Self-care is not selfish, but essential. Taking time for self-care means not only a better you, but also can mean being a better mom, a better partner, more successful at work, and in general - take you from feeling like you're surviving to thriving.
When you think of self-care, do you imagine spa days with massages and pedicures? Or maybe fuzzy slippers and bubble baths at home?
News flash: that isn't self-care.
That's self-pampering, and while it's nice, it's not self care. Self care is not selfish - in fact, it's essential.
What is self-care?
Self-care is any action that promotes your health and well-being in any area: physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental, financial, etc.
The World Health Organization says self-care is an ability "to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider (1)." It includes individual components (i.e. self-reliance, empowerment, autonomy, personal responsibility, self-efficacy) and community components (i.e. community participation, community involvement, community empowerment).
Types of Self-Care
There are five areas main areas of essential self-care:
- Hygiene - personal and general hygiene, like brushing your teeth, putting on clean clothes, and taking the trash out.
- Nutrition - nourishing yourself with balanced meals without food stress.
- Lifestyle - physical activity, sleep, leisure activities, and routine doctor visits.
- Environment - keeping a safe home environment and protecting yourself from cold or hot weather.
- Social - limiting screen time, connecting with family and friends, and participating in your community.
Why Self-Care Isn't Selfish
I truly don't think true self-care is selfish (although excessively self-pampering may be a different story). Selfishness is being concerned excessively or exclusively with yourself with zero regard for others (2). And for the majority of moms I know, "zero regard for others" is NOT the problem.
So many of us don't prioritize our own self-care because we're so invested in our responsibilities. We take care of our children (always above our own needs), showing up for our families, stepping up at our jobs, taking care of things around the house, volunteering, and being engaged in the community.
These are all great things, but ultimately? Your ability to serve others is severely limited if you don't take care of yourself, too.
And this is why self-care is not selfish, and why it's absolutely essential. Without taking care of yourself (physically, mentally, emotionally) you will not be able to show up for anyone or anything in your life to the best of your abilities. You can't pour from an empty cup!
Why Moms May Have to Work Harder at Self-Care
Selflessness is a trademark of motherhood - which is all the more reason moms have to work harder and be more intentional to keep up with their own essential self-care, so we can continue to be there to give to, love, and support our children.
It's easy to keep self-sacrificing when you're a mom. It doesn't matter when or how you become a mom, motherhood is initiated with a sea of selflessness. Willingly subjecting yourself to sleep-deprivation to feed a newborn oh-so-frequently day and night. Leaving behind friends and family to travel across the world to meet your new adopted child and bring them home. Solely focusing on ensuring your foster child feels safe with you in your home.
But in all the small ways, selflessness shows up, too. Like when you let your kids eat that whole pricey, small little container of raspberries because they love them so much. Or watching "Frozen" for family movie night again (AND AGAIN!) because it's their favorite. Even just the day-to-day of coming straight home from a long day at work to help manage homework, evening routines, and make dinner.
It's definitely an honor and a privilege to get to take care of our kids, but still - to pour into our littles, we need to make sure there's something in our cup to pour from!
A Self-Care Exercise to See What You Really Need
First, check in with yourself. When was the last time you remember doing something just for yourself that left you feeling a little more centered and replenished? If you can't remember when, or if it's been more than a week, it's more important than ever to carve out a little bit of time for yourself!
But when you find a few minutes for self-care, where do you begin? What do you do?
Think of taking care of yourself like you would take care of your child. You can even pretend you have an inner child who is trying to tell you what they need. Are they mad? Sad? Lonely? Not feeling well? Hungry? Just like you would your child, try to listen objectively, and then offer simple solutions to help.
Ten Minute Self-Care Ideas
PSA: you need more than ten minutes for your self-care, but here are twelve things you can do right now in ten minutes or less:
- Refresh your personal hygiene. Sometimes something as simple as washing your face or brushing your teeth or hair can help you feel human again.
- Journal. Identify what you're grateful for, what you've accomplished, and where you're finding joy today.
- Schedule routine medical or dental visits.
- Stretch. You can do some gentle yoga, simple stretching, or practice some deep breathing to feel a little less tense.
- Plan your next meal. You don't have to go crazy, it can be as simple as planning to stop at the store for a rotisserie chicken and salad kits.
- Call someone. Just make sure you're calling and not just texting, get a little more personal connection!
- Go screen-free. If you've been staring at a computer or phone most of the day, give yourself a 10 minute screen-free break. Your eyes and mind will thank you!
- Go for a short walk. Enjoy moving your body for several minutes - you can squeeze it in at work in hallways or a stair well, or go for a quick walk outside and get some fresh air, too.
- Read a chapter (or even just a few pages). Try this before bed as a way to wind down or during your lunch break.
- Pray or meditate. Connecting with your faith and meditating can be mentally and emotionally restorative.
- Drink a glass of water. It's physically refreshing, and if you've not been hydrating enough throughout the day, it can be mentally refreshing, too!
- Ask for help. Maybe it's calling your doctor, maybe it's talking with your partner about different ways to divide responsibilities, or maybe it's reaching out to someone like myself, a registered dietitian nutrition coach, who can help you love your body, ditch fad diets, and embrace healthy habits for a healthier, happier lifestyle.
Ultimately, please know that self-care is NOT selfish. I know you want to pour into your kids. I know you want to perform your best at work. I know you want a thriving marriage. And I know you want to feel happy and thriving while doing it. And you totally can with consistent self-care habits - and it is NOT selfish to do so!