December 22, 2012

Treat Yo’self: The Importance of Self-Care

Written by Rachel Eddins

Posted in Stress Management and with tags: self care

woman smiling cup of coffee self-care

Self-Care and the Holidays

Ah, the holidays.  ‘Tis the season to give, right?  We are encouraged to adopt a spirit of giving and can sometimes drive ourselves crazy trying to make that happen.

With all we do for others during this season, have you ever thought about adding self-care to your list?

I once had a client ask me what “self-care” actually was.  She wasn’t familiar with the concept, which is to be expected for anyone outside of a helping profession (counseling, nursing, social work, etc.).

That term is thrown around a lot in certain professional circles, but what does it mean exactly?

What is Self-Care?

Broadly speaking, it is knowing your limits, acknowledging your needs, and setting boundaries with others.  The idea of self-care is very similar to the concept of using oxygen masks on planes: you have to help yourself before you can help others.

So, to engage in self-care is to make sure you are physically, emotionally, and mentally well enough to do all the things you need and want to do in your life.

What Does Self-Care Look Like?

As busy individuals who are always on-the-go, our batteries need to be charged, but how do you achieve that?  What does self-care look like?  For some, it might be declining an invitation or request.

Saying “no” can be a big part of self-care:

  • No, I won’t take on more than I can handle.
  • No, I will not over-extend myself, depriving myself of the things I need to feel centered and balanced.
  • No, I will not put myself in a position that leaves me stressed, resentful, bitter, angry, tearful, drained, burned-out, or utterly exhausted.

Saying “yes” is important too:

  • Yes, I will make time for myself and not feel guilty about it.
  • Yes, I will sleep in one day.
  • Yes, I will ask for help.
  • Yes, I will treat myself to something that brings me peace, joy, comfort, relaxation, fun, laughter, and/or fulfillment.
  • Yes, I will embrace words like “leisure,” “recreation,” and “moderation.”

Keep in mind that what might be relaxing for one person could be super stressful for another.  What could re-charge one person’s batteries might completely drain another’s.

A critical aspect of self-care is being honest with yourself and assessing your individual needs and limitations (and yes, we all have limitations!).


Treat Yo’Self Self-Care:

One of the best and funniest examples of self-care can be found in an episode of the NBC sit-com “Parks & Recreation.”  This particular episode features the idea of taking one day a year to “Treat. Yo. Self.”

Each year, two of the characters, Donna and Tom, indulge in a full day of shopping and being pampered at a spa.  One scene shows them delighting in buying luxurious clothes, shoes, desserts, massages, acupuncture, etc.

That is what brings them happiness, and they bring another character, Ben, along with them in the hopes of cheering him up.

However, Ben finds none of that stuff appealing or enjoyable.  He feels uncomfortable the entire time because he is attempting to treat himself according to someone else’s definitions of self-care.

Being subjected to their self-care activities completely defeats the purpose of Treat Yo’ Self day.  Eventually, he figures out his own way of treating himself, which – come to find out – is purchasing and then wearing a realistic, lifelike Batman costume.

He’s a self-proclaimed comic book nerd, and becoming Batman brought him joy.  That’s what made him feel better and re-energized.  That’s how he treated himself.

So, how will you treat yo’self?

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