Do the demands on your time seem never-ending lately? You feel like you’re fighting against the clock every day to finish your never-ending to do list. You are juggling myriad priorities, and while some are energizing, they aren’t energizing enough to counteract how overwhelmed you feel. You end the day completely depleted, no matter how much sleep you actually get.
Our patients who talk about this feeling of depletion tend to have one major thing in common – they spend little or no time in their day meeting their own needs. In fact, there are many days during which they’ve lost sight of what, even, their needs truly are.
If this resonates with you, self-care should make its way to the absolute top of your priority list.
When you spend too little time on your own needs, you tend to miss out on every day feelings of joy. You feel like each moment is just a means to the next moment, rushing from task to task. You can’t maintain a sense of presence – you’re too focused on the future, constantly rehearsing what you need to do next, rather than enjoying what’s right in front of you. Not only does this deplete your energy, but it can also hijack your progress toward major goals, like a weight loss journey. You need a sense of joy and presence to be able to maintain any form of long-term progress.
Self-care helps slow you down, bring joy back to every day moments, and re-energize you to go after your biggest, boldest goals.
Self-care in practice
A client of mine, who I’ll call Dana, found herself depleted and resentful after years of taking on the majority of unpaid work at home while also holding a full-time job. She had no time for herself. Her husband also worked full time, but spent time on his own dreams and goals as well, like training for marathons, meeting up with long-term friends, and up-leveling his technical skills on his free time so he can eventually get a promotion. Dana was not taking care of her own needs (which included basic needs, like getting more sleep, but also aspirational needs, like spending time on her hobbies). Dana felt sapped of the joy that parenting and her otherwise amazing job could bring her; needless to say, she also was too depleted to even begin to embark on a journey toward her biggest, boldest dream – to start her own business.
Once Dana started slotting self-care into her day, her family’s schedule rearranged itself out of necessity, and Dana was able to re-find joy in her daily life, as well as start making moves toward opening her own business. Today she’s well on her way toward that goal, and she credits, in large part, her changed view about the necessity of self-care!
The term itself, “self-care,” has been floating around pop culture for years now, and it’s sometimes used flippantly. We tend to think of luxurious bubble baths and other hours-long rituals that cause us to say “I don’t have time for that.”
In contrast to this flip view, my definition of self-care is restorative, and deceptively simple:
Self-care is doing for yourself what you need most at that moment.
It seems simple, but the simplicity is deceptive because it requires of you a number of difficult things:
Self-care needs to be part of your every day. Now that you have a new definition of self-care, your perspective on how to get self-care into your daily life can expand.
Perhaps you don’t have time for daily hour-long baths, but do you have time for a 1-minute deep breathing session? Perhaps you don’t have time for lengthy reading sessions every day, but can you write one-line in a gratitude journal daily?
I have my own daily self-care habits, the things that give me energy and help me feel more present throughout the day:
These four are non-negotiable for me, no matter what’s packed into my schedule. A few pointers as you begin to build your self-care habits:
What can you add to your day? What will help you have more presence in your day? What will re-energize you to go after your biggest, most challenging goals?