At one time, self-care was a foreign concept to me. In fact, when someone suggested it, I cringed at the idea. I believed that I was selfish if I put myself first.
That’s because we are conditioned to put others first, no matter what the cost. Early on, we are taught that it is wrong to be selfish.
However, I’d like to bust that belief wide open! When we take time out to care for ourselves, we actually have more to give to others. That’s because our energy has been restored. It also helps us to be more alert, positive, and aware.
Now, let’s look at the consequences of neglecting ourselves while others become our priority. When I was in college, I had a close friend who was very draining on my energy. In retrospect, I see that she wasn’t the only needy person in the relationship. During one semester, she became anxious and depressed, and it became so severe that she feared that she could not function. Even though I was depressed myself, I catered to her every need. While I thought that I was also helping myself by focusing on her problems, I felt hopeless because I couldn’t help her. During that time, I lost sleep, consumed carbs and caffeine at an alarming rate, and could not concentrate on my assignments. I was also in our college’s chapel choir and participated in the social work club. Another friend saw that I was struggling and offered to help with my needy friend. That was a perfectly suitable arrangement, at least until superfriend came down with strep throat and mono at the same time. She became so exhausted that I ended up caring for both of them.
One day, I just crashed. I was so depressed and exhausted that I could not get out of bed. It turned out that I was so busy that I forgot about me.
There are several ways to turn that around. I could have cared for myself by asking for help with my tendency toward codependency and feelings of hopelessness. Also, I could have taken several breaks during the day and set boundaries on my time and energy. Also, I could have simply said no to my friends and referred them to the appropriate professionals. By doing those things, I could have avoided pain and suffering.
However, we don’t have to wait for a crisis before we adopt a self-care routine. This does not have to be complicated or expensive. Some self-care strategies include meditation, exercise, eating a healthful diet, taking a hot bath, or seeking support from family and friends. There are many ways to make you a priority in your life, so I also encourage you to come up with your own techniques and practice them as often as you can.