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Self Care Is Not Selfish

Self Care Is Not Selfish

Your Needs Matter Too

A Self Care Checklist to Take Care of You

I’m sure you’ve heard the airline phrase, “Before assisting others with their oxygen mask, please first secure your own.” It’s a trite metaphor, but it’s true: You can help others more effectively if you take care to secure yourself first. 

I bet that you are meeting the needs of everyone. You are always thinking about the needs of your kids, partner, job, or other important people and aspects of your busy, hectic life. But what do YOU need? 

Self Care is Not Selfish

You may balk at the idea of taking the time to engage in self-care due to the care of others, your career, and the general busyness of your life. It might feel selfish or self-indulgent to focus your time and energy on just yourself. The trouble is that you will become depleted if you do not first take care of yourself. You’ll start to experience the common symptoms of burnout that the lack of self-care creates.

Signs You Need To Take Better Care of YOU

When strong, competent people like yourself focus their energy on other people for weeks, months, or years at a time without considering what THEY need… it’s not pretty. What commonly happens is that eventually, there is a “break down” that may reveal itself in:

  • Feeling angry and resentful towards the ones you love
  • Unidentifiable “depression
  • Irritability
  • Stress-related insomnia
  • Apathy (feeling like you just don’t care), and
  • Flu-like symptoms. (Yes, chronic stress and lack of mental, emotional and physical restoration can impact your immune system in very real ways).

Deep, Radical Self Care

As a life coach and therapist who has worked with individuals struggling to care for themselves, I see the pattern: Hustle – Burnout – Anxiety – Repeat. 

This often feels like a perpetual cycle of stress and martyrdom, struggling to stay above the throngs of demands and needs of others that you lose sight of what you need – self-care and self-love.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, I’ve heard this before.” If you’re anything like my other clients, you’ve read the self-care blogs, and listened to the podcasts. You might have even adapted your diet and exercise to a “stress-free” plan of some sort. 

But superficially skimming over self-care is not enough. To give yourself the kind of rest and restoration you require (notice I just used the word require), taking care of yourself needs to be a priority. Perhaps as much of a priority as taking care of everyone else.

I’d like you to consider the possibility that taking care of yourself may even be MORE essential than immediately meeting the needs of everyone else.

Radical, I know. This may make more sense to you if you understand what I see in my role as a therapist and life coach about the importance of self-care and why you need it to survive. 

The Benefits of Self Care

To feel balanced and to be the best version of you, (whether you’re a parent, partner, friend, employee, boss, etc.) you must stop neglecting yourself. 

Self-care has many benefits both for you AND the people who depend on you:

  • Refreshes you
  • Increases your ability to feel empathy for others
  • Makes you more patient 
  • Helps you be more focused
  • Helps you work harder
  • Helps you offer kindness and support to others from a position of strength. 

Especially with my millennial life coaching clients, I often hear: “These are my hustle years, I’ll eventually have time for self-care and relaxing, but now is not the time.”

I see you: You are working so hard to do everything, be everything, in the hopes that life will eventually smooth itself out. However, this way of living is harmful to your health, goals, and relationships. 

What’s the point of “making it” if, by the time you arrive, you’re a bitter, exhausted, physically and emotionally unwell person with no meaningful relationships? Yikes!

Quick, One-Question Self-Care Quiz: Do you ever feel like you are working so vigorously yet not moving forward in any capacity?

If your answer is “yes” this is a crucial sign that you are neglecting self-care. 

Successful careers, lasting relationships, and personal happiness all hinge on your ability to properly take care of yourself and your needs (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually).

You are worth the effort to take care of your mind, body, and soul. You are wonderful, unique, and filled with so much potential that you owe it to yourself to look out for your body, to protect your mind, and to nurture your emotions. Yes, “emotional self-care” is just as important as any other type of self-care — sometimes more so!

A Self-Care Checklist For the Overwhelmed and Overworked

There is no one right way to practice self-care. Self-care looks and feels different from person to person. For some, getting away for an entire day of self-focus and pampering is a great way to reset and refocus. However, if this is not realistic for you, I get it. Self-care is not necessarily about going above and beyond to “treat-yo-self” but to incorporate a lifestyle of self-care that is sustainable.

Self-care can look like:

Your Self-Care is All About YOU

There is no standard recipe for self-care, as everyone’s needs are different. But you can use the self-care checklist I outlined above as a daily reminder of what you can incorporate into your life to take care of you. 

Having a daily self-care checklist does not need to (nor should it) add more things that feel burdensome or tiring. The point is to look for things that help you feel rested, lighter, and cared for. 

