When you hear the phrase “you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others”, what reaction do you have? You may think, “I don’t have time for that” or laugh and say, “Good one, Elise”. You may logically understand and agree with it while your body becomes tense.
Regardless of your reaction, it’s safe to say that self-care can be hard, uncomfortable, and often tossed aside as unimportant. Yet, it’s one of the best habits and tools we can develop for ourselves to live a healthy, fulfilling, and connected life.
The Importance of Self-Care
Think of yourself as a bucket that constantly fills and empties. When you do things that energize, center, and realign yourself, you're filling that bucket. Neglecting these things empties it. Someone with a "full bucket" is more patient, empathetic, and kind. Those with an "empty bucket" are quicker to become irritated and frustrated while having less tolerance and patience for others.
Filling our buckets and taking intentional care of ourselves produces self-confidence, empowerment, and self-esteem by recognizing our needs and meeting them. We are increasing our resources and ability to handle life’s constant stressors.
That’s great Elise but…
There are infinite reasons why we don’t practice self-care. It can feel like another thing we have to add to our already long to-do lists so it does not become a priority and moves to the very bottom. Our identity is also partially formed by how we provide and care for others, and taking care of ourselves can feel as though we’re being selfish, but that’s the complete opposite of healthy self-care!
So where do I start?
Start simple. Build self care exercises into routines that are already established in your day so
that it’s not another thing you have to find time for. Here are some ideas to get you started:
HALT. When we feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, self-care can help prevent us from snapping at our children, tuning out our spouse, or lashing out on our coworkers. Identify and communicate when HALT is controlling your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Breathe. One of the quickest ways to center, calm, and energize ourselves is to pause and take a couple of deep breaths. This can help relax our muscles, lower blood pressure, strengthen our lungs and heart, and increase our oxygen supply. Inhale through your nose for about 5 counts, hold the breath for a moment, and exhale through your mouth for a count longer than the inhalation.
Practice incorporating these building blocks of self-care into your daily life, and check in next
month for more advanced self care ideas! You’re worth taking care of yourself.