What comes to mind when you think of self-care? Getting a massage? Going on vacation?  Is it something you brush off because you haven’t the time?  Do you put everyone and everything else ahead of your own needs and wants?  There’s a reason why the flight attendant reminds you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others.  

I think intellectually we understand that we have to take care of ourselves.  Putting that mindset into practice is never as easy as it sounds.  

We probably should acknowledge that self-care isn’t selfish.  Why?  Because when we are experiencing joy, we are not only benefitting ourselves, but also everyone else in our lives.  If we take the time to regularly focus on our own physical and emotional needs, we are freeing ourselves to become better parents, friends, colleagues, partners, siblings, co-workers, and neighbors.  

Easier said than done, right?  

One of the biggest hurdles to self-care is the notion that you’re too busy with the rest of your life.  I mean, there are only 24 hours in a day, and if you’ve been taking your mom and dad to their various medical appointments, helping the kids with their homework, working a 40-hour week, grocery shopping, and paying the household bills, how on earth can you squeeze in an hour for a manicure?  

Another obstacle to self-care is the instinct to rescue everyone else at your own expense. Imagine that your high school sophomore forgot her lunch.  When you see it on the kitchen counter, you put on your superhero cape and deliver it to school on your way to work, even though you end up being late for the 9:00 a.m. staff meeting.  In hindsight, you realize that your kid wouldn’t have starved, but your reputation for punctuality in the workplace definitely took a hit.  

Maybe we all could use a reminder that we’re often setting an example for others.  Whether it’s a spouse, or a kid, or a co-worker, you are teaching everyone in your circle how to treat you by the way you treat yourself.   If you are exhibiting your willingness to sacrifice yourself, maybe you’re bringing out the neediness in those around you.  Let’s revisit the example of your teenager forgetting her lunch and you delivering it to her at school.  Do you think that she’ll be extra careful in the future about remembering to put it in her backpack?  Nope.  She’ll probably think, “oh well, my mom/dad will bring it to me if I forget again.”  And you will.  And you’ll be late for work as a result. 

When I was drafting this article, I compiled a lengthy list of ways to make self-care a priority.  I’ve chosen to share four good ones with you here:

  1. Do something you love every single day.
  2. Pause before reacting, and ask yourself “do I really want to do this?”
  3. Go outside.
  4. Laugh.

I’m interested to know what you do to care for yourself.  Please enlighten me with a comment.