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  • Jessica Brake

Self-care is Not Selfish at All



What Is Self-Care


I would have to say that self care is the single best thing that you can do for yourself and probably the most important thing that I work with people on as a therapist. I can’t count how many times I ask clients what they do for self care and they stare at me blankly. Either that or I hear ‘I watch TV or I play on my phone’. Those are forms of distraction and entertainment but they are not self care.


Unfortunately many of us were never taught self care or had it modelled for us. Even worse, many of us might have been taught that self care was selfish or taught negative self care. I consider anything that brings us harm negative self care so this means overeating, smoking, alcohol and other substances, exercise if it is done in excess, shopping when it causes hardships, gambling, and many others. If it harms you or someone else in any way it is negative self care.


A guide you can use to determine if a behavior is negative or neutral on the self care scale is to ask yourself if it is a form of consumption. Consumption is when we are bringing things into our lives or our bodies. Everyone has to do this to a certain degree but when we over do it, then it becomes problematic. Sometimes we start trying to fill a void or hole within ourselves with what we are consuming or we consume more than we create and then we will feel out of balance. Consuming may be all right as positive self care as long as it is not harmful and it remains in moderation and in balance with what we create.



Positive Self-Care


So what is positive self care? Positive or good self care are ways that we fill ourselves back up. Ways that we take care of ourselves, rejuvenate, replenish, restore our energy. There are lots of important ways that we take care of ourselves: eating good foods, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, getting the correct amount of exercise, coping with stress, and relaxation.


However positive self care goes beyond these things, even beyond coping and relaxation. Coping is how we deal with problems or difficulties that arise or work through our emotions. Relaxation is how we release tension, stress, and anxiety. I guess you could say self care is how we take care of our emotional and spiritual body in a proactive way. Your methods of self care may include aspects from the other ways that you care for your body but are done for the joy and benefit of doing them and not because they are necessary to function.



How To Tell True Self Care From Harmful Behaviors


I realize that this can be really difficult. It can be difficult to know how to do this and difficult to find the time. In our society there seems to always be something that is required of us, something more to do. For some reason it just does not seem to be socially appropriate to take time to do things that feed our soul, or we may feel selfish or lazy if we are doing things that benefit us in this way.


Self care is a really personal thing and there are many ways to do it. Whatever works for you is just fine so long as it does not fall under negative self care. Even neutral forms would be okay especially in the beginning when you are getting used to it and learning what works for you. Neutral would be a type of self care that is not negative but is maybe not really self care or not really filling you up. Examples of neutral self care might be re-reading a book that is more distracting or filling time than fulfilling you or watching television which may not be harmful but not really fulfilling. Some ideas for self care would be spending time in nature, getting your body moving in ways you enjoy, spending time with yourself, doing something creative, camaraderie, self soothing outside of coping, pampering yourself when balanced with creativity, and many more.



Brainstorming Healthy Self-Care


There are many ways to enjoy nature as good self care, any time you are enjoying the outdoors or an element of nature could be considered positive self care. It can be as simple as sitting outside in a type of nature that you enjoy. It could also be “earthing” or walking outside on the earth with bare feet. This allows you to absorb energy from the earth while it absorbs negative energy from you. Also immersing yourself in an element or type of nature can be excellent self care: swimming in the ocean or river, mud bath or hot springs as examples. Going for hikes or “forest bathing” are other forms of self care in nature.


Doing self care by getting your body moving may be different forms of sport or exercise so long as it is something that you enjoy. Yoga, stretching, and pilates may be good forms of self care. Various sports may also provide enjoyment and camaraderie. Lots of people talk about a runner's high or enjoyment in a physical activity that they engage in not because they have to but because they truly enjoy doing it.


There are many ways that you can spend time with yourself for self care. This is really difficult for some people because it can be uncomfortable, especially at first but it is really important to learn more about yourself. Sitting with yourself in silence, meditating, and praying are some ways to spend time with yourself. Journaling is another great way to spend time with yourself.


Creativity is a way that some people engage in self care. There are so many forms of creativity and any of them will work just fine so long as you enjoy doing it. Whether it is painting, drawing, even coloring, these all work as forms of self care. Remember the goal is not really technique or the finished outcome so much as it is to enjoy yourself.

Camaraderie would be spending time with other people. This can be done in any form that is enjoyable, not obligation or forced. Some people really recharge with good conversation or spending time with friends. This may also include spending time with people as part of a spiritual practice or ritual.


Self soothing is an excellent way to cope with life’s difficulties but it is also a great way to do self care. Self soothing is when you use your five senses to bring comfort or enjoyment. Doing things that appeal to your sense of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. The more senses you can combine in the activity the more beneficial it will be.


Last but not least pampering yourself can be a way to self care. This can be anything from a massage to a pedicure and everything in between. The same guidelines apply as with the other types of self care. It is best if this is something that you are doing for yourself just because you enjoy it or it helps you feel good not because you are supposed to or you have to for one reason or another. Although if you need a haircut but choose to go to a nice salon where you feel special and treated well when you could just as easily go somewhere where they would cut your hair but you wouldn’t get the same experience then I would say that counts. Even if you give yourself a manicure or pedicure while making it kind of special for yourself, I would say that counts too.



A Final Thought


Self care is all about filling yourself up in ways that infuse you with positive energy and help you feel rejuvenated, refreshed, uplifted. You do not have to spend any money on it at all but it will take time and some effort on your part to push yourself to do it, especially if taking time for yourself is difficult. It is important for everyone and I would recommend taking time for self care at least weekly if not daily and more often if you are feeling run down, overwhelmed, fatigued, stressed, etc. It is like the Zen proverb says, ‘if you don’t have time to meditate for an hour everyday, you should meditate for two hours.’ If you don’t have time for self care then you probably need it even more.


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