Our attempts at self-care usually involve giving ourselves little escapes, such as eating chocolate, taking a warm bath, getting a message, working out, drinking alcohol etc…
These little escapes can be effective, self-compassionate, and fulfilling, and we all deserve to have little escapes now and then. However, the only problem with these little escapes is that they are TEMPORARY. Once they are over, you are back to facing the stress. Also, they are like a band aid. They cover up stress and only work for as long as you keep doing them.
True self-care is not about temporary escapes. True self-care is about building a life that you don’t need to regularly escape from.
Build yourself a life in which you are consistently living by your values, so it is easy to be kind to yourself and others.
Build yourself a life in which you are routinely taking care of your body (e.g., eating healthy, exercising, drinking plenty of water).
Build yourself a life in which you are routinely taking care of your mind (e.g., meditating, practicing yoga, exposing yourself to nature).
Build yourself a life in which your work life and personal life have balance (to the best of your practical ability).
Build yourself a life in which you can exercise realistic control, and let go of control when control is not possible or needed.
Build yourself a life in which you routinely surround yourself with the people who truly matter to you, not the people you’re chasing or trying to impress.
I live on this planet, and I know this is easier said than done. Otherwise, everyone would do this all the time without problem. It’s important to practice grace with yourself here and to think of this in terms of something that you’re always aiming for, rather than something you must accomplish, as if it’s a black or white issue.
I also know that money and work environment create a lot of hurtles here. We often sacrifice self-care for financial and job security. Many of us choose to stay in a miserable work environment in order to maintain financial security. The thing is that money buys security and fun things, but it does not buy happiness and fulfillment. Even the richest people can often be miserable and unhappy. The thing is, it is not worth it to stay stuck in a work environment where you are miserable. You were not meant to work, be miserable, and die. You were made for more than that, and you deserve more than that. Respect yourself enough to have your cake and eat it too. Your job takes up more than 50% of your waking life. Find and build a job that you enjoy, and make money at the same time… even if you have to take the risk of entrepreneurship… even if you have to miserably work your ass off temporarily to get there.
Finally, building a life of self-care does not mean you are selfish or self-centered, as long as your self-care is as much in the service of caring for others as it is in the service of caring for yourself. Remember this…
You cannot pour from an empty cup.
If you are over-worked and off-balance, how can you effectively and authentically take care of others? If you have nothing of yourself left to give, how can you expect to give to others? Balance self-care and other-care in such a way that self-care comes first in the service of caring for others.
This week, think more globally about self-care and courageously build yourself a life and routine that you do not need to regularly escape from.
Until next time,
Have courage and kind wishes!
Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.
The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.