Is it Selfish or is it Self-Care?

I’ve been spending a lot of time helping my mom, who was recently hospitalized for her mental well being. It has been a stressful time for both of us. I am an only child, so all the burden falls on me. My parents are divorced and both remarried several years ago. Unfortunately, my mother’s husband died four years ago, and ever since, I have noticed my mom has struggled to find herself again and function properly. I’m sad to say, she has lived with bi-polar disorder the majority of her adult life. As a young teen, I witnessed her go through a couple nervous breakdowns and battled alcoholism. My father traveled a lot for his job. Early on, I assumed on the role of a co-dependent. As I got older, and finally moved out of my house at 26 years of age, I started to live my life and discover who and what I wanted to be. I had fantasies of moving out west or somewhere else to spread my wings, but I just didn’t take the chance on myself. I was too concerned about my parents and didn’t want to abandon them or be that far away. It was quite the challenge because no matter what, my focus circled back to my mom.

picture of mom and me a week after she was in the hospital. Look at her smile!

Fast forward 25 years and I am married, have 2 teenagers, work part-time as a caregiver and am learning to make more time for myself. I am finding it difficult to do it all. It isn’t in my nature to put myself completely first because I want to help others around me. However, I find I desperately need to take more and more time for myself and relish being alone, enjoying simple things like watching the sun rise, or taking a walk on a trail. I love taking pictures and enjoy crafting or making art. Most of those things have fallen by the wayside. I have gotten into a horrible routine that is most likely hindering my overall health, physically and emotionally. I try so hard to do simple things, like getting a good night’s sleep, breathing, stretching, eating well, etc. But, no matter how much I try, my desire for a healthy and self-caring lifestyle is trumped by outside factors I allow to disrupt my day.

picture taken of sunrise on December 11, 2020 Milford, CT

Is it so bad that I want to take care of myself before putting the needs of others right now? I was taught, especially through my Christian faith, that selfishness is wrong. That we must think of others before we think of ourselves. However, I have also learned we have to love ourselves before we can love others. We have to take care of our well being so that we can be there for our loved ones. My mind is confused. Putting myself ahead of everyone sort of goes against my giving nature. Yet, deep inside, I know that if I continue this path of caring for others and put myself at the back-burner, I will be a miserable person. I battle my own thoughts and feelings everyday. I am exhausted. I know I cannot keep up this pace much longer.

I listened to an episode of Coffeetalk with Liquidshano1973 recently and the topic was Self-Care. It really hit home and I have to admit, I was in tears after listening to the 31 minute segment. I realized then that I haven’t fully invested in MYSELF. I always say I do things to enjoy the little things in life. I pause and breathe. I try to soak in those rays. I do try to smile and be grateful. Yet, all of these things I do is not enough! It is very hard to admit I am my worst enemy and do not completely follow my own advice. In the episode, Shane mentions some tips he found while researching the topic of self-care. He chose to highlight 7 of them, and when I reflect on these tips, I know this is something I can incorporate into my daily routine, provided that I am intentional.

I found the original website and read a total of 27 ideas of self-care. In a similar manner, I am listing a combination of what Shane highlighted in his podcast, as well as others that the author mentioned on how we can take just 5 minutes to practice self-care. Before I list these tips, I have something to share that brings this all home.

My job can be stressful at times. My client has specific needs and over the few years I have worked for her, I have slowly changed how I manage my outside life. I stopped using my favorite scents in laundry, or in the shower because of her chemical sensitivity. I also stopped wearing makeup when I go to her home, including facial lotions because I was afraid she would get ill from any scents she might pick up. For a long time, I wouldn’t dye my hair. These simple things, these ways of taking care of myself or doing things that brought a little joy, were almost completely abandoned because I wanted to do the right thing and please my client.

I realize now, I was neglecting myself. I needed to stop. I needed to put my needs ahead for a change or else I think I would explode. The other night, I decided I was going to pamper myself and enjoy a little in-home spa treatment. Wow! Can I just say, this was a much needed mini “getaway” in my home. I took the time to dye my hair, give myself a facial and even put makeup on so I could feel good! By no means was this a selfish act. It was an act of self-care! I needed to do this so that my spirits were lifted and so that I can continue to be there for everyone else, while feeling happy with me! It may seem obvious to do these kind of things, but I have been so consumed with being a caregiver, that I have forgotten to take time for me.

this is me after my little “spa” treatment

Below are a total of 10 tips that you can do to practice self-care. These are inspired or paraphrased from the website linked above. I discovered within these ideas, is something to think about, too. In order to get a full experience of self-care, we need to address each of our Five senses of Sight, Touch, Hearing, Speech and Taste! I put the sense in parenthesis.

  1. Write down 3 things you are grateful for in your life (touch)
    • By writing down things you are grateful for, you are putting those thoughts directly in front of you and from pen to paper, it will resonate into your mind.
  2. Breathe deeply
    • You’d be surprised how much we hold our breath throughout the day. By doing that, we are depriving ourselves of much needed oxygen and the release of toxic carbon dioxide. Plus, intentionally taking deep breaths can help relieve stress and can be calming.
  3. Get outside (seeing)
    • Going on the same lines of taking deep breaths, going outside to breathe the fresh air really can be an uplifting experience. Also, observing bits of nature can relax you and even make you smile.
  4. Drink a glass of water (taste)
    • Water is essential to a healthy body. We tend to not get enough water on a daily basis. Make it a habit to have a glass of water first thing in the morning so that you can awaken our body after a night’s sleep.
  5. Eat something you enjoy (taste)
    • Eating something we enjoy doesn’t mean binge eating. It can be as simple of having a piece of fresh fruit or one small piece of chocolate. Even drinking a hot beverage can be very satisfying.
  6. Walk Around
    • Moving our bodies helps to lubricate our joints and circulates our blood throughout our body. Walking also gets the heart pumping and doing the job it is meant to do.
  7. Stretch
    • Sometimes a nice, long stretch is all we need to feel rejuvenated. Taking time to stretch our backs, legs, neck, shoulders, etc. also helps relieve stress and tension. Go on YouTube and find a 5-10 minute yoga routine that focuses on stretching.
  8. Listen to a favorite song (hearing)
    • A friend of mine said that music soothes the savage soul. I couldn’t agree more. And when we listen to a favorite song, we immediately feel good. It can be uplifting, calming, and spark good memories!
  9. Put on some Aromatherapy (smell)
    • I mentioned about scents earlier. I love the smell of citrus or fresh scents. They make me happy. Aromatherapy is another way to touch our senses and can make us feel good.
  10. Apply face or body lotion (touch)
    • Don’t neglect your biggest organ of your body…the skin! Treat it well. Put lotion all over, especially the face. You will feel better and look good, too!

How are you going to start taking more time for yourself and practice self-care?

Please drop a comment and share your ideas! I’d love to hear what you do to be a better version of yourself!

3 thoughts on “Is it Selfish or is it Self-Care?

  1. Ok…. so i am finally reading this today. I’m feeling so many emotions right now. Actually sitting here in tears because there is so much in this I relate to. But I plan on coming back to this and writing down the 10 points. because…maybe if I write them out… it will sink in more. Maybe journaling is personally where I need to go in this process. Very good, Elisa. Know you are not alone in your struggles and I am always here for you. XOX Marie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I , like you, have had a hard time in the past putting my needs before others. But as I get older, I find it becomes easier to do so, and almost seems more necessary as my energy is not as high as it used to be. Your list was welcomed. Congrats on your blog, Keeping writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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