“I know I should be doing more to take care of myself, but the thought of adding something else to my to-do list is impossible.”
“My friends and I were talking about how we know that self-care is important but that we often feel guilty taking time for ourselves.”
“I’m an active person, and self-care is too boring. I’m not the type of person that likes laying around doing nothing.”
These are all statements about self-care I’ve heard over and over again from my psychotherapy clients, friends, colleagues, and others that I’ve chatted with at conferences, workshops, and book-signing events. The common theme that I take from these conversations is that, while we all understand that self-care, in theory, is beneficial for us, there are so many roadblocks that stand between us and putting that theory into practice. Whether it’s a time issue, misconceptions about what self-care actually is, or feeling overwhelmed at the very thought of creating a self-care routine for ourselves, these roadblocks can make anyone steer clear of self-care practices.
Luckily, many of these obstacles have very simple solutions, and, with a little thought and intentionality, they can become minor speed bumps instead of “road closed” signs on your self-care journey. Below I’ve compiled a list of the most common complaints I hear about self-care along with some simple solutions.
Not having enough time is a common lament I hear from my clients. Many clients already wish for more than 24 hours in a day, feel overwhelmed about adding yet another wellness practice to their day, or fear the time commitment required to implement a new self-care practice. And, in a certain sense, I get it. We all lead busy lives, and we are constantly bombarded with information and “must-have” wellness practices.
Most of us can’t escape for a month-long retreat in a remote locale, so the challenge is finding a way to make time for self-care amidst our busy lives. The answer lies in shifting your mindset from one of scarcity (“I don’t have enough time”) to one of abundance (“Making self-care a priority and carving out some time for it on a regular basis will benefit all other areas of my life”).
When you make that shift from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance, you see self-care as a way to enrich your life instead of viewing it as an isolated event. Identify one self-care practice you’d like to try (e.g. going for a 15-minute walk in the evening or journaling for ten minutes), schedule it on your calendar, and set a reminder for good measure. When it comes time to go for that walk or start writing in your journal, remind yourself that it’s about quality and not quantity and that you are doing something that will enrich you as a whole person. A walk will leave you feeling energized and motivated for the remainder of the day, while journaling will get your wheels turning to help you process a problem or an idea that’s been preoccupying you.
Another common complaint I hear is that self-care isn’t for them because bubble baths and pedicures aren’t really their thing. To which I say, that’s totally fine!
The amazing thing about self-care is that it is multi-faceted. There’s physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual self-care, and they look different in practice for each person. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to subscribe to one particular type of self-care. Instead, figure out what’s a good fit for you, and focus on that as your primary form of self-care. If journaling is an effective way for you to decompress at the end of a long day, go for it. If something more active is your thing, maybe take a new exercise class or go for an energizing run. Whatever works for you will be a much more effective form of self-care than whatever you think self-care is supposed to be.
Similar to the complaint about lack of time, I often hear from my clients that they feel overwhelmed at the thought of implementing a comprehensive self-care routine. How on earth are they supposed to start and sustain physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual self-care practices on a daily basis, they ask me in disbelief.
Again, I completely get it. We all have responsibilities that we need to honor both at home and at work, and ignoring these responsibilities is not the answer to creating an effective and long-term self-care routine. Instead of trying to tackle a comprehensive self-care plan on a daily basis, focus on utilizing a self-care routine that addresses what you need for that day. For example, if you feel like you haven’t had a lot of quality time with friends lately, that might be your priority for that day or week. Or, maybe you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by some big decisions you are facing and so you’d like to focus on setting aside time to address those decisions. Instead of trying to do it all every day, focus on the self-care practice that will be most effective at meeting your current needs. By thinking quality over quantity, self-care will seem much more doable and far less overwhelming.