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  • Writer's pictureChris Duquette

Is Self-Care Just Another Thing You Are Failing At?

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

Spend much time on social media and you will run into self-care memes, self-care lists and even custom journals centered around identifying and reaching your self-care goals. Self-care, activities that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health, can start to become little more than items on our already too long ‘to do’ lists.

Self-care can also easily veer into activities that are more indulgent (though valuable in their own way) than actual care. Similarly, for those of us who are lacking in time or perhaps the financial resources for a full spa day or a weekend away, self-care can feel like something only other people get, its benefits firmly out of our grasp.

What Does Effective Self-Care Really Look Like?

So how do we center self-care that is, well actually care, realistic, affordable and effective? How do we identify those things that really charge our batteries and reinvigorate us, especially when those times we could most use self-care are very likely the times we will struggle most to make it happen?

Realistic self-care is about giving ourselves relief when we feel overwhelmed. It is about doing things that bring us more into balance when we feel pulled too hard in one direction, overwhelmed or out of our natural rhythms. The best self-care doesn’t just make us feel better in the moment, it has a more lasting impact on our overall mental, physical and emotional well-being.

Self-Care Is Pretty Personal

The things that recharge my batteries might deplete your own. If you are an extrovert and being around people fills you up, planning a weekly after work get together might be appropriate self-care to help you feel connected. For a busy introvert, that same event might feel like a punishment. For some, getting therapy in Huntington Beach might be a good first step to addressing self-care. Only you can really know what makes you feel good. Think about the times you feel good, in the groove so to speak, present and alive. Maybe it is in nature, maybe surrounded by your kids, maybe in a quiet room with a good book or your pet. The toughest part of self-care is we have to discover things about ourselves and in our busy, hectic lives, finding a moment to reflect on what we need can be an act of self-care in itself.

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

For those among us used to caring for others, self-care can feel downright selfish. It can feel uncomfortable to put yourself first and attend to your own needs when others are often pressing (and of course, there rarely is a time when there aren’t other things and people to focus on). If you are an individual who struggles with putting yourself on the VIP list, consider what aircraft flight attendants tell us about helping others in the event the cabin loses pressure: “put your own mask on before you assist others.” Taking care of yourself so that you have energy to take care of others is one of the most selfless things you can do. You cannot fill others if your own tank is empty.

Self-Care Is Not Always Sexy

If I was making my self-care list I’d put getting a massage on it, schedule an appointment with my Huntington Beach therapist, but I would also add getting my annual mammogram, my teeth cleaned and even tackling my home ‘to do’ list. Taking care of yourself and your responsibilities can help alleviate the anxiety of knowing you have things you need to do. Sure in the moment none of these feel great but is there not a palpable sense of relief when you know you are adulting at the level you can feel good about?

Don’t Turn Self-Care Into a Chore

While you can certainly aim to make some of your self-care pragmatic, you don’t want it all to be flossing and colonoscopies or one more thing you use to decide if you measure up to others. Self-care can be about balance and basics. Am I getting enough sleep? Am I eating well? What can I do right now in this moment to shift my attitude?

Self-Care Is About Caring For Yourself In More Ways Than One

One area I see people neglect good self-care is how they speak to themselves. As a therapist, I see first hand how often we will speak to ourselves in a way we would never speak to anyone else, much less someone we love. Often we are our own harshest critics and some of the worst motivational speakers we will ever hear from. Think about how you talk to yourself and how you might work to shift some harsh self-talk to something more compassionate. Consider the following exchange:

Harsh: “Why can’t I do anything right?”

Compassionate: “I’m learning new things and it’s okay if I’m not getting it right away, it took some time to learn other new things but I got there in time.”

Harsh: “I was so careless, how could I have forgotten something so important?”

Compassionate: “I am juggling a lot right now and it’s normal to drop a ball here or there. I’m going to work on a plan to help me remember the important stuff so I don’t stress over it so much.”

So when you think about self-care, consider making space for being even just a little easier on yourself. Rarely do we make positive changes in our lives because someone (even ourselves) is making us feel terrible or unworthy. We are far more likely to make and meet new goals if we can approach our growth with a compassionate stance.

Start With Small Self-Care & Build On Your Success

Self-care is typically most effective when we make regular incremental changes that add up to real shifts over time. So rather than decide you are going to turn over a whole new leaf, go to the gym every morning, start the day with a spinach smoothie, plan the perfect weekend getaway, maybe just start with an afternoon walk and one, good mindful meal a day. Whatever your self-care jam is, find it and do it with a lot of space for whatever you need and are able to do in the moment.

If you are looking for ways to up your self-care game, manage anxiety and stress or looking for a therapist in Huntington Beach, I can be reached at 714-474-3794 (phone/text) or

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