Self-Care Isn't Selfish

Self-care can be tricky. What practices should I choose? What does self-care mean to me?  Is self-care just simply doing things that feel good? Can I incorrectly choose a self-care practice? Why bother with self-care at all?
Simply put, self-care is the effort of the individual to maintain health and well-being. It is any practice one can do for themselves and without a medical professional that encourages overall health. Self-care practices can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Some self-care practices can touch on all of those things at the same time. Self-care should not be confused with just anything that makes a person feel good, however. For example, excessive drinking may feel good at the moment, but it certainly does not maintain health and well-being, especially over time.
Self-care is an empowering and worthy practice. Self-care practices can help us live longer and more fulfilling lives. Many self-care practices, like eating whole, nutrient-rich foods and low impact exercise, can help prevent illness. Just like anything in our lives, if we want things to grow and flourish, we must tend to them by giving them what helps them grow. Our bodies are no different.
Many people believe that self-care practices require time and money. Forty-four percent of people avoid self-care practices because they think only those with enough time can practice self-care, and 35% of people avoid self-care because they believe it costs a lot of money. Most of us imagine a full day at the spa when we talk about self-care, complete with a deep-tissue massage and a facial. Some of us might imagine a woman that wakes up at 5 am every morning to practice an hour of yoga, 30 minutes of meditation, and then drinks her vegan smoothie made from organic ingredients, perfectly blended thanks to her Vitamix.
The truth is, we all can practice self-care in a short amount of time without spending any money. Self-care is anything we do that encourages our health and well-being. Self-care can be as simple as taking a bath at the end of a long day, saying no to a social gathering, or going to bed early.  
Another misconception about self-care is that we often see it as self-improvement. We’ve all had moments where we hit a wall because the stressors in our life have caught up with us. In a panic, we make a vow to “be better.” We pledge to exercise every day and eat less sugar, start meditating, drink more water, drink less alcohol, etc. We vow to lose 10 pounds and start seeing a therapist. We evaluate our current state, blame ourselves for the issues we see, and pledge to make better choices in the future. Self-improvement stems from a perfectionist mindset. It’s the idea that there’s something about us that’s wrong and needs fixing, and only until we’ve achieved the better state we’re reaching are we then worthy of love and self-care. This mindset can often lead to feelings of shame, which is a genuinely dysfunctional feeling, often resulting in negative and unhealthy behaviors.
Self-care is a nurturing and gentle practice. Self-care isn’t about being better; it’s about feeling better. Instead of seeing self-care as certain behaviors, it may be more helpful to see self-care as a state of being. You may ask yourself, “What can I do at this moment right now that will help me feel better?”
The key to behavior change is giving yourself attainable goals. What if your self-care practice began with kindness to yourself? What if your self-care practice started with small and simple steps like expressing gratitude for whatever you have in your life that brings you joy? What if self-care is as simple as not beating yourself up for not having a perfect self-care practice?
Before you dismiss self-care because you don’t believe you have the time or money for self-care, trying being kind to yourself. Kindness, gratitude, positive thinking, deep breathing, and joy are all self-care practices that do not take much time and are 100% free. The best part of these practices is that you can choose them in every moment of your life. You’ll feel better every time.

Ellen Chambers

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