The Self-Care Dilemma
How do you make self-care work in the context of your relationship? In her post, Sarah has provided a guide to get you where you need to be on your self-care journey.
Are you meeting your self-care needs? Most of us have trouble meeting our own needs and making self-care a priority. We walk through our lives feeling tired, stressed, frustrated, unfulfilled, and even resentful. Yet, we don’t stop and think about how to change these feelings. We put everything ahead of ourselves and hope that something external will change. We may try to convince ourselves that we are the only person suffering from our lack of self-care, but it affects everyone in our lives. Your intimate relationship is often the thing that suffers most when you don’t make your self-care a priority. How can you contribute to a relationship when you are already feeling empty?
Self-care is not only for yourself. You have to take care of yourself in order to contribute to your relationship, your work, your children, your family, your community. Your partner cannot be responsible for taking care of you, and you can’t wait for circumstances to change. So why isn’t self-care your top priority? There are lots of possible reasons. These are some of the most common:
- You feel you don’t deserve it.
- You feel guilty when you take time for yourself.
- Others don’t support your self-care habits.
- You feel there isn’t enough time.
- You feel that you can function without it.
- It seems selfish to put your needs first.
- You’re concerned about what others will think/say.
- You feel that the needs of your children/spouse/boss should come first.
You may have identified with one of these perceptions or perhaps all of them. You probably have never felt empowered to prioritize yourself. Our society does not promote healthy self-esteem and self-care. You can combat these perceptions one by one, but the truth is that there are always going to be a dozen excuses you can come up with to push your own needs further down the to-do list. You simply have to just start taking action.
Talk to your partner about self-care habits for both of you. It’s important in relationships for both individuals to take care of their own needs. You shouldn’t feel like you have to provide that for one another. No one can take care of you but you, and don’t the people you love deserve the best version of you?
What does self-care look like? It’s different for everyone. Anything you do for yourself that nurtures you emotionally, physically, or spiritually is self-care. You have to find what works for you. For me, self-care includes getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night, daily yoga and meditation, exercise, eating healthy foods, taking walks, getting massages, hiking, down time for reading, playing with my dogs, and going to the beach as often as possible. I incorporate all of these things in as often as I can. I feel replenished, relaxed, and capable of coping with my busy life when I make these things priorities, and notice the change in my mood immediately if any of these habits slip. Your needs and interests may be very different; that’s okay. You find what works for you.
You may also discover that you and your partner have very different, seemingly incompatible, self-care needs. That doesn’t matter as long as you respect what works for you both as individuals. If this is a new concept to you both, then you get to explore and try new things until you find what works. If one of you is more experienced in this area, then you can help each other by discussing that experience.
If your partner is not willing to start this self-care journey with you at this time, you can do it for yourself, by yourself. Although, try to make it something you do together if possible. You want to get them on board, not only for the support, but because if you both start developing healthy self-care habits, your relationship will thrive.
Let’s get started!
- Decide what your new life will look like.
What does self-care look like to you? How much time per day/week do you want to devote to your self-care? What habits do you want to incorporate into your life? Make sure you are specific. If you want to do 3 yoga classes a week, write that down. You can figure out later how to make that happen.
- Find time.
You can’t make the clock move slower or add hours to your day, so you need to take stock of your current schedule. For one week, write down everything you do and when. It may be helpful to use an app, chart or spreadsheet with times broken down into 15 or 30 minute intervals. Track everything from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep. Be honest. If you get sucked into Facebook for prolonged periods, or spend 2 hours sitting on the couch playing video games or zoning out watching TV, and feeling too drained to do anything else, write it down. You need to know where your time is going before you can make changes.
After tracking your life for a week, look over your schedule. Decide what you want to keep and what can go. Don’t start worrying about how you are going to eliminate things, just decide what isn’t a priority for you to do. Once that’s done, you can get really creative with starting to determine how to eliminate things. Maybe you get someone else to help with the chores, or perhaps you will need to give up commitments that are not fulfilling for you. Start problem solving. There is always a solution.
- Add your new habits.
As you start eliminating the things from your schedule that do not serve you, replace them immediately with one of your new self-care habits. Start with the ones that you feel will be most rewarding to provide some extra motivation.
- Keep it up.
Pay attention to your habits and frequently reevaluate to make sure you are maintaining your priorities and meeting your self-care needs.
I challenge you to take action right now. There will never be the perfect time to get started, so start now to demonstrate to yourself that you are worth it. You will notice such a significant change in your life and your relationship when self-care becomes your priority.
Sarah Clark, LMFT, LMHC, CVRT
Clark Counseling Solutions LLC
Sarah is a counselor in private practice in Indianapolis, who focuses on helping couples improve their relationships. She is also the co-founder of the iPhone app Idealationship.
Website: Clark Counseling Solutions
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