task of talking oursleves back in the from the ledge.
It’s vital that you make time for yourself in your daily routine. Even if it’s just a fresh change of clothes or a long stint in the shower. You need the respite.
Self-care also requires accountability. Consider letting those closest to you know you need help and be humble enough to put your ego aside and accept the help they offer. If you need help staying focused on fitness, consider teaming up with a friend and working out together or try an app like Sworkit, which generates daily exercise routines based on how much time you have each day. Sometimes you just have to get up and do it.
Self-care also relates to good nutrition. Do you want to eat less sugar? Control your carb intake? Drink more water? Just focus on one area at a time, carefully measuring your progress each day. There is nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, but food should never be a means to an end when it comes to stress. Changing the way you think about stress will help you change the way you think, relate, and in time, crave foods. Give yourself the gift of hydration over saturation. Give yourself grace.
In the end, self-care if nothing if not the practice of good emotional hygiene, and that’s something we can all get behind.
So tell me, in what ways today will you give yourself the gift of self-care. I’d love to hear about it below!