Here’s a self-care challenge for you: Commit to practicing self-care, in some form or fashion, every day. This can mean just spending a few extra minutes in the morning doing a breathing technique or trying out a new recipe at dinner time, or even saying “no” (gracefully) and building new boundaries where needed.

Whatever your self-care routine may look like, stick to it. You’re worth it!

Kindly,
Josephine Marin M.S., MFTC

P.S. Do you have some (practical) self-care tips or suggestions to share? Leave a comment below and let me know what you are doing to practice self-care today!

Josephine Marin M.S., MFTC is a warm, kind, and direct therapist and couples counselor who specializes in communication, compassion and connection. She can help you reach your goals and create positive change in yourself and your relationships.

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How to Love Yourself, Unconditionally

How to Love Yourself, Unconditionally

Can You Love Yourself, No Matter What?

Self-love is much harder for many people than it is for them to be unconditionally loving and compassionate with others. It is much easier to pick yourself apart, ruthlessly, for all your failures and imperfections than it is to be your own ally, your own cheerleader, and your own source of strength and compassion.

Why is it so hard to love yourself? Often, it’s due to a deep and enduring core narrative that is rooted in shame and criticism, particularly early in life. Over the years as a therapist and life coach, and talking with hundreds of people about this issue, (and making this topic a primary focus of The Happiness Class) I have come to the conclusion that difficulty with self-love, and harboring feelings of unworthiness are largely due to the negative automatic thoughts, and the negative “stories” that people started to tell themselves about themselves as children and teens.

Why It’s So Hard To Love Yourself

The proclivity we all have to beat ourselves up is often simply an unhappy byproduct of the psychology of children. Children are, inherently, narcissistic in the sense that they only know their own experience and have limited insight into why other people behave the way they do, or the larger context of situations. Because of this, when kids experience shaming, criticism, rejection or hostility from peers or parents (but especially peers) it boils down to one central takeaway: “I’m bad / wrong / unlovable / unlikeable” and they carry that message into adulthood with them.

Can you relate?

How Difficulty Loving Yourself Impacts Your Life

If you, like many, have a hard time accepting yourself and feeling generally good about who you are, it may negatively impact many areas of your life.  Not being able to love yourself is damaging to your other relationships is because when you struggle with beliefs of low self-worth you don’t feel okay inside of yourself. This makes you look to other people for affirmation and acceptance in order to feel good about you. Or, you might start linking your intrinsic “goodness” to other things, like what you achieve, how you look, how much money you earn, what you weigh, etc.

This can turn into a roller coaster of chasing perfection that you can never quite attain. You might work so hard to do everything “right,” and drive yourself into exhaustion attempting to prove to yourself and others that you really are good enough as evidenced by all the amazing things you’re doing. [For more on this, read “The Problem With Perfectionism”]

The truth is that life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. If you strive, you will fail sometimes. As a fellow human, you are just as imperfect as the rest of us. Not everyone will like you, much less love you. A lot of living is not really that fabulous, just the day-to-day slog of adulting, interspersed by peak moments that may feel long in between. You will occasionally make bad decisions. You might even get fired or laid off. Time will come for you, too, changing your body, the way you look, and eventually, your mind.

Life is a mixed bag, and things are going to happen. But when your feelings of self worth hinge upon achievements and how you’re viewed in the eyes of others (because you struggle do it yourself) it puts you in a precarious position, emotionally and psychologically.

How Difficulty Loving Yourself Impacts Your Relationships

While struggling to love yourself seems like it would only impact the primary target (you), it does impact others too. Here’s why: As we have discussed, people who really, fundamentally don’t feel good about themselves on the inside must look to others for affirmation, acceptance, and positive regard to regulate themselves. They often need a constant stream of praise and validation from other people in order to feel okay about themselves.

When their partners turn out to be fellow humans who also have complex needs, rights and feelings, (and complaints! and get upset sometimes too!) people who struggle with low self-worth often feel anxious, criticized, and unloved. When their partner can’t always be kind and patient and overtly loving and approving of them, they tend to fall apart and get pretty anxious and even angry.

Because they are unable to support themselves emotionally from the inside out when their partners are upset with them or needing something from them, their partner not being okay feels very threatening to them. It is not uncommon for people who struggle to love themselves to be emotionally reactive, lashing out at their partners, or withdrawing emotionally from relationships as a form of self protection.

