By: Tami Earnhart, LMFT, ATR
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, #95728
Registered Art Therapist
Why should I care about self-care? That question is sort of like asking, “Why do I need to fill the tank of my car with gas or change the oil”? Most of us have responsibilities, and if we go, and go and give, and give, and don’t refuel or maintain our personal “vehicle,” we may break down. The breakdown might be physical (illness, exhaustion, etc.). The breakdown might be emotional (cranky, irritable, tearful, etc.).
When I ask clients about how they take care of themselves, I sometimes get guilt-ridden responses, like “I have been meaning to exercise” or “I have been trying to eat better.” While exercise and nutrition are great ways to take care of ourselves, and there are many physical and mental health benefits, sometimes our schedules don’t allow for much exercise and out of necessity we eat on the go. What to do?
Self-care begins with being kind to ourselves.
First, self-care begins with being kind to ourselves, which includes not beating ourselves up because we struggle to get the recommended amount of exercise, fruits or veggies. I like to think of “self-care” as having more to do with nurturing ourselves (filling our tanks) so we have something to give to those we love or care for in our lives. We cannot give out of emptiness. It is important if we want to continue going and going, and giving and giving to find time to maintain our vehicles. You may be asking, “When am I supposed to find the time?”
It can be helpful to approach self-care in smaller moments, rather than trying to schedule large blocks of time.
Sometimes within our day, we may find ourselves feeling overwhelmed. Perhaps there has been a particularly difficult interaction with someone and it’s been a crazy day. Now what? I find it helpful to stop and think, “What do I need right now to take care of myself”?
Maybe I need fresh air and a walk around the block. Maybe I need to listen to a few minutes of quiet music. Maybe I need to sit down and eat my lunch in the sunshine away from whatever is troubling me. Maybe I need to ask for help, or talk to a friend. Maybe I need to doodle, or journal, or drink a cup of tea. Maybe it’s time to throw nerf balls into the hoop behind the door or watch a funny video on my phone.
So the question becomes, “What do you need in the moment”? What gives you a moment of pleasure, joy, laughter, calm, or energy? What helps you feel more like a human being and less like a human doing?
At Community Resource Center’s Counseling Department, we provide empathic, dynamic and solution-oriented counseling where clients can learn to navigate and transform challenges and live healthy lives.
For additional ideas concerning self-care, please visit this link to an article in Psychology Today.