Author: Brittany P. Male LCSW, CADC
As a society, we continue to struggle to give ourselves permission to practice self-care. Our country values hard work and, in turn, we fail to allow ourselves the time to pause, catch our breath, and nourish our bodies and souls with rest. We’re fearful that if we stop to rest, we will fall behind and be unable to catch up. We’re fearful that those around us may look at us as “lazy” if we take the needed day off, limit our access to work emails and calls while we’re home, or say “no” to offered overtime.
Outside of the workplace, we find ourselves guilty of this as well. Whether you find yourself saying “yes” to going out with friends despite feeling exhausted from work and could really use a night in, or you’re a mother who doesn’t go work-out because she feels guilty leaving her children at the gym’s child care center. We often put our own self-care needs on the back-burner for others. We convince ourselves that we must keep going no matter the cost. If this sounds like you, keep reading. If this doesn’t sound like you, continue being your best self and use this as validation for the commitment you’ve already made towards yourself and those around you. The truth is that in order to be your best self, you must practice self-care.
The definition of self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. Simply put, it’s what you do to stay healthy. Despite the definition, we still treat self-care as something that is unnecessary and something that only the privileged have the opportunity to do. Privileged, meaning those that can financially afford to get massages, take trips to tropical climates, or who can even afford to take time off work. First off, self-care is absolutely necessary. Taking the time now to commit to self-care saves you time in the long run. When we’re burnt out and stressed, we’re more likely to make mistakes, be unproductive, and get sick than we are when we’re rested and rejuvenated. Though it may seem counterproductive to take a day off work when you’re feeling burnt out, it is exactly what you need to do. Taking that day off to relax, do something you enjoy, or sleep, allows you to increase the energy you need to go back to work and focus on the job that you need to do more effectively. You don’t need to take a trip to the Bahamas or get weekly massages in order to practice self-care. Self care could looks like making sure to eat breakfast even if it’s on the go. Self-care could be listening to meditative music on your way to work or taking a minute each day to stretch. Don’t make excuses. Don’t over complicate something that doesn’t need to be complicated. Identify a reasonable commitment you can make towards practicing self-care and actually do it. See how you feel and how self-care affects and lends itself to your everyday and work life.
Just this past week, my colleagues and I decided to focus our attention on self-care and have benefited immensely. We worked together to identify both personal and professional goals for practicing self-care. At the conclusion, we identified the importance of self-care and made a commitment to checking in on self-care quarterly professionally and encouraging each other personally to practicing good self-care. For myself, self-care looked like saying no and giving myself permission to put away my work at night to spend time with my husband or enjoy a good movie. As a business owner and a mother of two young children, I can always be doing something, so giving myself permission to just rest and be still felt incredible. Since becoming a business owner, I have gotten into the habit of bringing my laptop to bed. It was a nightly routine: put the kids to bed, grab a snack, crawl into bed, and open up my laptop. Despite my fears, not doing work after the kids were asleep did not lead to me falling behind at work. Instead, I was motivated to get my notes done earlier or found time elsewhere in the day so that I could fully enjoy the time at night to just rest and recharge for the next day. What started as something I was going to do during self-care week, has now become something that I’d like to maintain as a regular self-care practice. I know that I am a better mom when I’ve had my time to rest. I’m telling you this for the purpose of encouraging you to look for the simple ways in which you can practice self-care. Sometimes these simple acts of self-care can lead to significant change.
The list below shows categories to evaluate your self-care and potentially explore ideas for yourself to practice self-care. To evaluate your current self-care, go through each category of and rank each from 0-5 (0 being that you never engage in that activity towards self-care and 5 being that you engage in it often). Calculate your average for each category in order to fully assess what your self-care “grade” is for each. If you’re not interested in a grade, simply use this evaluation for reflection. When you’ve reviewed all the categories, identify two things you can do in the next week to practice self-care. At the end of the week, reflect on your time practicing self-care. Did it take up time? Did you fall behind on the work you needed to do? How did you feel after engaging in self-care? Did anyone notice anything different about you? Did you notice anything different about yourself?
I hope that you’ve found this information both informative and motivating to begin prioritizing your own self-care. If you find that you’re having difficulty taking the steps discussed in this post don’t hesitate to contact us at (630) 570-0050 or email us at Contact.OH@oakheartcenter.com to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our therapists.