Furthermore, because people with low self-worth will often twist themselves into knots to be pleasing if not perfect, they can struggle with authenticity and vulnerability. Because they struggle to love themselves, and worry they’re not good enough, they fear that if people really get to know them they will be rejected. This can make them withhold their true thoughts and feelings from others, and make them feel like they need to maintain a “perfect” facade that, while helping them feel safer, truthfully deprives them of the ability to connect on a deep level with others.

In other, even sadder situations, people who struggle to love themselves can find themselves in bad relationships with people who do not treat them well at all. People with low self-worth may wind up staying in these toxic relationships for too long, because the criticism, shaming, and bullying they experience with their partner matches the abusive inner dialogue they have inside of themselves. It’s difficult for them to believe that they deserve better, and they have a hard time leaving the toxic relationship they feel stuck in. [More on this: “How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity”]

How to Love Yourself Unconditionally

Healing these wounds and developing authentic self-love and self-worth is a process, not a decision or an event.

People are damaged by experiences and in relationships with others, and they are healed by experiences and in relationships with others. The first step in being able to love yourself is often to cultivate a supportive, unconditionally positive relationship with a great therapist who is able to be emotionally safe and affirming. This emotionally safe relationship creates the crucible whereby the person who struggles with low self worth can finally feel safe and accepted enough to begin revealing their true selves and the old core beliefs about themselves that they’ve been carrying.

Over the months, sometimes years, this precious, fragile person and their therapist can begin to question some of those beliefs (carefully, so as not to trigger too much self criticism and shame) and explore — from an adult perspective — the fact that there may have been other explanations for their life experiences besides their being inherently bad and unworthy of love. They can begin to create a new narrative about themselves and new core beliefs that include a deep sense of security, rooted in the fact that they are actually good people, worthy of love and respect… and they always have been.

Self Love = Emotional Strength

Over time, healing happens. People working through low self-worth often need to process a great deal of anger and pain in later stages of healing. But in doing so, they begin the process of learning how to validate themselves. They begin unhooking their sense of self-worth from how other people view them, as well as their achievements. They acquire the ability to decide, for themselves, that they deserve to be angry when mistreated, and that they have the right to set boundaries.

Most importantly, they develop the ability to internalize a self-supporting inner dialogue that coaches them through challenging moments and reminds them of their inherent worthiness even when other people are upset with them, when they fail, or are not as perfect as they’d like to be. Through the development of this self-supporting adult core, they become able to finally feel okay about themselves and emotionally stable no matter what is going on around them. They develop self-compassion, the ability to forgive themselves, and often start practicing good self-care. They become able to assertively advocate for themselves, make healthy decisions, and not fall apart when other people aren’t mirroring admiration back at them.

As they become more self-stabilizing, their relationships stabilize. Over time, this creates a positive spiral up where they start feeling good about themselves, and genuinely have a great life and healthy relationships — all of which supports the new narrative they internalize that says, “See? You are worthy of love and respect.”

The path is long and hard, but so, so worth it.

If my sharing this perspective has resonated with you, I sincerely hope that you seek the support of a great therapist who can be a safe person for you as you embark upon this journey of growth and healing. You deserve it.

xoxo,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: When you read this article it may have made you think not of yourself, but of someone else in your life. If so, I hope you share this with them so that these words might provide them with clarity and direction, as well as hope and affirmation. On behalf of them, thank you for supporting their growth and personal evolution…. LMB

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Managing The Late-Winter Blues

Managing The Late-Winter Blues

Dr. Chelsea Twiss is an individual therapist, life coach, couples counselor and creativity coach. She specializes in helping couples restore emotional and sexual intimacy, individuals heal and grow, and creatives find their voice.

Taking Care of You

 

As a therapist and life coach (and person with my own life going on) I’m well aware that we live in a fast-paced culture with copious demands that cause us to become used to high levels of stress. Human beings are adaptable creatures and we are particularly adept at meeting the demands of our environment, even in today’s world where multi-tasking and juggling multiple responsibilities is the norm.

This time of year can be hard: For many people, the holiday season can be particularly stressful. Fulfilling roles and family obligations arise which often lead many of us to a place of anxious distress. But what happens after all the chaos and events of the season end yet the winter months keep dragging on?

Dealing With The Late-Winter Blues

After the burst of holiday energy subsides, it can be easy to fall into a state of feeling low or a general lack of energy and motivation in the coming months of winter. Depending on where you live, the weather is usually gray and the temperature drops, family and friends depart and it can feel lonely.

This experience of feeling low and resistance to the slowness associated with the winter months can also often put strains on our relationships with others as well as our relationships with ourselves. Often times the inclination is to isolate or pretend to be feeling okay when we aren’t. These responses to feeling low, while they make perfect sense, only serve to further distance us from our connections with ourselves and with one another.

