Monday, 15 January 2018

how to stop feeling guilty for self-care

Midwinter is when self-care is most important. Shorter days mean longer evenings. You might have deadlines and exams. It's cold outside, so you spend more time indoors. The pressure to stick to new years resolutions is setting in. Maybe you are impacted by seasonal affective disorder as well. I know that I feel the need to take more time to practice self-care in winter for all of these reasons. 

Self-care can feel like a waste of time when your to-do list is a mile long. It's not a waste of time. Besides, self-care doesn't have to be indulgent and unproductive, at least not every time. If doing housework, clearing out your email inbox or completing a task you've been putting off is the form of self-care you need on a particular day, then do that. Other days might require more conventional self-care through meditation, a face mask and a bubble bath.

Whatever you decide to do, it's important to not feel guilty about it. Here's how:

Self-care is not a waste of time

Spending a small amount of time each day/week on self-care can make the rest of your time far more productive. For example, waking up 10-minutes earlier in the morning so that you have time for a short meditation exercise before leaving for work/school/uni can make you feel much more relaxed and focused for anything you have to face that day. This saves a lot of time in the long term as it can reduce anxiety, procrastination and any other stress-related ailments.

You are laying the foundations and forming healthy habits that will benefit you for years to come

Everything is more difficult to begin with. It is important to build habits over time, especially when it comes to self-care. When I first started setting aside time for self-care to improve my mood, I found it frustrating. It felt like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. I wanted to be working on things I saw as more productive. I thought it was unfair that just because my mental health was going through a rough patch I had to dedicate chunks of my time to certain activities just to feel okay. 

As I got used to it, I began to cherish the time I set aside just to work on myself and my mood. Now I realise how important it is to find what works for you. Finding forms of self-care that work for you will benefit you in the long term by preparing you with healthy coping mechanisms to deal with virtually any situation. 

Make it a part of your routine

This is what made regular self-care click for me. It doesn't feel like a waste of time when you schedule it between more conventionally productive tasks. Add designated self-care time to your to-do list. Then you can still have the satisfaction of ticking it off, but you still would have taken some time for yourself. 

There's no one-size fits all and you need variation

I rotate through a list of self-care 'tasks' in my dedicated time for self-care. Sometimes these are proactive things like CBT and yoga. At other times, I put on a face mask and paint my nails for a more relaxing kind of self-care. The full list also includes listening to a record, making a cup of tea, watching Netflix, cooking, journalling, reading, tidying my room and drinking water.

Enjoy it

Self-care should be a part of the day that you look forward to. I often use the time to work through CBT and do some exercise, but if you find this stressful, use self-care time for something else. You could even make a box and fill it with things that make you happy, like favourite books or films, colouring books and emergency snacks. Then you can pick something from the box whenever you are feeling low or just want to take some time for yourself.

Don't let anyone make you feel bad and/or embarrassed for prioritising self-care

Self-care is literally no one else's business apart from yours. However, a lot of the shaming around self-care comes down to how gendered certain activities are. People are all too willing to trivialise things that young women enjoy. Sometimes these points are valid. Face masks are great, but they won't cure mental illness. That doesn't mean they don't help and it certainly doesn't mean people should be shamed for liking face masks, especially if they make them happy. 

On that note, never let anyone make you feel selfish about it either. Taking an holistic approach to self-care can improve your friendships and relationships. Anyone who is angry and bitter enough to judge people for what makes them happy would probably benefit from some meditation and relaxing bubble bath tbh.

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