Have you heard the term “self-care” thrown around A LOT? Yeah, me too. Why do you think this is? As I thought about it the other day I started thinking that if the phrase is thrown around a lot, then it must mean there is a need for it. We need to be taking care of ourselves. If we don’t, we burn out. Stress takes over. We need times to slow down and re-center ourselves. Filling our cups is absolutely necessary. But, is there a new trend here? What I’m asking is, is there a greater need for self-care now compared to 50 years ago? Or are we just more aware of mental health in general? My answer would be BOTH. We are more aware of mental health, which is amazing! Yet, I do believe there are societal and cultural changes that have led to a greater need for self-care. Let me first discuss what I’ve seen, and then let’s chat about what we can do to combat this.
Why we need more self-care:
1) We are busy!!
How often do you ask someone how they’re doing and they say “busy”? It happens all the time! I do it too. I feel like I say it all too often. At least more often than I want to. We seem to think we have to do it all. Both partners need to work full time, the kids need to be in every single activity imaginable, we have many social and family obligations. The list continues. We allow our calendars to fill up. Yes, I said that, we allow our calendars to fill up. We are just so “busy.” That’s the new norm for answering how we are doing…
2) Not enough white space
What’s white space? It’s the empty space you see on a calendar, in our houses (not filled to the brink with “stuff”), in our minds. Everything is so filled. This connects entirely to the first thing I mentioned of being busy, but it also extends to our emotional and mental tanks. Our emotional and mental tanks get overly filled. We don’t tend to them. Just like our houses do, they get filled. For both, we never check in to see if anything can be released to make us feel more free.
3) Stress levels are through the roof
Possibly just a bi-product of being busy and not having enough white space, but we need self-care because we are stressed. One of the biggest reason I see clients, especially teens, is because of anxiety. Anxiety is like being on overdrive. We can’t sustain high levels of activity, high levels of mental processing, or high levels of emotional input without maxing out. Breaks are needed from the input.
Ok, so it’s clear we have a need for self-care. Now how do we combat having such a high demand for self-care? Let’s chat about a few options…
1) Look at your calendar
Many times we think we just happen to become “busy.” But busy isn’t some kind of intruder that enters into our house unknowingly and unwelcome. We think that’s how it happens, but really we become busy because of our choices. Sure, there are seasons that just require a bit more from us. There’s a season for everything. But, if you’re habitually “busy,” then it’s time to take a look. Be aware that you have full power over what you say “yes” and “no” to. I don’t mean saying yes and no to taking care of your children or doing other “musts.” You do, however, have control of all the extras in your life. Do you want to say yes to another social obligation? Do you want both you and your partner to work full time? Do you need to be connected to your email or social media at all times? Be more aware of what you’re committing to.
2) Check in with your values
Sometimes we allow life to take over because we are either not aware or not intentional about living out our values. Do you value family? Ok, great! How are you spending your time? Do you value honesty and integrity? Ok, wonderful! Are your choices and relationships representative of that? One big thing I hear a lot is the value of family and freedom. Yet at the same time we continue to commit to things that lead us away from those things. We might risk the betterment our relationships for more money. And what does that money really go to? A bigger house, more clothing, fancier trips? I’m not trying to shame any choices. What I’m trying to say is that I’m in the same boat of working towards moving my life to have my actions be more in alignment with my values. Words are one thing, but can we start backing up our life with actions?
3) Ask yourself, “what do I really want?”
Woah, what’s this question all about? No, I didn’t ask what you parents want for you. I didn’t ask what society tells you that you need. I asked what, in your heart of hearts, do you really want? Now I’m not about to say “ok, great! Go do it!” I know that can be the advice we hear a lot now. What I’d recommend, rather, is to answer that question and then see what steps you can start to move towards that today, and what bigger steps might need to come in time. Here’s another thought for you. Steps towards your goals don’t always involve movement. Sometimes the best thing we can do is be still. Being still can be the best step, because it provides us the opportunity to go inward, heal ourselves, spend time in reflection…so then our next steps are intentional and going in the direction that suits us. Take time to slow down and answer the question, “what do I really want?” I think when we answer that answer from our truest self, that self is connected to God, and it doesn’t lead us astray.
See if you can adjust your life so you don't have such a major reliance on self-care. Taking care of yourself is great! I'm a therapist, I believe it wholeheartedly! But, what I'm challenging you to is to see if rather than falling back on "self-care" you are being invited to to shift your life in a way that suits you. To a pace that is not as frantic. To a life that is more values-based. Happy rooting!