As winter drags on you might begin to wonder if you will ever see the sun again. You can help yourself through this experience by returning to some simple practices that allow grounding and slow-moving energy to flow.

Acceptance & Self-Compassion

Exercising self acceptance and self-compassion is imperative during this time and will ultimately help resolve feelings low sooner than fighting the way you’re feeling. I’m sure you’ve heard these buzz words before and maybe you will roll your eyes at them but these are the first things we often forget to do when feeling low.

Usually our inner monologue becomes something like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I feeling this way?” These statements discourage us from accepting where we are in the present and prevent us from embracing what we are truly needing in the moment. [More about mindfulness strategies here]. Below are some basic ways to practice acceptance and self-compassion when experiencing you’re not feeling great.

1) Check-in With Yourself

The first step to achieving acceptance and self-compassion is to check-in and notice when these thoughts or feelings arise. This first step is very powerful and is a skill that can be used not only to help manage difficult emotional experiences, but also to improve relationships with others.

Usually when we feel something uncomfortable, our first reaction may be to suppress it, deny it or fight it. Learning to roll with the punches and increase self and other acceptance is built on a foundation of emotional awareness. You feel the way you feel for a reason. Sometimes that reason is difficult to ascertain, but for the time being, simply noticing is your number one task.

2) Remind Yourself That It’s Okay To Say No

My mother used to say that nothing is worth doing if you aren’t doing it with a glad heart. This is ironic as my mother is also someone I endearingly refer to as the Queen of Doing Everything – a trait I am afraid I have also inherited. I’m sure many readers can relate that it’s easy to take on numerous tasks, especially when our self-worth is in doubt. Our impulse may be to rev up the engine and force ourselves into overdrive in order to escape feeling worthless or discontent with ourselves, piling on more tasks and responsibilities. But, if we have accomplished step one and have checked in with our feelings, when your friend invites you to their game night and your check-in tells you that your energy just isn’t there right now, it’s not only okay to say no, it’s actually healthy.

While you may worry about missing out, it will ultimately feel so good to give yourself what you’re needing in the moment versus denying yourself time that will, in fact, be restorative and prepare you for the exciting things to come tomorrow. If you’re already a natural no-sayer then keep on with the healthy self-care and boundaries, but this is something many people – especially in today’s busy world – generally struggle with.

3) Be Intentional With Your Quiet Time

 

It can be easy to turn on the TV and binge Netflix when you’re feeling low energy and depressed. While doing this is totally okay and feels good, it’s also very restorative to take some intentional downtime, especially when feeling low.

With the distractions of technology available at our fingertips, it can be easy to miss out on the important time of self-reflection that happens when our minds are quietly not focused on anything in particular. Some people spend lots of time avoiding intentional downtime. I often hear things from my clients like, “I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts.” With a few exceptions, it’s often healthy to be alone with your thoughts.

Our brains generally ramp up on anxiety when we haven’t given ourselves time during the day to be alone with our thoughts and so they keep us from sleeping at night or come up unexpectedly at unwanted times.

Intentional downtime can look different depending on the person; it can be as simple as laying on your bed or sitting on the couch quietly for ten minutes, taking a bath, meditating, taking a walk outside or sitting on a park bench and observing your surroundings. Whatever this might look like for you, it is important to give yourself this time to slow down and be present with you. Doing less and taking things off your plate may sound counterintuitive, but it actually often helps resolve feeling down sooner than trying to stay busy does.

4) Say How You’re Feeling

This last point is one of the key factors in maintaining connections with others while feeling down. A giant contributing factor to feeling down can be believing that we have to pretend we are feeling differently than we actually are to make others comfortable. It is important for your own mental health to say how you’re truly feeling when someone asks.

We may worry about disappointing others or making them uncomfortable, but the price of smiling through pain can be much greater than being honest when others ask how you’re doing. This is also an important part of exercising honesty and vulnerability in relationships that matter to us.

The false belief is that we are protecting those we love from a perceived burden when in fact we are distancing ourselves from them by not communicating how we are truly feeling or what we are truly needing in the moment. There is a significant amount of energy that goes into faking a smile for the imagined expectations we think others have of us.

Give yourself permission to say as much or as little as you feel comfortable about what you’re experiencing when others ask. Assert your needs in that moment around whether you need support from someone else or not. It’s okay to say you need some alone time to work through things. Again, the people who truly care about you will understand.

I hope you’ve found some of these strategies for managing feeling down and restoring energy helpful.

Warmly, 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss

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