Note - Affiliate links may be used in this post, including Amazon affiliate links. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you use my affiliate link. But don't worry, all the opinions expressed are my own!
Self-care is important! We’ve all heard that a million times by now, right? We’ve seen the old airplane analogy of “put your own facemask on first” that almost always seems to be mentioned, read about how it’s okay to take care of yourself and you can’t pour from an empty cup.
I think it’s time to take it a step farther, though, and talk about why it’s not only okay and it’s not just important, but why we NEED to make self-care a priority. It’s not a luxury, it’s mandatory.
Why is self-care so important?
I get sick every year in December, right before Christmas. Every. Single. Year. For the longest time, I thought it was just bad luck, seasonal germs, etc. But over the past few years, as I started making efforts to slow my life down and live more intentionally – you can read more about that here – I realized that wasn’t actually the case. I started taking a closer look at my life and realized that not only do I always get sick at Christmas, but I also have a pattern of being sick during LOTS of big events. I’ve gone on multiple vacations with a cold, had to pull myself together for other major holiday celebrations, and missed important events at work. What’s the common thread here? Before any of these major events, I tend to work so hard at making sure everything is in place and ready that I flat-out don’t take care of myself! I put taking care of myself last until it literally can’t be avoided.
How many times has this happened to you? Life suddenly gets busy…maybe it’s a big deadline at work, or your kiddos have a lot of events scheduled in a short period of time (or both at the same time!). You’re running around, doing your best to take care of everything and everyone. You find yourself grabbing whatever food is handy in between tasks. You know you need to go to bed, but if you can just get that one more thing taken care of first… And before you know it, you’re exhausted. You’re snapping at people over small things. And you feel like you’re coming down with whatever bug happens to be going around. It’s happened to me too. More often than I’d like to admit!
If you don’t already have a regular plan for taking care of YOU, you may find yourself neglecting your own needs until they’re screaming at you to pay attention. We get sick, or cranky, or just too tired to function. We put ourselves on the back burner until we have no choice but to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us.
Why is self-care so hard sometimes?
So why does self-care seem so hard sometimes? A lot of times, it’s due to guilt. We feel guilty for not doing our absolute best every single minute of every day. Or for not having everything perfect for the people in our lives that are counting on us (there’s that perfection word again). Or for simply telling people “No, I can’t take that on right now”.
But, be real, is that guilt really valid? If you take an hour to yourself, will the world REALLY fall apart?
You know when you need a few minutes to just breathe and regroup, but it can be hard to do because taking time out to care for ourselves when people are expecting things from us…it just feels selfish and that leaves us feeling guilty. That line between self-care and selfish can feel like a tricky one to define. Is it selfish to take a break during the workday when you have a deadline approaching? It could be, but not if it will make the rest of your day more productive. Is it selfish to tell your kids that you need a few minutes of quiet? Not if the alternative is snapping at them for their normal, everyday questions. Giving yourself the time and care that YOU need too will actually help you to appreciate more and be more present (instead of winding up sick in bed during all the fun). If we give all of our own energy away, without taking the time to replace it, we will have nothing left to give.
So how can we take care of ourselves without feeling selfish or guilty about it?
One of the first steps is to simply communicate our needs. You might be surprised by how understanding people around you will be if you tell them you’re reaching your limit and you just need a few minutes of quiet. Tell them you need a minute to stop and eat. Tell them you’re going to take 30 minutes to go for a walk to re-energize your mind and body. The thing we don’t always consider is that almost every single person in our lives has been there too. Everyone has experienced those moments of “I can’t handle all of this right now.” and “I’m going to bite your head off if you say one thing to me right now.” If you open up and tell the people in your lives that you just need to take time out to recharge, they may be much more understanding than you expect.
Make it a regular habit:
Along with communicating, a self-care routine can be very helpful! Have time dedicated to taking care of yourself, in whatever way you need, on a regular basis. No matter what else is going on in your life. (Emergencies and natural disasters excluded, obviously.)
Part of the struggle with self-care is that it simply needs to become a habit. And it takes time to form a habit. But once you get into a routine of taking care of yourself regularly, as scheduled, it will be so much easier to maintain that habit, even during the crazier times in life.
4 Super basic self-care tips for those crazy times:
We all have times when life kind of gets away from us and we’re struggling to keep up. Those are the times when it’s the most important to make sure that you’re making self-care a priority. Even if it means letting a few other things go unfinished or good enough. Here are my best, super basic self-care tips for those crazy times:
Eat. And eat well.
One of the very first things that I neglect when life gets busy is eating. I don’t have the time to shop and I wouldn’t have the time to cook anyway. So I grab terrible (usually unhealthy) food just to keep me going. It usually doesn’t work out very well…
Instead, find some healthy on-the-go foods to keep at the ready in your kitchen. Take advantage of a grocery delivery or pickup service. Try out Shipt or Instacart. Learn which stores in your area offer online ordering and curbside pickup. It’s a huge time saver and you can quickly make sure that you have good options available to nourish your body.
Go to bed on time.
Avoid the temptation to stay up late, just to get one more thing done. Speaking from experience, that “one last thing” has a way of turning into three or four more things, and before you know it, you’re waking up the next day trying to function on only a couple hours of sleep. Instead, try to keep a regular bedtime, no matter what is going on. If you’re tired or sleep-deprived, you’ll be less effective at the tasks that you need to complete, so getting a proper amount of sleep is worth the time it feels like you’re losing.
Take a break
I’ve said it before. I’ll probably say it again. But it is absolutely fine to stop what you’re doing and take a break, no matter how busy life is at the moment. Sometimes, taking just a few minutes to yourself is enough to reset your mind and your body. Go for a quick walk, make a cup of tea, sit in the sunshine for a few minutes…whatever YOU need to do for yourself.
Ask for help
I don’t know about you, but when I’m particularly busy, I have a tendency to shut others out, because I need to get it all done. But asking for help is actually a form of self-care too. Knowing that you DON’T have to be the one to take care of everything will create a sense of calm. Reach out, ask for help from those around you.
You HAVE to take care of yourself, particularly during the busy times, in order to be the spouse, parent, friend, employee, and human you want to be. Make self-care a priority in your life.