Self-care is more than “treating yourself”

Let’s talk about self-care for a sec. True self care.

Before you groan or roll your eyes, hear me out. The term “self-care” has gotten a frivolous reputation in some circles as fluffy, optional, escapist — a way that millennials avoid “adulting” (ugh, that WORD, can we ban it please??). But that is just not how I see it.

True self-care does not come from a place of indulgence, but from a place of love and compassion. It’s essential.

Self-care is not the same as spoiling yourself or treating yourself.

+ It’s about saying “no” to self-sacrifice and martyrdom.

+ It’s about recognizing that as humans we ALL have needs and desires. No one is exempt, including you.

+ It’s about tending to your particular needs and desires — for healthy and delicious food, enjoyable movement/exercise, intellectual and creative stimulation, spiritual growth, relaxation, and loving relationships.

+ It’s about recognizing that if you can identify and honor your own needs and desires, you will have more space and empathy for the needs and desires of others.

I actually see self-care as a responsibility we have to ourselves, especially as helping professionals. We often neglect our own needs and try to put the needs of our patients and families ahead of our own, leaving ourselves depleted, stressed, and even resentful.

True self-care is complex in the sense that first, you have to know WHAT IT IS YOU WANT.

Yes, this involves tuning into yourself and figuring what it is you’re not getting. Maybe what you want seems impossible or ridiculous or stupid to you, but that’s OK. Ignore that judgey voice. Give yourself permission to acknowledge whatever it is that you want. (Hint: It’s OK to want something for no reason at all! There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting. You may not choose to act on this desire, but don’t shut it down before you even get the chance to experience it.)

Then, once you are clear on what you want…a healthier body, more alone time, more patience, dedicated time for lunch, a new friend, a happier marriage, a vacation…you can start investigating what’s interfering with your ability to make this a priority.

There may be an emotional block somewhere, e.g. guilt about carving out time to go to the gym, self-worth issues, lack of confidence. Or a faulty belief: “I don’t have time,” “I’m too busy,” “It’s not that important.”

Believe it or not, GROUP is a fantastic way to explore some of this stuff: What we want, why we do what we do at work and in our relationships, why it’s so hard to assert ourselves or advocate for what we want in an effective way, how we can show up differently in our lives. If you’ve been thinking about joining one of my groups, send me a message here on FB or fill out an interest form for the co-ed therapist group or the general co-ed process group so we can explore next steps.

*** If you are struggling to come up with a desire or a goal to guide your self-care, don’t overthink it. Try adding a small, concrete practice to your routine and test it out. I always suggest meditation to people because I’ve seen how freeing and empowering it can be. I recently started meditated with the Headspace app and LOVE it. It combines meditation with brief snippets of education and inspiration. It has helped me cement my meditation into a habit that I look forward to every single day.

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