If you’re anything like me, taking care of yourself has a lovely, dusty little corner in the very back of your brain. A spot that occasionally gets a flashlight shone towards it, but rarely gets entered. For the last three years, I have heard the term “self-care” at least once a week. It is a heavily discussed topic within social work. Yet, no matter how many times I’ve heard the term, I still struggle with it. You see, I think about it and I know what I should be doing, but I rarely do it. Whenever I try to plan self-care into my schedule, I find something “better” to be doing with that time. Whether it be working on homework, helping a friend, or doing something for my internship, there is always something else that comes up. I’ve noticed that, even when I do find the time to perform a little act of self-care, I often feel guilty for doing so. Thoughts like “I should be doing something more productive right now” and “I wonder if any of my friends need my help” run through my head.
I have always been a people pleaser. Disappointing people is genuinely one of my biggest fears in life. I have never been good at saying “no,” even to people I don’t know well. If I know that a friend needs something, I will drop everything to help them as much as I can. I’ve skipped class, left my internship early, and canceled plans all in the name of being there for a friend in need. However, I’ve recently started noticing what a big tole taking care of everyone else has been taking on my own well-being.
Thankfully, within the last couple months I’ve started acknowledging and then dismissing the intrusive thoughts that creep up during self-care acts. I’ve started saying “no” and working towards maintaining my own well-being first and foremost. Its definitely not an easy task, and I still struggle with the whole self-care thing on a daily basis, but I have noticed the drastic difference it has made in my state of mind and my ability to help others. So, if you’re anything like me, here are my tips for self-care.
- Self-care is not selfish. You HAVE to take care of yourself. There’s really no other option. If you don’t, you will hit a point where you just fall apart. In order to take care of others, you need to take care of yourself. Maintaining your own physical and mental well-being is crucial.
- You don’t have to light yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. Yes, you can help your friends. But make sure that by saying “yes” to others, you’re not saying “no” to yourself.
- Make a list. There are plenty of self-care strategies out there but deciding what to do in the moment can be hard. Take some time to come up with a list of self-care strategies so that you have something to reference when the time comes.
- Schedule it. If you make time in your daily schedule to perform acts of self-care, there will be virtually no excuse to stop you from doing it.
- Self-care is not going to be immediately easy. It is something you have to practice over and over again before it becomes second nature. It will be hard at first. You will have intrusive thoughts. You will feel guilty for saying “no” to a friend. You will feel like you are wasting your time. I promise, it will get better. Just don’t give up on yourself.