A Self-Care Action Plan
How to Practice Self Care Without Being Selfish
Messages on TV, in magazines, and throughout social media have given self-care a bad name. These sources may lead you to believe that taking care of your own needs is a negative, selfish act. It’s not. Self-care encompasses decisions and actions that allow you to nurture your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. And, in doing so, you are able to more effectively serve those around you. If this disclaimer doesn’t relieve your concerns, learn how to practice self-care without being selfish by balancing your activities so that they benefit others, overcoming guilt, and noticing the advantages of caring for yourself.
Using Self-Care to Make a Positive Impact on Others
Prioritize positive relationships.Spending time with supportive people is one of the most effective ways to care for yourself. Having quality social support increases your resilience to life stressors, boosts immunity, and provides a sense of community. Whether support comes from coworkers, family, friends, or members of a church or organization, you can benefit from these strong social ties.
- In addition to offering you a host of advantages, being a part of a support system means that others will benefit, too. Just as you receive support, comfort, or encouragement, you will also give it to others. This comes not just from spending time with them, but from the things you will do as a result of prioritizing your relationships with them.
- For best results, choose groups that make you feel valued, peaceful, and positive about life. Avoid people who are unhealthy influences or who bring negativity into your life.
Bring healthy foods into your household.A major aspect of a self-care plan is a balanced diet. Nourishing your body with whole, healthy foods helps you fight off stress, manage your weight, and live longer. Plus, you don’t have to feel selfish about adopting a better diet because everyone in your household can benefit.
- If you are responsible for the grocery-shopping and cooking in your home, you can positively influence the self-care of your loved ones by selecting healthier choices to stock your fridge and pantry. Choose real foods over those that have been processed. Go for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat sources of dairy.
- If you aren’t responsible for your household’s meals, you might inspire healthy choices by committing to improving your own diet. Drink more water instead of sugary drinks. Fill your plate with more vegetables than bread or pasta. Avoid excessive snacking between meals.
Ask for help when you need it.It may not seem like it, but refusing to communicate your needs can be detrimental to your own well-being and your relationships with others. Too frequently, we are quick to extend assistance to friends and family, but slow to make our own requests. Sometimes, asking for help can be a necessary tool to improve your self-care. And, surprisingly, your friends and family will reap the benefits from helping you.
- Research shows that lending a hand to someone else can benefit the giver's brain in the areas of stress, reward, and caregiving—meaning when loved ones help you, they ease stress, satisfy their inner need to care for others, and receive the equivalent of a mental treat.
- The next time you need help moving, could use a night off from the kids, or don’t know how to solve a complex problem, reach out to your support group. Say, “I could really use an extra pair of hands with the move this weekend. Are you available?” or “Do you mind watching Cody this weekend for a few hours?”
Adopt a volunteer commitment.You, too, can experience the same gains from helping others by offering your time and skills in your local community. Improve your social skills, make new contacts, add purpose to your life and improve your mood with community service.
- Consider tutoring or reading to kids at the area schools. Volunteer a few hours at a local animal or homeless shelter. Offer to do crafts at the nursing home. Think carefully about what types of activities or groups interest you and find an opportunity in your area.
Beware of the downsides of self-neglect.If doing something special for yourself leaves you guilt-ridden, you need to understand what could happen if you neglected your needs. Whether self-care consists of a daily yoga session, a quiet cup of coffee before everyone else wakes up, or a weekly visit to a hairstylist, these activities help you pour into yourself.
- When you overlook your own needs in favor of others, you run the risk of developing conditions like depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. These conditions can complicate your life and inhibit your ability to support, love, and care for others. See self-care as a personal investment that keep you on the right side of mental health and well-being.
Check your self-talk.If no one around you has accused you of being selfish simply because you are taking care of yourself, then what you’re telling yourself is what's making you feel guilty. Pay attention to and modify your thought patterns to overcome guilt.
- If you find yourself saying, “I’m such a bad mom for taking my kid to daycare,” revise that statement with a healthier, more realistic affirmation: “Being a mom is hard. Everyone needs time apart from their kids every now and then. Taking my kids to the daycare allows me to run errands when they’re gone and be present when they come home.”
- You can also ask family and close friends to hold you accountable. If they catch you making self-critical statements, ask them to prompt you to change the way you are talking about yourself in that moment.
Take baby steps.If you’re new to self-care, it can quickly seem over-indulgent if you’re mapping out several hours each day to focus on you. Although the benefits of self-care are evident, you might be slow to warm up. Try a more gradual approach to pampering yourself.
- Take a few minutes each day to ask your inner self what you need. Listen. Is it a break from work? A good night’s rest? A healthy and hearty meal? Meet these needs, and notice how you feel afterwards.
- Over time, you will start to notice how vital self-care is to your health and well-being. You will also become more attuned to your thoughts, feelings, and needs.
- You may even want to consider making a schedule to see what times you have open for self-care. This can help you manage time for yourself without clashing with other responsibilities or time with others.
See a therapist for codependency issues.To some, taking care of others is a top priority—even when it results in a neglect of self. If this sounds like you, you could be struggling with codependency, which is making someone else more important than you to the point that your life revolves around that person. Codependency is at the core of addiction. So, if you are codependent, it may be good to seek help right away before the problem worsens.
- Ask your family doctor about a mental health therapist in your area. Working with a professional to improve your relationship with yourself may allow you to open up to the idea of self-care and stop neglecting your personal needs.
- Remember, codependency can be just as damaging to other person as it is to you.
Recognizing the Benefits of Self-Care
Have the resources to fight emotional and mental stress.When you engage in self-care activities you are elevated into a position in which you have greater awareness of your emotional needs. This allows you to more effectively attend to those needs and/or communicate them to others in an adaptive way.
- When you are nurturing yourself, you are in a better place to deal with relationship problems, negotiate solutions to conflict, and care for others. As a result, you will find that you are more resilient in the face of stress.
- Practicing nurturing yourself also helps to increase your emotional intelligence, which can help make you a better, more insightful friend or companion.
Prevent future resentment.You have undoubtedly been on the receiving end of someone begrudgingly doing you a favor while waiting merely a heartbeat before throwing it back in your face. They couldn't wait to remind you how they went out of their way to help, completely ruining an altruistic gesture. This is common when you try to pour into someone else's cup and your own is empty.
- Put simply, when you say “yes” to requests you don’t want to do or give more than you can, you set yourself up for feeling resentment later. Pouring love and nourishment into yourself through self-care reduces your need to feel like you are making undue sacrifices for others.
Give your loved ones the very best version of you.When you are running on empty from a lack of sleep, poor diet, and zero stress-management, you feel terrible. What’s more, those around you experience the negative impact, too. You are grumpy, irritable, and possibly on a short fuse.
- When you take the time to care for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally you have the opportunity to put your best foot forward in all your interactions with others. Rather than greeting everyone with a “eh” or frown, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to smile and spread good cheer that benefits everyone.
Video: How to Get Your Life Together | Self Care Routine ✨
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