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Make Self-care a Given


Talking with a client we’ll call Essie about maintaining self-care, I chuckled when she said she usually stopped taking care of herself when things were going poorly in life—at work, as a single parent, and caring for her elderly mother. I realized that this is true of many clients: paradoxically, they give up self-care just when they need it most. 

I asked if she didn’t walk or feed her dog when things weren’t going well in life, and she looked at me like I was nuts. “Of course not,” she insisted. “If I don’t take care of him, who will?” When I was silent and looked right at her with a “Duh?” expression, she got my point. But, the truth is, she really did think that a person only did self-care when they were up to it and when things were going well. To her, it was normal to stop certain practices when things started to tank.

She seemed surprised when I told her that self-care is a 24/7 activity, rain or shine. That you don’t stop brushing your teeth because you got fired and don’t only go for a run when all the stars are aligned, and your relationships are going swimmingly. She thought about my take on self-care for a moment and I could almost see a light go on in her head. Maybe you tend to think like my client and it’s dawning on you now why you take care of yourself when all is well and give upon it and when life gets messy and difficult. It’s all about your underlying beliefs.

If you have this erroneous belief about when to engage in self-care, it makes me wonder what other beliefs are leading you astray. Here are some that clients have expressed: 

  • Self-care means I’m selfish and only taking care of me. 
  • Self-care is something people do if they’re already healthy and in good shape. 
  • Self-care takes too much time and I’m too busy. 
  • Self-care is a luxury I don’t have.
  • Self-care is something I’ll do when I’m thinner.
  • Self-care is too much work. I don’t know where to begin.

You’ll only be able to make self-care your default setting when you have underlying beliefs that self care isn’t selfish, realize it’s a place to start as well as end up, recognize you deserve to spend time on yourself, believe that self-care has nothing to do with body size or what you ate, and know you have the joy and honor of taking care of yourself for the rest of your life. When it becomes part of you like breathing, you’ll do it because it’s natural and you wouldn’t live any other way.