Summer Self-Care, Part 2: Busting Those Barriers to Self-Care

After introducing the concept of self-care and why it’s beneficial in last week’s blog post, I thought it was also important to acknowledge that caring for ourselves and our wellness can be challenging sometimes, too!  Some of the most common things that get in the way of our self-care include: time constraints, financial constraints, and some of our own guilt or self doubt.  Fortunately, there are some helpful tips, tricks, and affirmations for getting us over those obstacles.     

Putting Self-Care on the Calendar

More times than not everyone has the excuse of not having enough time to do something, especially when it comes to self-care. Everyday life is full of activities including eight or more hours of work, childcare, school, church, community activities and more. Plus, you still need to balance your relationships, too.

It may seem impossible to take care of yourself while taking care of a full family and keeping up with the house, or while running a business, or working a job, but there is a way to solve this through scheduling and calendaring.  Every day, or at the beginning of each week, sit down and find areas that you can fill in your calendar with some self-care activities. If you can put those things in your calendar first right after your required work schedule, you’ll become even more successful at meeting your self-care goals.  Try to schedule these as early in the day as possible. Schedule everything even if it feels silly. This can include phone calls with your family and friends, a bath, or even a short nap. Once you have it scheduled, stick to it and make it just as important as the rest of your tasks.  You probably wouldn’t overlook something on your calendar if it pertained to work or your family responsibilities, so why do that to yourself?

Remember: you are just as important as anything else in your life. Your overall health affects everything that happens in your daily life, so if you think about self-care as essential to your health, well-being, and ability to be present in your life, self-care is just as important as work and your family.  Make sure you schedule in enough time for each activity so you can fully enjoy it. Don’t rush these activities or you will quickly turn something that’s supposed to release stress, stressful. If you only have a certain amount of time choose your self-care interests wisely. If you only have 10 minutes to spare, only do something that takes 10 minutes and stick to it.

Self-Care Doesn’t Have to Cost Anything

Lots of people get the wrong idea about self-care. They think they have to be deserving of it. They feel like it’s splurging to do something good for yourself.  It can seem extravagant–especially when we often see the concept of “self-care” associated in pop culture or on social media with activities like shopping, vacations, or spa days–but let’s change that mindset! Self-care is something you deserve, no matter what your budget. Everyone does. It benefits us all, along with those around us, when we put our own well-being at the forefront. You can’t take care of others when your own well-being is suffering. Let’s take a look at some free and low-cost ways you can care for yourself:

  • Take a Time Out: Sometimes just a little bit of alone time is all you need to feel rejuvenated. So why not give yourself a time out? Lock yourself in your room with a nice cup of tea. Listen to some quiet music. Just sit still and think for a bit. It’s a luxury we all can afford.  In my facilitation and coaching practice, I’m in my element when I’m in front of a room of people leading an inspiring or informative training, for example, or when I’m sitting one-on-one with a coaching client helping them feel excited or proud about setting and achieving their goals. But it’s that quiet reflection time alone with just myself and my thoughts that gives me what I need to recharge for my busy days at my job and running my business.
  • Waste Some Time: We often feel pressured to be productive all the time. Being busy is a sign of worth and accomplishment. However, it really doesn’t have to be that way. Just kicking back and doing nothing is important to recharging our batteries. Let yourself have some down time to do something frivolous like binge on your favorite Netflix show, take a nap or just sit and pet your dog or cat, if you have one.
  • Do Some Writing: Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, journaling can be a very therapeutic activity. Jotting down what you’re grateful for has been proven to be beneficial to well-being. It can also be energizing to simply do a brain dump in which you write down all the things that are floating around in your head. Jotting down dreams for the future might inspire and motivate you to take action.
  • Reach Out to Someone: Socializing is a crucial part of self-care. Even introverts benefit from interpersonal connection.  (I tend to be introverted, but I still feel energized and renewed when I catch up with friends or family.)  Humans aren’t meant to be isolated. Pick up the phone and call or video chat a friend you haven’t talked with in a while.  Meeting up in person for a walk together or a cup of coffee is even better. Connecting to others might just provide the spark you’ve been missing.
  • Change Your Perspective: A change of scenery can be a wonderful source of renewal, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Just heading out to walk in your neighborhood might help when you’re feeling stir-crazy in your home. If you’re able to afford it, a low-cost getaway to a nearby location for a day or two is a fun way to switch things up–or try staying fully local and being a “tourist” in your own city or town for a day.  You’ll be surprised what this change of perspective can do for you. 

Don’t Feel Guilty for Practicing Self-Care

We’ve touched on the fact that it’s common to feel guilty for taking time for ourselves. There are a lot of complex reasons for this within our society, and within our individual experiences. Some of us who feel pressure to be “productive” might worry that self-care is time-wasting; others may have been raised in a culture or a family whose values prioritized putting others first (which can be a good and thoughtful thing in some circumstances, but not necessarily at the expense of your needs.) 

  • It’s Not Selfish: First and foremost, it’s important to understand that taking time to care for yourself is not selfish in any way. It may be hard to get past the mindset that the needs of others are more important than your own, but overcoming this mindset is essential to allowing yourself to adequately meet your own needs. Care isn’t a zero-sum concept. When you care for yourself, it doesn’t have to mean you don’t care about others.
  • It Sets a Good Example: If you’re a parent, investing in self-care is not only good for you, it sets a good example for your kids. Even if you don’t have children, taking the time to care for yourself might be inspiring or motivational for those around you. In order for a stigma to end, it has to be normalized. When more of us let the world around us know why self-care matters, they may begin to change their minds about the concept, as well. I remember when my children were younger and I was earlier in my career, I definitely struggled with carving out both time and money for self-care.  My own self-care took a backseat to their needs and well-being and when I was on a tight budget, I’d feel guilty if I spent money on things for myself instead of for the kids.  But as my kids have gotten older, I’ve tried to make self-care a bigger priority and also model self-care for them so that they know it’s important and hopefully don’t feel some of the same hesitation and guilt that I did.  
  • It Demands Respect: It also sets a precedent for how you expect others to treat you. When you demonstrate that you value yourself and that you find worth investing time in yourself, they will respond in kind. Learning to say no and set boundaries is good for your relationships. It teaches others how you expect to be treated and makes it clear that you see yourself as a priority. There’s no reason to feel guilty for that.

Self-care doesn’t always feel easy or come naturally for many of us. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find it difficult to carve out time or release those lingering feelings of guilt.  It’s like anything else–sometimes it takes practice to become a habit, hopefully some of the tips and support above help you carve out time for self-care no matter your schedule, other obligations, or budget.