We’ve all felt that pull to take care of other people or work responsibilities or anything other than ourselves and the idea of stopping for just a moment to take care of our own needs feels bad or even wrong.
We are taught to believe that taking time for ourselves is selfish and taking that time can bring about feelings of guilt and shame. Self care is not selfish and you can let go of the feelings of guilt associated with adding self care to our list of priorities.
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines selfish as “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others; arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others”.
We interpret time taking care of ourselves as time taken away from others or other responsibilities. This is why you feel selfish when you make time to care for yourself.
But what if you look at it a little differently?
What if you look at taking care of yourself as a way to improve how you interact with others and take care of all of your other responsibilities. We cannot provide for others if we are not providing for ourselves and one way to make sure that you can give “regard for others” is making sure you have your best and most cared for self to offer.
Imagine how much more present you can be with others and how much more efficiently you can tend to your other responsibilities if your basic physical and emotional needs are being met.
When we think of making time for ourselves, we often think that we are making ourselves the number one priority or the only priority and then we feel that we are being selfish and “disregarding others”.
You don’t have to make yourself the only priority. You don’t even have to make yourself the number one priority. You can simply add yourself to your list of priorities.
So how do you make self care a priority?
The same way we make anything a priority. It starts with a shift in focus and a change in how we feel about self care and viewing it as a necessity rather than an option, as a need rather than a want, and as mandatory rather than extra.
Here are some tips to start making self care a priority.
- Start small & build on
Don’t take on so much that it is overwhelming because that is a recipe for failure. If we take on so much that we aren’t going to follow through, we don’t get the benefits, so start small. Take on one goal like 10 minutes of daily meditation and add it to your routine for a week or 2. When that feels more manageable, add on something else like 30 minutes of exercise for another week or 2 and so on and so on.
- Schedule it into your day
We don’t seem to ever skip the doctor’s appointment that’s written on our calendar in ink and highlighted and starred, but we tend to miss the 10 minute meditation that we will get to “later”. If we write that meditation onto our calendars and treat it like any other scheduled appointment, we are more likely to dedicate that time and make it happen. Also, when we see that it fits into our day without taking away from other obligations, it becomes easier to take that time.
- Plan ahead
If we expect to come up with healthy meal plans and exercise plans on the fly, we are likely to do what is most convenient or easiest, which might be fast food and sitting on the couch. But if we have a plan for healthy meals and activity ahead of time, it becomes less of a burden to follow that plan in the moment rather than come up with something and implement it all at the same time.
- Be accountable
Hold yourself accountable by working towards goals and rewarding yourself for meeting them. You can also tell a friend or partner about your intention so that you can check in with each other about how it’s going. It also can be helpful to talk to a therapist and have that be a way to brainstorm ways to implement these tools into your life as well as provide accountability.
If you recognize that you are struggling with making self care a priority or give up the guilt of taking time for yourself, please call Champaign Counseling today to schedule an appointment. We can help look at self care in a new way and help add YOU to your list of priorities.