Former US President John F. Kennedy once asked his country men and women “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” At this point in United States history the great American President sought to entice people to give of themselves for the betterment of a society and vision. There is nothing wrong with giving of ourselves in service to others in whatever form that may take. I have been thinking about this quote for several weeks. I have come up with my own version that I use in the clinical world. “Ask not what others can do for you, but what you can do to fulfill your own needs and desires.” In counseling we often talk about self-care. Sometimes we get so lost in helping others out that we lose track of ourselves and our needs. You are important and may you never forget that.
Let me say at the start self-care is critical to wellbeing and success.
The people who present in my office for counseling are often taught caring for self is selfish and self-centered. Selfishness is placing yourself above other people and using others to get better. Self-care, conversely, is the experience of meeting your individual needs and desires so you can be helpful to other along your journey. If you come from a family or organization that taught you self-care is equal to selfishness, know that you are not alone.
Self-care is a neglected part of daily living. Who has time to tend to their needs? We often find ourselves stuck in the cross fire of competing drives, needs, demands, and expectations. Work, personal life, family, enriching the intellect, having friendships, sleep, eating, and the list goes on. The world we live in is face-paced and conditioned with instant gratification. Today I choose to live in a different world. Today I choose to care for myself so I can be a better father, son, friend, counselor, colleague, mentor, educator. I am responsible for my life. You are too.
Where can we find the time to care for ourselves? With only 168 hours per week where does the time go? The solution is realizing no one can meet your needs and wants but you. This is your life is the ship and you are its captain. What we choose to include or exclude from our lives speaks volumes to what we value.
Self-care does not have to be complicated. I more times than not find that people over think the issue of self-care. Remember the principle of keep it simple.
Do what works for your lifestyle.
Set aside a realistic amount of time devoted to meeting what need or desire you might have.
For example, if you have a day packed with meetings and you value relaxation. You may commit to one or two minutes of deep breathing or a walk. Taking this time is critical for personal growth. It may be impossible to commit to fifteen or thirty minutes of personal time.
Do not underestimate the power of several minutes or seconds. In the fast-paced work and play life of 21st century living we condition ourselves to sacrifice self for the greater good. Remember you cannot get back that time. At the end of the day we live with ourselves and choices. Children, work, and friendships will still be there if we take time for self-care. Our brains need pauses to reintegrate material learned throughout the day. Choosing a life that embraces self-care if the pathway to wholeness. Sleep is the foundation of good self-care.
Return to Maslow’s hierarchy and begin to meet base needs before progressing forward. Consider if your physiological needs are met (air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sleep). It is hard to think logically when the stomach is empty. Next come the safety needs (freedom from fear, security, order). Maslow valued human beings’ orientation to connectedness and feelings of belonging. Here we speak about support systems and forming bonds with others who encourage and embrace us as whole human beings.
Use paid time off for self-care. Take scheduled days off. Spend time doing something you love or enjoy. You mind, body, and soul need this to rejuvenate. Burn out is a serious consequence of not living a life of self-care. Lack of motivation and drive is the first sign of feeling burnt out. Like forming other habits building a lifestyle centered on self-care and compassion takes time and perseverance.
Do not get down on yourself for any imperfection or mistakes. All that is required in life is attempting to the best of your abilities. If you have arrived at this moment in life, you are clearly doing something right. Know that you can care for you. Teach yourself daily what your mind, body, and soul need to flourish.
In the comment section please feel free to comment about your self-care program, barriers, and successes.