Three Ways to Beat "Self-Care Guilt"
What is "self-care guilt"? Many people who have significant daily responsibilities are met by the advice to engage in "self-care" by mental health professionals, friends, or family. Self-care, as the name implies, requires taking time to engage in activities that interest, care for, or benefit the self. People may experience guilt around the idea of self-care, may feel it is a "selfish" usage of time, or may feel "unproductive", among many other reasons. If you can resonate with "self-care guilt", here are three things I'd encourage you to consider in support of self-care!
1) Consider the outcome of self-care
Think about that thing that's been in the back of your mind for awhile now. Most people have something that they've been wanting to do, but just haven't had the time, space, or motivation. Maybe it's something simple like getting a haircut, being able to actually finish your daily hygiene routine without little toddler fingers wriggling under the door for your attention, or watching a movie. Maybe it's something bigger, like planning out a trip, spending time putting together a "vision board", or taking a break from corporate America, and going fishing. Whatever the thing is that would feel like letting go of a held-in breath, is probably the right thing. Imagine what it would feel like to finally do the thing. Would you feel refreshed? Happier? More patient? Ready to take on a new challenge? How would those feelings impact those around you? Considering the outcomes of engaging in self-care often have "ripple" effects on those around us, improving not only our own mood, but often benefitting relationships as well. If you're skeptical about self-care, thinking on the potential impact and outcome may be a great place to start.
2) Reframe your concept of "self-care"
Self-care doesn't have to mean taking a week-long trip to Italy, or spending several hours at a spa, although it can, if that's what you've got your sights set on! On a daily basis, it may mean simply allowing yourself to take a nap when you have other things on your plate you "could" be doing, putting off chores for an hour to do something enjoyable, or allowing yourself a few extra minutes in the morning to actually breathe and enjoy a cup of coffee. We rarely lack time during the day to do things that would be beneficial to our mental and physical health - however, it can be very difficult to prioritize these things with a constant "to-do" list in the backs of our heads, keeping us reminded of the "shoulds" and "have-to's", which can be very de-motivating. Think of self-care not as a "reward" for completing "the list", but rather, pit stops on the long race of life where we're often encouraged to move a million miles per hour. Every racecar needs a tune-up and new wheels every so often, especially when moving at breakneck speeds. You're much more complex than a racecar. Give yourself the necessary time to breathe, refresh, and recharge!
3) Spend time with yourself (Quit the comparison game)
Self-care varies greatly between people; what works for one person to relax and recharge may not work for you! It can be de-motivating to spend an hour at yoga at your neighbor's suggestion, and feel just as drained as when you walked in, without enjoying that hour. What would be satisfying to you, specifically? Maybe spending time in simple, quiet solitude, is enough to feel relaxed, whereas, another person may want to spend a morning out with friends at a public restaurant and feel recharged. All flowers need soil, water, and sun to grow; however, the frequency of water, type of soil, and intensity of sun differs for each, as well as growing seasons and affinity for indoor/outdoor growth. You are much more complex than a flower! You are a unique human with a unique story, emotions, personality, and needs. What activities make/have made you feel most satisfied? If you had an hour to do anything, what would it be? What is your dream "day off"? These questions may help you narrow down what environments and activities would be fulfilling for you, and may give you some insight into how to spend the time you need to truly rest the way your mind and body will thank you for!