On the go? Listen to our blog instead of reading it.
Tacked to my refrigerator is a piece of wisdom printed on the inside of a chocolate wrapper that reads:
“Take good care of yourself.” Its source notwithstanding, it conveys a crucial and oft ignored concept that can be described in even fewer words: self-care. Taking care of yourself – it seems so simple and common-sense. It’s evident that stress and hectic schedules cause anxiety as well as physical ailments.
Why is it so difficult then to kick the stress?
As a graduate student in a counseling program, I am all too aware that self-care remains lower on my list of priorities than it should be. I, like most Americans, am shaped by our culture, which doesn’t have the kindest concept of time. I have heard the Western view of time described as “running down a line” – we get one thing done and then move on to the next, and just keep going. There’s no time for rest. Other cultures embrace a more circular version of time – things happen when they happen; process is appreciated over product. I like this visualization because it allows you to so easily juxtapose that harsh, rigid line to the soft, enveloping circle.
Is it possible to incorporate some of that more forgiving, circular kind of time into our lives? One place to start is with forgiving ourselves. Life is not a race. It’s OK to not accomplish everything at the “right” times as designated by society. Patience – even (especially) with ourselves – is key. Beyond that, self-care can mean different things to different people. You have to figure out what helps you unwind and decompress: enjoying the great outdoors, drawing, reading, knitting, playing chess, writing, having lunch with an old friend, even watching an episode of your favorite TV show – just not the whole season in one sitting!
Our linear take on our time lends itself to a desire for instant gratification. We want it all, ASAP. We overdo it watching TV, going online, overeating. Like all things, relaxation is best done in moderation. On the other end of the spectrum we have extreme fad diets and exercise routines, both of which set you up for failure because they are difficult to maintain for the long haul. Instead of working out to the point of exhaustion and vowing a certain type of food shall never pass your lips again, try out the old standby of regular, moderate exercise and eating a balanced, nutritious diet. It won’t get you “instant results,” but it will be something you can keep up for a lifetime.
Again that circle of time comes to mind, which makes me think of a wheel, and balance. Striving to find the balance in life is a challenge, but a great place to start is in therapy. Solely devoted to you, it allows you time each or every other week to “slow down.” Whether you want to spill your guts, vent, work on your own personal growth, or all of the above, it can be a wonderful opportunity to focus on someone important you’ve been neglecting – you! So for the sake of your physical and mental health, take a breath, go outside, relax, maybe even have a chocolate – just not twenty. Need some help kicking the stress and improving your self-care? You can contact us to make a counseling appointment or read about personal growth counseling on our dedicated page. If you liked this post and would like to learn more about growth, you can read Key Ingredients for Mindful Living, What is Self-Compassion?, and Activities to Promote Self-Esteem.
by Margaret Fiero