Self-Care: Common Misconceptions
By Alex Raymond, RD, LD
Do you have myths that need to be debunked? What does self-care mean to you? Before reading on, can you take a few minutes to think about this. Over the last few weeks, the theme of self-care has been coming up recently. I have had this conversation with many clients about the importance of self-care and how it can benefit eating disorder recovery. With talking with my clients, I’ve realized there are many misconceptions surrounding the idea of self-care. And of course, I’d like to debunk these myths and shed light on how beneficial taking time for yourself can actually be!
1) Self-care is selfish.
I get it. It can feel very selfish to say “no” to a family member or friend and instead do something on your self-care list. If I am being honest, I have struggled with this one myself. I have always felt that if I have extra time on my hands, even if it’s just 20 minutes, and someone asks me for a favor, shouldn’t I help them out? I have been in situations where I have bent over backwards doing a favor for someone, and then it leaves tired, stressed and overwhelmed. In the end, I’m really not doing myself a favor.
I remind myself of the expression: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” What this means to me is if you are always giving to everyone else, but you neglect your own needs, then it’s going to be very difficult to be 100% when surrounded by your friends and family. Instead of thinking as self-care as selfish, I challenge you to reframe your thinking and think of it as a compassionate and kind act. Ask yourself this question: If a friend or family member wanted to relax and spend time doing something they enjoy, would you be upset with them? Why is it more difficult for us to give ourselves permission to relax than it is to others?
2) Self-care is expensive.
Sure, if you are planning on getting a massage, pedicure or something else along those lines, you may need to spend extra money. However, there are very many self-care activities that are quite inexpensive, and even free! Here are some ideas: take a bath, journal, adult coloring books, deep breathing (use a meditation app!), learn a new skill (like playing an instrument or learning a language), go for a mindful walk, call a friend or family member… What are some ideas you have?
It’s important to remember that part of self-care is also being sure that you are nourishing yourself correctly. This means working toward having a positive relationship with food, feeding your body when it needs to be fed, and using coping tools other than food/food related things when feeling stressed, anxious or sad. As people use food as a reward less and less, it will also leave room for other self-care strategies.
3) Self-care is a waste of time.
Many clients have told me that they think self-care is a waste because they are being “unproductive.” They would rather spend their time finishing assignments at school or work. Doing this feels like they are actually “accomplishing” something, while self-care may feel like nothing is getting done.
Reframe Your Thinking..
Here is another area where I’d like you to reframe your thinking. Have you ever heard of the expression “sharpen the saw.” This comes from the story of a wood cutter who is sawing down a tree. He is at it for hours, but is becoming less and less productive as times goes on. The process of sawing actually dulled his blade, so naturally, he wasn’t able to saw as efficiently as time went on. It is important to him to stop every once and a while to “sharpen his saw.” Even though he was taking breaks, he was being more productive because he took time to make sure his tools were sharp.
Self-care IS productive because you’re taking time to sharpen YOUR saw. You’ll feel so much better physically and emotionally, that when it comes time when you’ll need to productive at school or work, you’ll have more energy. In the long run, self-care might help you get things done faster so you can have more time for fun!