Barriers to Self Care – Self care is NOT selfish.

Self-care is often misunderstood, with many perceiving it as a selfish act. However, we know that taking care of yourself is crucial for maintaining optimal functioning and well-being. It not only benefits you, but also enables you to better support and care for others. In this third article in our series on self care, we will explore another barrier that you may be facing when it comes to practicing self care, and discuss strategies to overcome it, making self care an integral part of your daily routine.

The Fear of Selfishness:

One significant barrier to self care is the fear that prioritizing personal needs is selfish. However, what we want you to remember is that self care is not about neglecting others; it’s about ensuring you are in a healthy state to provide the best support and care for those you love. Recognize that taking care of yourself is a prerequisite for being able to help others effectively. Unfortunately many of us have been trained to think of caring for oneself as being a selfish act when this couldn’t be further from the truth. One place where this is so often true is in the case of parents who pour everything they have into their kids and neglect themselves and their relationship with the child’s other parental figure. The relationship between the parents is neglected to the point where it breaks down. The best thing adults can do for any child they are responsible for, is to nourish their own self care and nourish the relationships they have with other adults. This provides stability and support to the child. The child will feel more secure when being parented by people who are healthy and flourishing in their own lives.

The Belief in Scarcity:

When our lives become busier, and demands on our time and resources increase, we often develop a belief in scarcity. This scarcity mindset leads us to believe that we don’t have enough time, energy, or money to prioritize self-care. However, acknowledging that self-care is essential and challenging this scarcity mindset is vital. Remember that self-care is an investment in your overall well-being and allows you to be more effective in all areas of your life. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. It might simply mean taking the time to grab your favorite book, and, when you have a few minutes, rather than continuing to frantically work your way through your “to do” list for the day, run a bath, read, relax and recharge. 

Lack of Prioritization:

With limited time and numerous responsibilities, it’s easy to overlook self-care. Many individuals find themselves placing the needs of others before their own. However, prioritizing self-care is crucial for your mental, physical, and emotional health. It requires a conscious decision to make yourself a priority. Evaluate your priorities and consciously choose to dedicate time and energy to self-care activities. This issue is one I see on a regular basis in the office. People come in and they have expended so much energy on everyone around them that they get to the point where they have nothing left to fill their own emotional bucket anymore. Things happening keep punching holes in their bucket and, with nothing to fill it back up again, they become so emotionally drained that they just don’t see a way out of the hole they are in. This is where I work to get people to take an honest inventory of their lives. What fills you up? What is draining you? If everything you do on a day to day basis is on the draining side, and nothing is on the filling side (things you do just for fun or enjoyment), then life quickly gets out of balance. Once you have done the inventory, take time to look at the things on the draining side and figure out what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable. 

For example, I worked with this lovely senior who was really struggling. We did this exercise and she decided that while her volunteer work with her church was ultimately a good thing to be doing, it had gotten to the point where it was taking too much toll on her and she put it on the “draining” side of the equation. What she really wanted to do (probably much to the dismay of her husband living in the same house) was learn to play the accordion! So, she resigned from her church committee and spent the time teaching herself to play! She was doing something purely for the sake of having fun and it made all the difference in the world to how she was feeling.

Feeling Unnatural or Uncomfortable:

Engaging in self care activities may feel unnatural or uncomfortable, particularly if you’re not accustomed to prioritizing your own needs. It’s essential to recognize that self care is a learned practice and may require effort in the beginning. Start small, experiment with different activities, and find what resonates with you. Over time, self care will become more natural and integrated into your daily routine. Maybe it’s as simple as 15 minutes of reading, maybe it’s a photography walk taking interesting pictures, maybe it’s simply making the effort to connect with friends you know you can just hang out with and be yourself and laugh and talk together. Be intentional! Opportunities are not just going to come knocking on your door…you have to be purposeful in your pursuit until it becomes part of your day to day routine.

Overcoming Obstacles:

To overcome barriers to self care, it’s essential to identify specific obstacles and develop strategies to address them. Some common obstacles include lack of time, guilt, societal expectations, and inadequate support systems. Here are a few strategies to overcome these challenges:

Time Management: Assess your schedule and identify pockets of time for self care. Break large tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and delegate or eliminate non-essential activities (my mom was very good at this…not that I liked it when we were kids, but I understand why she did what she did. We all left home with a well rounded skill set ready for life on our own, and she was able to get some time to do the things she needed to do to be an effective parent after our dad died when we were young and she was left with 4 kids on her own)

Establish Boundaries: Set clear boundaries with others, communicate your needs, and don’t be afraid to ask for support. Educate your loved ones about the importance of self-care and enlist their help in maintaining those boundaries.

Release Guilt: Understand that self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. Let go of guilt by reminding yourself that taking care of yourself enables you to show up more fully for others.

Foster Community and Support: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or like-minded individuals who encourage and prioritize self-care. Share experiences, insights, and strategies to overcome barriers together. This is a big part of the weekly walking / education group we have established. It provides the ability to spend time with others all trying to improve their health and we often hear things like “this was the best part of my week” when we’re closing out for the night.

So, over the next few weeks, remember that self care is not a selfish act but a vital component of overall well-being. By recognizing and addressing barriers such as the fear of selfishness, scarcity mindset, lack of prioritization, discomfort, and obstacles, you can integrate self care into your daily and weekly routines. Remember that self care enhances your ability to be productive, resilient, and present for yourself and those you care for. Embrace the opportunity for renewal each day and make self-care an essential part of your life.

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