The Struggle to Care for Ourselves

Blk Woman Journaling

I had a tough week two weeks ago. I came back in town from being at a funeral over the weekend and then promptly started a treatment for some gut issues I’ve been dealing with. Then I had a reaction to the treatment, which had me feeling pretty badly on Tuesday and Wednesday. I needed to take time off but I could only bring myself to take  off about 3 hours at the end of one day. My struggle to take off the time that I needed pushed me to think about what makes this so difficult for me. I’m pretty good at engaging in consistent self-care if it does not keep me from helping or supporting other people. However, when it came to telling clients that I can’t see them I struggled to do what I needed for myself.

In contemplating this issue I got the sense that this was about more than wanting to be there to help my clients. That is certainly true, and for the most part I know my clients will be just fine if they don’t see me for a week. There was something deeper that was keeping me from taking the sick time that I needed. What I realized was that at the core of this struggle was my fear of being seen as unreliable or sick. I was worried that taking time for myself would make people think of me in a negative light. My struggle to care for myself is caused by my belief that being healthy, competent, and capable at all times is condition of my self-worth

While I’ve worked on cultivating a sense of self-worth that is not attached to accomplishments, identities, characteristics, etc., it’s not shocking that I still have work to do in this area because it is an ongoing area for growth for all of us. Having parts of our identities (e.g. being healthy) pulled away and being forced to find our self-worth and engage in self-love without these identities puts us in an interesting and challenging space. It is a place of uncertainty, of groundlessness; it is a place ripe with opportunity for growth.

I encourage you to join me in considering what is holding you back from caring for yourself. Is it a concern that people will think you are a bad mother if you take an evening to yourself to be away from your kids? Is it a concern about what your coworkers will think of you if you leave the office at a reasonable time most days? Is it the feeling that your worth is connected to your productivity and a connected fear about letting yourself just be? Take a deep look at what keeps you from caring for yourself and see what you come up with. As you consider these things and hopefully work to overcome what is holding you back I’m sharing the following recommendations to help you care for yourself more consistently.

Schedule time for self-care 

Scheduling time for consistent self-care can help make it more likely that you will prioritize engaging in your self-care. It is difficult to commit to self-care if you are trying to fit it in between other commitments and other people’s requests for your time. I encourage you to prioritize and protect time for self-care in your schedule.

Ask for the support of your friends and family 

Having friends and family that encourage you to care for yourself will be helpful as you work to increase your engagement in self-care. I encourage you to talk to supportive loved ones about how you would like to engage in self-care and what typically gets in your way. Ask them to encourage you to take the time you need when they can see you are struggling. Go to them for help when you need a push and some courage to take a necessary break.

Try to let go of guilt 

One of the things that can keep us from engaging in self-care is our feelings of guilt. Guilt that we should be spending our time working on something when we take the time to relax. Guilt that other people are being productive when we are not. Guilt that taking time for ourselves is depriving someone else from having time they may want with us. I encourage you to acknowledge the feelings of guilt that may creep in when you are planning to take time for yourself and still do it anyway. Hopefully, as you prioritize your self-care more and see the positive effects not only on your life but also on the lives of the people that you love and support, the guilt will fade away.

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