Life can quickly become overwhelming, frustrating, or even infuriating. Each day seems to bring a fresh set of problems. Could be an insatiable overbearing employer, tasks and responsibilities that you can not wish away, piling bills, or family duties. Socializing may even become an uphill task.
It is not entirely possible to juggle so many tasks at once all the time. The only way to cope with the anxiety of life without completely breaking down physically, emotionally, or mentally is by taking time out to practice self-care.
What is Self-Care?
Every deliberate action you carry out to ensure your physical, emotional, and mental well-being is self-care. Sounds pretty straight-forward, doesn’t it? Yet, we hardly ever give self-care a second thought. That is why it has to be intentional. You have to give your well-being conscious effort.
You can start small – do not check emails at night and stop bringing work home. Then, you can make much bigger decisions like taking a vacation or a spa-day when you feel you need one.
Why does Self-Care Matter?
In 2014, the self-care industry had an estimated value of $10 billion. Now, as we leave 2020, it has boomed to $450 billion. Why this massive increase? (1)
According to researchers, there is a growing recognition of the need for people to assume responsibility for their health. And to actively involve in self-care. Out of 525,600 minutes in a year, people spend only on average 66 minutes or 0.01% of the time with healthcare professionals. All other health maintenance, illness prevention, monitoring and management activities should be self-care activities. (2)
Self-care is necessary because:
1. Self-care can improve your physical health.
One key aspect of self-care is consistently taking care of your body and becoming more accustomed to its needs. Whether it is maintaining skincare routine, getting more exercise, or improving the quality of your sleep at night, self-care will boost your physical health and well-being.
2. Self-care can reduce undue stress and anxiety.
There is a wide range of relaxing self-care activities that you can indulge in. They include soaking in a warm bath, listening to smooth jazz music, or even practising yoga and meditation. Whatever makes you feel more relaxed can help to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and calm your nerves.
3. Self-care can boost your self-esteem.
Relaxing and looking after your well-being can positively affect the way you view yourself. Studies show that the way you treat yourself is directly proportional to your level of self-esteem.
For instance, treating yourself with consideration will make you view yourself more kindly. It is important because individuals with higher self-esteem find it easier to cope with setbacks and are more likely to achieve goals of self-improvement.
4. Self-care protects your mental health.
While you can not substitute professional help for self-care, it plays a huge role. Caring for yourself can help individuals manage mental health issues and might even prevent these issues from escalating.
Still, you should not feel like you have to deal with your problems alone or that taking an off day once in a while will solve your health issues. If your mental health is deteriorating, always talk to someone.
5. Self-care can lead to better relationships.
It makes sense if you think about it: the happier and healthier you are, the more you can give to a relationship.
It is doubly important if you are a parent or carer. Sometimes, you might have to put the needs of someone else first, but you must look after your health too.
Why People Struggle With Self-Care
Despite its many benefits, many people still struggle with self-care and here are a few reasons why:
It feels good to be known as dependable. Everyone appreciates that person who will go the extra mile to help friends, family, or even strangers in need. The problem starts when you keep taking on tasks, and making yourself physically, mentally and emotionally available, not because you can, but just because you can not say no.
So, you continue to be everything to everyone, despite being overwhelmed, because you feel immense guilt when you do not. Doing this all the time can negatively affect your health. You will begin to feel undervalued, under-appreciated, resentful and used when it takes its toll on you.
You are never the only one who can help. If you say no, and are vehement about it, you save yourself from unnecessary stress.
2. You think looking after yourself is selfish.
It can be a challenge if you have other people who depend on you. Maybe you have to care for an elderly or sick relative, or you might have to look after a person who is always in need, or even your role as a parent.
For this reason, your needs take the back burner while you make sure that everybody else is okay. You might even think that other people are coping with far more than what you are, so you feel you have no right to complain.
You deserve self-care just as much as the next person. Taking care of yourself does not make you neglect anybody or stop you from carrying out your responsibilities. Instead, it will give you the emotional and physical strength to keep fulfilling your role.
3. You do not ask for help.
You are used to being the helper, and you are always willing to solve the problems of those that you cherish. That becomes a problem when you find yourself in a situation that requires you to ask for help. You worry about being a burden to others, so you refuse to ask for help to avoid causing worry.
It could also be that you may have been disappointed when you asked for help previously, or you did not get the full support you needed.
4. You do not recognize you need help until it is too late.
When you keep on prioritizing the needs of other people before yours, it becomes a challenge to recognize when you are burning out until it is almost too late. You carry these burdens on your shoulders without saying a word, ignoring what these problems are doing to your health.
Irritability sets in – anger, feeling hopeless, feeling overwhelmed, and you cope using unhealthy strategies. It is only when you have reached the point of complete and utter hopelessness that you find out that something has to give. By this point, you already feel exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
It can be disheartening when you feel as though you are always available to assist others, but when you need help, there is no acknowledgement or awareness that you are even struggling. Everyone always assumes that you will be fine and that you will keep going as you always do.
That is not acceptable – you deserve to feel valued. Your feelings, emotions, struggles, and experiences are relevant. If you can, talk to a therapist as they are in a unique position to provide the mental and emotional help you need.
Self-care is allowing yourself time to work out what you want, and what you need to do to feel like you are living a happier, balanced, and more fulfilled life.
So, regardless of work, responsibilities, dependents, or even personal struggles, make out time to put your health and well-being first.