How are you looking after yourself? Are you a busy professional or a parent juggling with family & career, or looking after an elderly relative or busy with something or someone else? Where do you place yourself on the priority list? Self-care refers to taking care of your needs whether emotional, physical and/or spiritual. You may ask “but why would you need to do self-care, surely that just happens?”
If you are like so many people, you may be placing yourself last on the priority list and say to yourself “I’m ok as long as others are ok or my time is later or it’s selfish to look after my needs”. Self-care as a concept is simple but often, in reality, it can be a challenge to take really good care of oneself.
How do you treat yourself when you make a mistake, say something that sounds like a frog jumped out of your mouth and you feel embarrassed, or you compare yourself to a friend who seems to have it all?
Are you often self-critical and set high standards for yourself? Do you ruminate and dig out all the old mistakes and really dwell on those? Do you feel that you deserve to be punished for whatever you did or said in the past? Perhaps you also say to yourself that your life cannot be acceptable or enjoyable until you have achieved a certain standard?
If you have forgotten what self-care is and you frequently blame and criticise yourself for whatever is going on in your life, you are not alone. So many of us live the life of “I will take care of me when….” or “My life will be better once I achieve X….”
So the topic of this post is to look at first how the lack of self-care and being self-critical really hinders on living wholeheartedly whilst practicing good self-care and self-compassion can really change your life. A short while ago I wrote this post about 9 Blocks for self-care & self-compassion. You can read it here.
You may do serious harm to yourself by not looking after yourself. In the long run putting yourself last or ignoring your needs may lead to a burnout, exhaustion, relationship difficulties, anxiety, and depression. It is quite likely that if you often (always) prioritise others, you end up being angry with them and feel resentful, but others are not aware of your needs unless you make yourself a priority and communicate your needs. If you are expecting others to take care your needs, you may end up being disappointed and/or even angry with others. People can’t read your mind and you may set too high expectations on others, therefore good self-care is the basis for our well-being.
Similarly, if you frequently engage in self-blame, self-criticism and setting high standards, it is likely that these are eating away your happiness. Perhaps you feel anxiety and low, you exist rather than engage in living wholeheartedly and are a passenger rather than in the driving seat in your life. Aiming for perfection in life can be so damaging and in the long run perhaps suffocating, if you don’t give yourself a break and express kindness to yourself, you are likely to spend your days in a high state of anxiety and unable to enjoy the happy moments that are just passing by.
Neff (2014) has listed numerous studies suggesting that practicing self-compassion can benefit people of all ages and improve general happiness in life and well-being. For example, Shapira and Mongrain (2010) found that self-compassion practice helped to improve level of happiness and decrease depression.
Here are some further points on how they can help You to live wholeheartedly and benefit your well-being:
- Better relationship with self – more accepting of self and body
- Reducing stress and anxiety – looking after your needs and being kind to yourself, essentially nurturing yourself can really change your world for the better
- Improving relationships – when you set boundaries and appreciate yourself, you are likely to be more tolerant of others and their imperfections; be less resentful as those around you learn about your boundaries and asking what you need makes you feel more appreciated as loved ones respond to your requests
- Physically taking better care of yourself improves mental well-being – e.g. more physical activity gets serotonin going and improves mood – The natural high is addictive!
- Improved well-being leads to being more productive, enjoyment and sense of achievement in your work and passions
Start today: take care of yourself and be kind to yourself!
Self-care and self-compassion are perhaps one of the most frequently discussed topics in therapy. I believe that these are fundamental to everything else in our lives. The better relationship we have with ourselves the better relationships with have with others and happier our lives can be.
We have just this one life, so let’s make it as good as we can.
Would You Like To Become The Best Version Of You?
From 1st of May I will be running a FREE 30-Day Self-Care & Self-Compassion Challenge.
The challenge is for you if:
- You often prioritise others (partner, children, extended family, work colleagues, friends….and the list goes on) and leave yourself as the last one on the priority list
- You often set very high standards for yourself (aim for perfection) and criticise yourself if you don’t meet your standards
- Ruminate about your mistakes and blame/punish yourself for mistakes
- Often feel stressed, anxious, low and/or resentful
Join now the 30-Day Self-Care & Self-Compassion Challenge and start taking better care of You! Find more information here.
Shapira, L.B. & Mongrain, M. (2010). The benefits of self-compassion and optimism exercises for individuals vulnerable to depression, The Journal Of Positive Psychology, Vol. 5 (issue 5)
Neff, K.D. & Costigan, A.P. (2014). Self-Compassion, Wellbeing, and Happiness http://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/publications/Neff&Costigan.pdf