Self-Care Can Be Selfish—and That’s Okay
Self-care is a term that gets bandied a lot nowadays, especially on social media. Whether it’s a post about doing yoga or choosing a healthy avocado toast for lunch, everyone has their own ideas about self-care. However, self-care goes beyond that. For it to be effective, it has to address all your needs—mental, physical, and emotional. The good news is that most of these self-care options can be availed of for free. But it can often look and feel selfish.
According to a 2015 survey done by the American Psychological Association (APA), more and more adults report experiencing higher stress levels (5.1 on a 10-point scale) than what is considered healthy (3.8). Recent technological developments that support an “always-on” work culture may have contributed to this stressful lifestyle. However, since we can’t stop the evolution of communication and technology, the best thing that we can do is manage our stress levels. This is where self-care comes in.
The word ‘selfish’ undeniably carries a negative connotation. It implies putting one’s self-interests above everyone else’s. However, there are times when it’s okay to be selfish—to put one’s self first before others.
Airlines recommend putting on your oxygen mask first before helping other passengers put on theirs. The concept behind this is simple yet often overlooked: When you help yourself first, you are better equipped to help others. And no one is calling a person who secures his/her mask first selfish.
However, pushing past the negative connotations of the word can be tough. To help you determine when to bring out your self-care arsenal, we outlined below a few situations that make it perfectly fine for you to care for yourself first—even when it comes off as selfish.
1. You feel fatigued.
No matter your circumstances in life, feeling fatigued is a qualified reason to step back for a moment. Our bodies are designed to recharge by resting or sleeping, which is something that the average modern adult lacks.
You may want to choose the ‘unselfish’ route and continue working even when you’re exhausted. However, you are only placing yourself and others in danger. Effects of fatigue include dizziness, impaired focus, and irritability, among others. Trying to run on an empty battery is not going to benefit anyone.
Make sure that you have enough time to sleep. For this to happen, you may need to say “no” to that late-night work event. It may seem selfish of you to decline the invitation, but you’re better off catching up on your sleep. You will feel better and contribute more at your next work function when you’re well-rested.
2. You need help.
Asking for help is hard for a lot of people. However, if you’re drowning in work projects or house chores, the most sensible thing to do is to ask for help and take a few tasks off your plate. While this may seem selfish—especially when everyone seems up to their eyeballs with other tasks—it’s crucial for you to acknowledge that you need help. Keeping quiet and pressing on can only result in mediocre outputs that do not benefit you or anyone else.
Furthermore, if you consistently take on more than you can chew, it isn’t uncommon to feel resentment and fatigue. So, aim for balance and ask for help when you need it.
3. You need some alone time.
Everyone needs some time on their own to unplug from the demands of the world. This can mean reading a book in peace, taking a luxurious bath, or staying in. So, if you’re feeling particularly down or rundown from dealing with other people, know that it’s perfectly fine to skip happy hour with your colleagues for a chance to stay in and binge-watch.
Remember that rest is essential. If you are not taking regular time-outs for yourself, no one else will do it for you.
4. You’re about to burn out.
A person who’s on the verge of burnout is bound to experience any or all of the following symptoms: chronic fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness, low immune system, and anxiety or depression. If you don’t recognize the signs and deal with them as early as possible, burnout can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships, and job performance.
If you’re feeling burnt out by work, practice self-care by establishing boundaries between work time and personal time, for example, you can snooze your email and other work-related notifications during weekends. Cherish your time undisturbed outside of work. Your well-being will thank you.
Taking better care of yourself
When you think about it, there is nothing selfish about self-care; it is merely taking better care of yourself, so you can continue to meet your responsibilities as well as give to others. These self-care measures ensure that your health and well-being don’t fall prey to the dangers of chronic stress which have been linked to numerous health risks, including cancer, diabetes, and mental illnesses.What self-care measures do you take? Also, what warning signs tell you that it’s time to step back for a bit? Share your thoughts with us below.