Thinking Things Through … Self Care

By Chris Wagner
To many of us the term self-care barely registers. We might cover the basics, but too often put more effort out for the benefit of others, thinking it’s too selfish to put ourselves at the top of the list. But there are other reasons for neglecting needs that, in the end, would give us more zeal and energy for others. Maybe our perception is that it’s a waste of time. Or maybe we’re too busy, tired, stressed, overworked etc. When it comes to dedication to care of ourselves, it seems easier not to.
For me, taking care of others was about approval, also called people pleasing. Or it seemed to be. The trouble came when I finally figured out that I was at the bottom of my own list and had no idea that I could turn more attention to my own needs. I lost ground. And, when I finally tuned into the importance of taking care of self first, the transition was difficult because it still was not a priority, nor did I have the understanding of what self care really meant.
Let’s look at some of the ways we work against our own well-being.
The inability to say no
Because of the need to be liked, or to go along with the group, or just a desire to help, it often seems easier to say yes when inside a big NO is screaming out. Then we become someone who can be relied on which leads to not wanting to let anyone down. In my experience this brings about resentment and a weakening of one’s self-respect.
Not knowing oneself by defining needs, clarifying values and paying attention to the present moment
When we lose sight of who we really are and what we need to do our best, it’s easy to get away from the practice of self care. If I don’t understand my need for at least 8 hours of sleep for work performance, then I probably am cranky and frustrated, upset about being cranky and frustrated, and not living up to my potential. This could go on for years. And, if it’s not sleep, then it could be diet, the need to be able to spend time alone, time for a brisk morning walk, or whatever it is that helps you feel better. We may be operating on what used to work and not realize that, in the present, it isn’t working now. The all-nighters we pulled or the diet of fast food might not serve us anymore.

Not listening to your body
The body is always speaking to us. If we don’t pay attention and hear it, then we are apt to miss the opportunity to get a handle on a problem before it turns into something serious. Stress that is not dealt with begins to show up as pain, fatigue, stomach problems etc. Again, our body is giving us information so that we can figure out causes of the stress and begin the process of finding solutions.

The taking- life-for-granted factor
When you feel well and everything seems to be working it’s easy to become complacent. Young people rarely think about becoming old, healthy people don’t have time to consider losing some or all of that health. Then it’s easy to start and stop exercise, a change of diet, additional glasses of water daily or not working when you don’t feel well. This becomes habitual and more difficult to change as the years go by.

Part 2 – Ideas that move us toward incorporating self care into our daily lives