Irving Najman, LMFT, CSAT
The Art of Self-Care
Updated: Apr 7, 2021
The Balance of Self-Care
In today’s busy and hectic world, most of us don’t take sufficient time to take care of ourselves. We are constantly preoccupied with other activities like taking care of the kids, school, work, volunteering, meeting the demands of others or any other crisis in our lives. We prioritize those things in front of our essential need for solitude, exercise, contemplation and overall fun.
Some of us weren’t taught as children to take care of ourselves properly. Most likely, if we had responsible caregivers, they might have set a bedtime for us, told us to shower and brush our teeth daily and told us to eat our vegetables, but as kids we might have seen those as rules of the house rather than a way to take care of ourselves. As adults, we owe it to ourselves and our families to learn how to properly take care of ourselves.
The Consequences of Self-Neglect
Often when we avoid taking care of ourselves, we don’t see it as self-neglect or abuse, but in reality, the message that we’re giving ourselves unconsciously is that we don’t matter, and even if we don’t believe we’re sending that message to us, we’re telling ourselves that other people are more important than us. When thinking about self-care, I often think how when I’m flying and the flight attendant is giving the instructions, they always say to put your breathing mask first before assisting other passengers. Self-Care is exactly that – we must take care of ourselves first, in order for us to be able to take care of others.
Several research studies have shown that avoiding or not taking enough time to take care of ourselves have significant physical and emotional consequences. Some of the findings include an increase in depression, anxiety and stress. There has also been links to increased illnesses; such as chronic fatigue, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Disregarding our Self-Care can also have serious spiritual consequences; such as feeling spiritually lost, with no purpose in life and disconnected from G-d, which eventually will have a negative impact on our emotional and physical well-being.
So, What do We Do?
The first thing is to make a commitment to yourself that You do matter! While getting my master’s in Counseling Psychology, one of my professors introduced the concept of Self-Care and how it is important to address the five essential realms of Self-Care. Those Five Realms are as follow: Physical, Emotional, Mental, Spiritual and Relationships.
Let me give you an example of how often people make a mistake, unintentionally, when taking care of themselves. Let’s suppose there’s an individual that finally recognizes that it’s time to lose some weight. He makes a commitment and decides that he will join a gym, start exercising 4x a week, and eat healthier meals. And in due time, with his efforts in the Physical Realm, he does accomplish his goal of losing weight and feels healthier. But, in some cases, what happens is because other areas of Self-Care were neglected, sometimes the progress that was made regresses. Basically, our bodies are out of whack, not balanced and the body has a tendency to always strive for balance. Our task is to focus on working on the five realms, so the progress is consistent and permanent.
If taking care of yourself is a foreign subject and difficult for you, be gentle with yourself and take baby steps. Write down the Five Realms and come up with just one thing that you might try this week and keep track of your progress throughout the week and gently notice what areas in your life needs more attention. Here are some examples for each of the five areas of self-care.
Physical – make sure to get at least 6 hours of sleep, exercise, eat healthy meals, breathe.
Emotional – journaling, be vulnerable (with safe people), go to therapy, go to meetings
Mental – say positive affirmations, practice self-compassion, read poetry, read self-help books, have solitude time
Spiritual – meditate, pray, do yoga, practice mindfulness, attend a spiritual service
Relationship – go on dates, go for walks, cuddle, work on your intimacy, be vulnerable
Self-Care is important for your overall well-being and will have significant positive consequences to you and the people around you. Also, remember that self-care is actually an Act of Self-Love.
If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted with life’s demands and are experiencing stress, please contact me and let me help you find peace and direction in your life.