You cannot pour from an empty cup – a phrase that couldn’t be truer, especially for parents responsible for their children's safety and development. The best way to fill your cup, metaphorically speaking, is through self-care. You wouldn't neglect to change the oil in your car, so make sure you don't neglect yourself the same way.
Self-care is an important act of self-love. It is essential for those who wish to operate as their happiest, healthiest selves.
Anyone can make time for self-care, even if it's a small, five-minute ritual every day.
Self-care can reduce or eliminate anxiety, depression, and stress, and increase your overall happiness in life.
Oftentimes people, especially parents, feel guilty for indulging in self-care and may see putting others first as a noble, selfless act. While helping people is amazing, and an important role for busy parents in life and society, you cannot support others to the best of your ability if you aren’t taking care of yourself first. This is where self-care comes in.
What is self-care?
Self-care is more than little indulgences that you engage in throughout your week or having good hygiene and eating. Self-care is the holistic act of taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough relaxation and fun each day to keep stress and anxiety at bay.
Self-care can look different for everyone, as we all have unique situations, stories, preferences, and needs. For some, self-care may look like taking a bubble bath at the end of the day with a glass of wine, and for others, it could be curling up in comfy clothes with a good book and some tea. Whatever it is that you can do to bring yourself peace, joy, and a feeling of being grounded or centered is considered self-care.
Why is self-care so important?
While it may be difficult to take care of children, keep a tidy home, go to work full-time, and be involved in community or school-related activities, self-care is one of those things that shouldn’t be skipped, but rather, made a priority. Self-care allows you to show up each day as a better version of yourself than if you hadn’t made the time for it.
While it may feel selfish because you’re doing things you enjoy doing to relax, unwind, decompress, and focus on yourself, the benefits of self-care can give you more energy to get through your work week and help you show up for your kids, family, and friends as a happier, less stressed version of yourself. It also allows you to model healthy stress management skills to your kids so they learn how to use self-care when life is busy and things feel overwhelming.
How to make time for self-care
Self-care should never be looked at as something you do only when you have time, or you get to do as a reward for doing something else you don’t want to do. Self-care should be as routine as brushing teeth, taking a shower, and using the restroom. Some of these things fall under the umbrella of self-care, such as personal hygiene, but it extends much further to include doing something that you enjoy and find fun each day, things that nourish your soul, keep your mental health on track and stimulate your mind. Anything that allows you to show up and be more present and mindful at the moment with those you love and interact with each day could be considered self-care.
The easiest way to get into the habit of making self-care a part of your everyday routine is by scheduling it on your calendar each day. Whether taking a five-minute meditation break between meetings, washing your face, or lighting some candles in between clients, schedule a daily self-care ritual or two that will become a habit after one to two months.
Some additional ideas for self-care breaks include:
- Taking twenty minutes of alone time when you get home from work.
- Listening to or playing music that you enjoy.
- Watching a television show.
- Journaling or writing.
- Going on a nature walk.
- Spending time with a pet.
- Taking a dance class.
- Working out.
- Practicing yoga.
- Engaging in a spiritual ritual.
- Listing a few things that you're thankful for.
- Painting or drawing.
- Engaging in a hobby or sport.
- Getting a massage or facial.
- Taking a bubble bath or using a jacuzzi or sauna.
- Spending time with a friend.
Self-care can look different for everyone beyond the basics of physical and mental care. What one person may find relaxing could feel draining and dreadful to another. For instance, some people find cleaning to be relaxing and therapeutic, while others wish to avoid it at all costs and would rather do something mentally stimulating, such as reading or writing. Yet others may prefer to do something physically challenging like rock climbing.
Perhaps you enjoy a mix of those things. Whatever brings you joy, make the time to engage in it. It’s never too late to play and experience childlike pleasure from doing something for the pure thrill of it. This is an essential part of having balance in life. On the flip side, it’s important to refrain from overindulging in pure fun and neglecting your responsibilities. Everything is in balance.
The benefits of self-care
Self-care is so beneficial that it’s considered an ethical imperative for professional psychologists, and neglecting to engage in it is viewed as negligent and even harmful, as it can lead to burnout. We have not only a responsibility to ourselves as self-sufficient beings, but to others as well, and we cannot show up for ourselves or anyone else in the best way possible if we aren’t engaging in self-care. The benefits of self-care include eliminating or reducing anxiety, depression, and stress, increasing happiness, and allowing you to live in the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or stressing about the future.
Research has shown the mental and physical health benefits of self-care to be profound, and it should be a daily priority for all in society. With depression and anxiety on the rise and extra environmental stressors, it’s more important now than ever to start indulging in some much-needed self-care.
Try doing one or two rituals each day for 8 weeks and see if anything changes for you. By the time you’re finished, engaging in self-care will become a routine that you do without thinking. It’s time to take some time to focus on you. You are important and the only one who can truly take care of you. Are you ready to engage in some self-care? Make a list of some of your favorite things as well as some grounding rituals that you think can help you throughout your day. You deserve to be the happiest, healthiest version of yourself, and your family, friends, clients, and coworkers do too.
- National Institute of Mental Health. Caring for Your Mental Health.
- Southern New Hampshire University. What is Self-Care and Why is it Important for You?
- Clinical Psychology Science and Practice. Creating a Culture of Self-Care.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Care for Yourself.
- Mental Health America. Taking Good Care of Yourself.