You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” -Eleanor Brown.
What does “self-care” mean to you? Does it mean getting a massage? Going for a walk? Taking in a movie with friends or your significant other? Journaling about your experiences and reflections throughout the day? Self-care may include any or all of these, and then some.
It is important for individuals to practice self-care as a regular part of their daily or weekly hygiene. It is just as important as showering, flossing, exercise, and eating regular, healthy meals. Self-care will impact our mood, our sleep, our functioning at work, and even our relationships. When we are not caring for ourselves as we should, these are just some of the areas that we may see being affected. We may also notice increased irritability, anxiety, and increased fatigue.
One of the first lines of resistance to caring for oneself is often “I don’t want to be selfish.” Understandable. No one wants to be seen as selfish. And engaging in self-care is NOT selfish. You can’t do anything as well if you are worn out or “empty.” You won’t have anything to give. Or you will only be giving a fraction of what you may want or even need to give in a situation.
Imagine for a moment a person, any person. They work long hours most days, and often, many bring work home. This is true for many professions. Long hours. Bringing work home. High stress and reactive work environment. Constant exposure to the public and germs. Now, this person, if they are not engaging in regular self-care, what might they look like mid-year? Often they may be tired, run down, crabby, low frustration tolerance, falling ill frequently, and the list could go on and on. However, taking a couple hours each week to take care of yourself can help combat this fatigue, this irritability. You’ll have more resources to pull from, more “gas in the tank” so to say.
So what exactly IS self-care? It can be anything that is for you, that renews you. It is something that is done PURPOSEFULLY and INTENTIONALLY. Most importantly perhaps, self-care is different for everyone. For some, it’s getting regular exercise, while for others, exercise is an obligation, not something they see as rewarding. Attending church, praying, or engaging in regular spiritual practices may also be an act of self-care. Self-care may be going out with friends or scheduling a regular date night with your partner. Self-care may be going on a nature hike or spending a few hours at the park with your canine companion. What is important is that it leaves you feeling recharged and renewed and that it is done purposefully.
Karen Rosian, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist