Caring for others is a basic human instinct. As women, we are expected to care for our children, our husbands, our extended families, our friends and also take care of the needs of the community (work, church, organizations). Much like other societal expectations of women, it is an unspoken rule for a woman to be of aid to those around her, even at the expense of herself. This brings me to the topic of self-care.
Psychology Today online journal defines self-care as “taking time to pay attention to you, in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you.” How many women can honestly say they make a conscious effort to practice self-care?
Women tend to sacrifice for others while neglecting their own needs. Helping others is not a bad thing in and of itself, but when you overlook your own needs and focus on pleasing others; you fall into unnecessary stress. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stress as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation”. This definition makes it clear that stress is capable of making you ill.
The normal physiological stress response activates your brain and other bodily functions. However, once the perceived stressor disappears, the body is expected to return to equilibrium. This is not the case for those who are in a constant state of flux working too much, taking care of family, or having to face other chronic ailments. Stress manifests in your behavior, body, emotions, and thinking. Stress can easily trigger heart disease, according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Statistics show that most Americans experience chronic stress.
You cannot fulfil all of your expected roles without properly caring for yourself. At some point, you will crash if you do not practice self-care. Self-care is deliberate. Self-care is part of a healthy lifestyle. It means you learn to actually say NO when you no longer can take on another task. It means you take time out to exercise, meditate, relax, slow down, pray, do nothing, engage in a hobby, and socialize.
Self-care is not taking a day off to catch up on cleaning. Although that is a good thing, self-care means you are doing something for YOU, to listen to how you feel and how you are doing.
We as women have a lot on our plate, but we cannot keep pouring from an empty cup. It is important to recharge and refuel regularly, not once a year, or twice a year on a vacation. Even if you cannot afford a vacation, you can easily take 15 minutes a day to de-stress. Self-care is not expensive, it is intentional.