First let me ask you this, when you hear the word self-care, what do you think of and how would you define it?
Maybe you’ve never thought of what it is or have a hard time even defining what it is. And find comfort that you are not alone. Self-care is a broad term used to describe ways in which a person takes care of themselves, which in turn, self-care skills improves well-being.
But before I describe how I understand self-care, let me briefly describe the five things self-care is not. Self-care is different than self-pampering, self-indulgence, optional, selfish, or a one time event.
Self-Care is Not:
1. Self-pampering: The definition of self-pampering is to treat or gratify with kindness, care or indulgences.
Examples of pampering include:
massages, pedicures, manicures, baths and sleeping late, ordering take-out.
There is nothing problematic or wrong with self-pampering.
But it needs to be in proportion with other self-care actions.
However, if the only way you take care of yourself is through self-pampering, you may find these behaviors do not sufficiently help you cope with day-to-day stress.
2. Self-indulgence: The definition of self-indulgence is the inability to resist and often excessive gratification of one’s appetite, desires, or whims.
Examples of self-indulgence include:
Eating a fantastic unusual meal you consider a treat, engaging in a marathon of television or movie watching doing nothing else all day, and at the extreme include overeating, excessive shopping, drinking alcohol to excess.
Again, there is nothing wrong with self-indulgence every now and then, but if you are using self-indulgence as a way to cope with stress and take care of yourself, then over time, self-indulgent choices can have a negative impact on your physical, emotional and mental well-being.
3. Optional: I often hear from parents the belief that self-care is optional, indulgent and not needed. And I also hear beliefs that parents, especially mothers, need to sacrifice their own needs because their child or work or partner or family come first.
When my daughters were two, I was talking with my mother in law about how exhausted I was needing a break from the girls. I asked her if she ever needed time away from her children when they were younger. She raised three boys. She said, no, never. Which I don’t think was true. Not only was she caring for three young boys, she was caring for her aging mother and mother-in-law. I don’t think this mind set was uncommon thirty-to forty years ago. It was a foreign concept for parents to take care for themselves.
Over the past several decades, we know how important parents mental and physical health are in caring for and raising a child. Mental health research and advances in health medicine, we know the importance of individuals taking care of themselves.
When parents take care of their needs in a balanced healthy way, they are able to deal with the inevitable stress and demands of life, especially raising a family.
4. Selfish: I am familiar with the phenomena passed down from previous generations; the belief that taking care of yourself is selfish and all of your energy needs to be focused on your children. The reality is, if you take care of yourself, you have more energy to be present and take care of your children.
Self-care is not selfish, it’s self-preservation. If we do not take care of ourselves, it is challenging to take care of our children and the other roles in our life. Self-care is a necessary life skill.
5. A One-Time Event. Balancing the demands of raising children and the accompanying responsibilities can be overwhelming. Many people don’t make the time for self-care in their routine.
Have you ever noticed the only way some people will slow down is when they have to-when they get sick for example? Or there are others who take care of themselves on breaks, or holidays, seeing self-care as something to get to a couple time of year.
Having the belief self-care is an occasional activity or something to do on vacation is a mistake. Instead, it’s important to view self-care as a process, commitment and life style practice to care for yourself daily, even if its only in small amounts.
Self-care takes time, effort, planning, commitment and energy.Even small, daily efforts of self-care add up to help balance, restore and create a solid foundation of health and well-being to drawn from in times of stress and to add to by increasing happiness.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2016