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  • Writer's pictureShannon Gallagher, CCC, LCT-C, RCC

Self-Care: Why is it so important, and why it is not selfish?

So often I have clients who struggle with self-care from implementation to building a habit. The other issue I see so much is people seeing self-care as a selfish thing to do.


Why is self-care not selfish?


            Simply put self-care is not selfish because when you do it you have more energy and mental space to handle and take on other people's needs. As well, you can help others and do more in general due to feeling relaxed and cared for. Yes, it is good to feel cared for by others but my question for you is…When was the last time you cared for only yourself? If the answer is never or rarely ever then we have some work to do. Self-care is far simpler than people think and has far more options than people think. Let me show you.

 

Person hiking on grassy hills.

Physical: 

  • Exercising

  • Eating regularly (like for example multiple meals a day)

  • Eating healthy foods

  • Going to medical appointments (dentist, doctor, checkups)

  • Wearing clothing that makes you confident or comfortable

  • Getting the amount of sleep you need (I say this as your age changes your needed amount of sleep so this looks differently for everyone)

  • Taking necessary rest time when sick

  • Taking care of personal hygiene



Person playing Guitar

Mental: 

  • Find and do hobbies that bring you joy

  • Seek out reasons to laugh and have joy

  • Do comfort activities (long baths, or comfort shows and movies for example)

  • Learn new things

  • Take time off from obligations when needed

  • Take time about from distractions (phone, email etc.)

  • Learn and do things that help you to express your feelings in healthy ways (art, journalling, therapy)

  • Go on vacations or short trips when possible to get a break

  • Start to see your own strengths and what you have accomplished

  • Talk about your problems to people that won’t add to them


Friends eating pizza

Social: 

  • Meet new people

  • Ask for help when you need it (you do not need to do everything alone, you are not weak if you ask for help)

  • Talk to friends who are far away more often

  • Spend time with people that bring you joy

  • Have fun and stimulating conversations

  • Do more fun activities, this includes going to those activities with other people

  • Intimacy

  • Keeping in contact with old friends


Person meditating on the beach

Spiritual: This section includes things that not all people will participate in so not all things mentioned are needed but merely options to consider.


  • Engage in art forms that are meaningful to you (film, books, art, music etc.)

  • Meditation

  • Participation in causes that are important to you (volunteering, protesting for example)

  • Giving yourself time in the day for reflection/processing

  • Sticking to your morals and values (going against these two things have been seen to cause other issues for people beyond the spiritual level)

  • Noticing more of the things that give more meaning to your life

  • Praying

People working around laptops

Work Related: 

  • Taking breaks when needed

  • Saying no to adding to your workload

  • Taking a much-deserved vacation

  • Not extending your hours

  • Having healthy work boundaries to decrease burnout

  • Having a comfortable working environment

  • Learning new things related to your profession

  • Building relationships with colleagues

  • Taking on projects at work that are exciting or rewarding to you

 

What have I noticed as issues around self-care?


            Many things can contribute to people not using self-care methods or not thinking it is important. One was discussed above which is feeling as though it is selfish. To expand on what was already said above, self-care is often viewed as selfish due to how society views how we as humans should be within the world. Due to the belief that we should be doing things for others as much as we can or that we should be working or doing something considered ‘non-selfish’ we lose the importance of self. If we never take care of ourselves eventually, we will explode (not literally) and then we won’t be able to help others or do the things we need to do. Eventually, our bodies take over and force us to rest or take time for ourselves.

            You may now be asking…Well okay, so what does the body do to make sure we rest and all that? Well, our immune system is greatly affected by stress and our environment. So we get sick. On the other hand, we can develop depression or other mental health concerns that will make it even harder for us to go back to what we were doing before. I often like to remind my clients that we are humans, not robots, we are not able to just work nonstop forever and not take a break or eat, etc. We need things to survive as well as thrive. If we are only in survival mode our whole lives, then what kind of life is that? Likely an unhappy one.

            In addition, some people struggle with self-care because they do not feel as though they deserve it or are worthy of it. So often we need to start with some of that work to help with that before building a self-care plan. You need to feel worthy and deserving because you are.

 

The final important thing to note…

           

You can burn out on self-care just like you can with overworking yourself. As with everything in life, moderation is best. When you are testing out new plans for self-care be mindful of how you feel. Self-care should give you some form of joy or energy so if you feel more drained or overwhelmed then that was either the wrong activity or you are doing too much self-care.

 

If you think this is an area of your life some help would be beneficial for don’t hesitate to reach out. You deserve to be happy and rested.

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