Updated: Jan 12
Self-care has become quite the buzzword over recent years, but how do we define it, what does it look like, and how can we make it work for us?
How many of us have given others advice that they should really take some time out and engage in some self-care, all the while feeling stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed? We often talk about the importance of self-care and recognize its importance for others, while denying ourselves the same opportunity.
Very often it’s because it’s easier said than done. It can be hard not to feel like self-care is selfish. But this, my friends, is where we need to amend our thinking! Self-care can help us find our strength; it has been proven to increase our immunity and support our emotional health.
It’s time for self-care to take center stage.
One of my favorite definitions of self-care is the act of protecting one’s own well-being and happiness. We protect the things that are the most important to us, that hold value, that can be passed on. Your wellness is your Tesseract, your unlimited source of power and strength.
When we are emotionally and physically exhausted, it can wreak havoc on our sense of self, our self-confidence and our commitment and motivation. Taking time out to recharge, reflect, and rest is one of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves and for others. Because when we are well, we are also better able to support and empower others to find wellness.
In the same way that each Avenger protects the Tesseract with different skills, each individual protects their well-being with different forms of self-care that work for them. The key here is doing things that you enjoy. Moments of self-care shouldn’t feel forced, just because other people say it will benefit us, doesn’t mean it’s right for us.
It’s also too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that taking care of ourselves has to be an expensive endeavor but finding strength through self-care doesn’t come through lavish luxuries - it comes from an real investment in self.
Sleeping well is one of the most fundamental acts of self-care. When we sleep our body rests and repairs itself, we wake feeling physically and emotionally stronger and ready to take on the day rather than feeling it is something to be endured. We make more thoughtful choices when we are rested, and those choices serve to benefit us rather than diminish us.
Nourishing our bodies with good food and finding time to move is essential to our sense of well-being. Eating a balanced diet is one of the best ways to maintain energy and moving our body, no matter how simple the activity, will help boost our mood.
Finding the time to check in with ourselves, to process, and reflect supports us in feeling stronger about where we are now, and where we would like to get to. It also provides us with moments of celebration, of hope, and of progress. Self-care can look like journaling every night and realizing that your thoughts are less anxious than they were a week ago. The act of self-investment is an opportunity to shine a light on your growing strengths.
Simple acts of self-love strengthen our relationship to ourselves, to our bodies and our minds. When we tend to our exhaustion by running a hot bath, we are finding strength in our softer moments, in the moments we wrongly assume we’re being lazy, overindulgent or unproductive. We are none of those things.
We all need time out, time to breathe, time to rest, time to nourish ourselves. Because in those moments we are showing ourselves that we matter, that our needs are important and that sometimes saving the world has to start with saving ourselves from burnout, exhaustion and fatigue.
Saying no is self-care.
We often think we are strongest when we are shouldering everyone’s burdens, worries and concerns. When we are spending all of our time lifting others up, helping others out, and soldiering on, but we cannot keep pouring from an empty cup. Our heroes don’t battle for an entire movie - they retreat, regroup and rest. Saying no isn’t selfish, it’s the decision to honor our bodies need for rest.
Just imagine for a moment that our heroes denied themselves moments and opportunities for self-care. Can you picture a sleep deprived Luke Skywalker, a hangry Hobbit, or a wiped out Wolverine! The world cannot ever get the best of us, if we can only give what’s left of us.
We would never tell a friend that they don’t deserve rest, that there is too much going on in the world for them to take time out, that they are selfish for saying no when they need to. So why do we keep saying these things to ourselves?
Changing our perception about self-care changes our relationship with ourselves. We come to realize that we are important, we are worthy, and we are deserving. That is where our strength lies in the moments that we choose ourselves. In the moments that we tend to our bodies and our minds, and nurture them with kind words, soft moments and a commitment to self-investment.
As with everything in life, practice makes perfect. We won’t nail self-care on day one and it might take some time to figure out what works for us and how we can prioritize it, that’s okay. Self-care shouldn’t be a source of stress. Take it slow, take your time, find your groove and repeat after me…. Self-care isn’t selfish!
Maria Laquerre is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who specializes in addressing trauma with clients of all ages. Maria has practiced therapy in New Mexico since her return in 2008. Maria's current passion is supporting therapists in doing their best clinical work, which she pursues through offering supervision, consultation and trainings. Maria enjoys spending time with her family, watching Star Wars and Marvel movies, discussing the psychology of pop culture and loves a good book!