Lots of people struggle with figuring out how to take care of themselves. Learning to handle your emotions, manage your time, and make yourself happy can be hard! School or work may take up a lot of your time. You may feel like you have a duty to look after others before yourself. Whatever the reason, it can be difficult to find time to think about self-care.
It’s okay to be busy, and it’s great to want to be there for the people you care about! But it’s also important to make sure you’re not ignoring what your mind and body are telling you. Everyone has limits and needs. When you’re not aware of what your own limits and needs are, it can be hard to do your best!
What is self-care? Why should I do it?
Self-care is what you do to take care of your mind, body, and spirit. It can look different for different people. Chances are you already do some type of self-care! Hopefully, when you do, it helps you to feel calm, rested, or re-energized.
You never need a reason to do things that are good for you and make you feel better about yourself. But if you’re worried about taking time away from other things, it can help to remember that it’s harder to do well at school, work, or in relationships, if you’re tired and stressed out. Most importantly, self-care can help you feel better in your daily life.
That doesn’t mean that if you can’t find time for self-care, you’re doing a bad job! Self-care isn’t about doing it “right” or “wrong”. It’s about understanding what your needs and limits are. You don’t have to be embarrassed about needing to do self-care, and you don’t have to be embarrassed if it’s not always easy to do.
How do I do it?
Think about what you like to do to relax or have fun. What’s an activity that makes you feel good? Your answer might not sound like anyone else’s answer, and that’s okay! Here are some things that some people like to do to calm down if they’re upset, or recharge if they’re tired:
- Drawing, painting, writing, or making music
- Spending time with friends and family
- Watching a movie or TV show
- Going for a jog
- Eating something tasty
- Taking a bubble bath
- Sex or masturbation
- Talking to someone you trust about your feelings
All of these activities (and lots more!) can be self-care. They might look frivolous to some people, but what’s important is how they make you feel. Think of your body like a car. The things that make you happy are part of the fuel and regular care it needs to be safe on the road!
Self-care is also about being responsible for yourself. Think about the things you need to do every day to stay healthy. These can be short-term or long-term things like:
- Eating regular meals
- Getting enough sleep
- Taking your meds
- Keeping your room as clean as you want it to be
It’s not always possible to do all of these things all of the time. You might need to stay up all night to get a project done for school, for example. Or you might be too busy to keep your room tidy. You might have an illness, injury, or disability that makes exercising regularly impossible. That’s okay. Part of self-care is assessing your needs and making decisions that feel right for you. The goal is usually to find a balance between the things your mind and body need, and the things that are fun for you to do.
Overcoming obstacles to self-care
If self-care makes you feel energized and happy, it should be easy to get yourself to do it, right? Not necessarily! Lots of people need time to learn how to care for themselves. There are all sort of things that can make it hard to understand what you need and give that to yourself.
Maybe you just feel like you don’t have enough time – you have school, or work, or both, and your family and friends! Thinking about how you want to spend your time can help. Try scheduling an hour in your day to have a nap, or go for a walk outside, and see how you feel. Just like doing things that make you feel good can be self-care, NOT doing things that make you feel bad can also be self-care! You may need to stop doing something in order to make time for something that’s better for you. Knowing and enforcing your boundaries can be a part of self-care.
Remember that your self-care doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. Self-care isn’t about owing things to other people or meeting someone else’s standards. It’s about taking care of you. One person’s self-care might be really frustrating for someone else to have to do! Maybe you’re an extrovert, and your self-care involves spending time with others. Another person might be an introvert who needs time alone to recharge. Both of these things are okay.
Finally, your self-care doesn’t always have to be the same thing! If you start to feel like something you’re doing as self-care isn’t helping anymore, it’s okay to stop and try something new.