Self-care does not mean selfish. In fact, it’s the opposite.

There’s a new buzzword I keep hearing – “self-care.” When my doctor wants me to focus more energy on preventing illness, she suggests I practice self-care. When my manager worries that my work and travel schedule are too stressful, she reminds me how important self-care is. My friends always tell me to put caring for myself above caring for others, because we all know that you can’t take care of anyone else if you yourself are not well.

I try to take pretty good care of myself. I walk my 10,000 steps each day. I don’t eat fried foods and I limit my carbs and sugar intake. I use my standing desk while at work. I spend time with my close circle of friends and knit to relax before bed. I meditate a few times a week and have an energetic dog that keeps me active. I even get the occasional massage and take short vacations.

Congratulations to me! According to all the online articles I’ve read, what I’ve listed above is the key to being happier and healthier! I got this self-care thing down.

Not so fast. Self-care is about much more than just eating a salad for lunch every day and walking your dog. It’s about setting boundaries and sometimes putting your needs above others. It’s about knowing when to say yes and when to say no. It’s about not feeling guilty when you make a choice that is best for your well-being.

There are more definitions of self-care than I can count, and no one definition is accepted by all, so I’ve created my own:

Self-care is the ability to:

  • identify your physical, spiritual and emotional needs
  • believe you are deserving of having those needs met
  • take the steps needed to ensure those needs are met

Self-care is hard for me. Self-care has always equated to self-ish in my mind. I’m a teacher, an advocate, a voice for those who have no voice. My entire career is based around being selfless by helping  others. Telling people “no” will make me selfish.

My personal goal is to change this dialogue in my head; to change my belief that taking care of myself better means I’m selfish. I am worthy of good health, peace and happiness, the outcomes of practicing self-care. I’m following this simple plan:

  1. Practice mindfulness everyday. Before I go to sleep I listen to one of the many meditation podcasts that are now available to help beginners learn how to meditate. I focus on letting go of negative thoughts.
  2. Thinking twice before saying yes. I’m always the first one to volunteer for a project at work, or to travel where no one else wants to go, etc. Now before saying yes, I think about how this will affect my health and life, and often say no. This helps me maintain a work/life balance as well.
  3. Limiting screen time. At 9 pm I turn off all of my screens. No reading the news on my phone, no watching TV, no social media. This is the time set aside for “me,” knitting, practicing mindfulness or a hot bath helps to prepare me for a good night’s sleep.

I’m happy with my results so far. I’m slowly learning that practicing self-care is actually the opposite of being selfish. I find I’m managing stress better. I feel happier. More centered and less tired. And when I’m less tired, I can give my all to help others living with asthma.

What are your tips for self-care?

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @asthmachef

 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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