Self-care is not a reward. It is a critical component to living a balanced and happy life. Why does it seem easier to take care of everything else and everyone else instead? We often don’t think twice about taking on that meeting, signing the kids up for another thing or ditching the gym for a conference call. The excuses, justification and reasons become second nature, and then we believe them to be true. I challenge you to challenge those rationalizations!
It seems that we have been taught that the harder we work, the greater the payoff. No pain, no gain. I have to give 100%. However true these may ring to you, the pay off comes at a cost. Studies and science have shown that wearing down the body, overworking the brain, not sleeping enough and remaining in a constant state of stress actually is counterproductive to our health.
It’s easy to neglect yourself when you are busy and overwhelmed, so even a small moment of reprieve feels luxurious. If you take time for lunch, leave the work before 7pm or make it to that yoga class, then you feel like you are slacking. The mental cycle keeps going around and around with no rest in sight. The psychological effect could be you actually start feeling worse about your performance because of the exhaustion, then you feel disappointed because you haven't done anything for yourself, which leads to blame and frustration, so you re-commit again, then the cycle repeats. This is often what's behind the "I am going to start it for real this time," for the 5th time. You want out!
What if you started telling yourself that YOU NEED IT, it’s crucial. Change the conversation in your head so it’s not about ‘deserving’ a break, it’s about taking care of yourself enough so you show up more fully and healthy in life. Of course you deserve it, and it's absolutely crucial. When you keep putting yourself at the bottom of the priority list, you are actually saying “I am not worth it.” Imagine telling yourself in a hundred ways every week, wrapped in various reasons that you are not worth it, then literally not being able to function anymore because the fatigue is so great.
So, let’s work on taking care of this amazing body of yours, this creative and productive mind, this ever busy-on the go person. The body-mind connection needs your attention, and you may even love yourself a little bit more!
You can invest in your self-care today, which could save in your healthcare later.
Self-care prevents overload burnout. Ever thought to yourself, “I am done.” Everything wants to shut down. If you get here, you have gone too far. The body literally can’t do much more and this is the critical point. You are forced to stop, which means you won’t have energy for the good things in life either.
Self-care reduces stress in the body. Our bodies are not meant to take stress in such long doses. The stress hormones can have a negative impact on your heart, blood pressure, cholesterol and mental health.
Self-care helps you re-focus. It pays off mentally to give your brain a rest. Take some deep breaths, relax, close your eyes and relax your shoulders. The body needs time to come down.
Self-care means nourishing your body. Taking in healthy foods full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy carbs and flavors are the best fuel for your system. If you are demanding a lot from yourself, providing the body with nutritious foods can help sustain energy levels, focus and foster a harmonious system. Take some time to sit down with your meal, taste it, be aware of your chewing and appreciate it.
Self-care is telling yourself “it’s okay.” Particularly because depression and anxiety are a growing condition, allowing yourself to take a break is important. We often are asking too much of ourself, because if you can’t deliver you believe you aren’t good enough. That’s the last thing you want to hear. Take the time to monitor your mental health, cater to its needs and know that IT IS OK to take care of your needs.
Self-care is actually doing the things you enjoy. Let the serotonin be released! Come back to your happy place and feel rejuvenated and recharged. The mental break is greatly needed, and when you go back to your to do list or the office, you will feel more replenished and refreshed.
Self-care is protecting your schedule! I know some eyes may roll at this, but it’s true. There are ways you can create time for yourself, like you make time for everything else. It takes intention and commitment, but you can do it. Setting boundaries with your time may take practice, but it will create a more balanced lifestyle.
Self-care means your personal and intimate relationships suffer less. Bringing a more balanced and happy self to a relationship will usually result in better connection. That’s why vacations are so awesome, everything is put aside and you both don’t have anything else to focus on but each other. Daily life creeps back in and takes over, so you have to leave again to get that connection back. Self care by both partners means more connection more often. Make time for important people in your life because we aren’t designed to be isolated and alone.
Take a pause after reading this, followed by a deep breath, then let it sink in that self-care is essential to keeping up with the demands of life. Give yourself 5 minutes to imagine ways that you can take care of yourself this week!
Think about everything it does for you. Smile, laugh, nap, run, journal, cook or whatever helps you reset.
For additional information how cortisol, the stress hormone, impacts you, please read this:
Published by The University of Texas, San Antonio