(photo: Chait Goli)

How to prioritize self care more

We know that it’s important for our wellbeing. But we often neglect to do it or overindulge in the unhealthy versions of it. Why do we fail to prioritize self care?

It has to do with our limiting beliefs and the actions we (don’t) take because of them. So let’s use this opportunity to take a deeper dive into self care. By gaining more understanding, hopefully it will become easier for us to prioritize it!

Beliefs that limit us

Here are some comments I’ve heard clients and other people say about self care:

“It’s self indulgent, I feel selfish”
“My family’s needs are more urgent, mine can wait”
“I’m fine”
“I have to earn it / I don’t deserve it”
“I don’t have enough time for it / I’m too busy for it”
“Relationships get jeopardized when you prioritize it”
“I’ll do it when the conditions are right”
“It’s counterproductive because I must sacrifice work time”
“I do all this self care but I don’t see any change, it’s irritating”
“If I slow down, I’ll miss out on opportunities so I need to keep going”

These beliefs make us shut down any possibility of prioritizing self care. So to get around them, let’s try on a different perspective.

What self care is really about

Here’s a thought exercise. Among the examples below, which ones would you consider self care and which ones not?

Now think about why you thought so.

You might discover that it depends on what you place value on. And values differ from person to person.

Self care is highly personal. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. At its essence, it’s about meeting needs. Many actions could be considered self care if they meet certain criteria within us and fulfil needs such as the below (these are just examples, there could be more):

Looking at it this way, having just one routine doesn’t seem to suffice! We have multiple needs, so it makes sense to have a variety of practices depending on what need we’re focusing on.

Can self care be toxic?

This might sound provocative but yes, it can!

When it becomes:

Unbalanced
Excessive
Unhealthy
Self-harming
Means of avoidance or compensation

Then it’s not good for us and we need to address that. There could be deeper issues at play which require some raw and honest self reflection. Maybe the help of a counselor or psychologist, too.

Plus, there IS such a thing as toxic self care culture! Online influencers have unwittingly contributed to the idea of what self care “should” look like. Naturally, that leads to:

Comparison
Competition
Conflict
Selfishness
Entitlement
“Must” or “Have to” thoughts
Judgement
Guilt
Shame
Stress
Exhaustion

Ironically, this onslaught of messaging is having the opposite effect of what it’s encouraging us to do!

7 types of rest to recharge

Because when we’re harried, we can’t even think about self care. Those limiting beliefs automatically take over, making us push ourselves to our limits. By that point, no matter how much we rest, it never seems to restore us.

There’s a good reason! According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, it’s because we need the right kind of rest. Not only more sleep. To fully recharge (and simultaneously meet our needs), we need 7 types of rest:

She has a rest quiz that can help you discover which types of rest you’re getting the least right now and offers suggestions. My FB group co-host Bingz Huang shared this resource with me and I found it very helpful, so I’m sharing it with you, too.

To summarize

To prioritize self care, it helps to understand more what it is. Essentially, it’s about meeting our needs. So it’s highly personal. Practices that align with our values will meet our needs better than simply following “what’s recommended”. To support ourselves, it also helps to get the right kind of rest. When we’re sufficiently replenished, we can meet our self care needs and overcome the limiting beliefs that stop us from prioritizing them.

I hope this exploration was helpful! If you’d like to share any thoughts or discuss this further with me, please feel free to reach out to me here. Going forward, may you be able to prioritize your self care with more peace and ease😊