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Self-Care in a Self-Indulgent World

Self-Care.  It’s a word that has invaded the Internet and pop-psychology circles through blog posts, social media, and podcasts.  The notion of “treating yourself” and taking a “mental-health day” is becoming more and more popular. Images of people walking in the park, getting a massage, or taking a bubble bath are hallmark pictures for the trendy self-care movement.  Our fast-paced culture places a greater emphasis on self-care as the culture itself continues to creep up and seemingly demand more than what we can do in a day.

The main premise of self-care is that you must take care of yourself first by attending to your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.  One of the typical phrases I have found attached to the self-care movement is that you “can’t pour from an empty cup.”  The mainstream movement suggests that people should take time for themselves and be kind to themselves.  However, the more I explore this world of self-care, the more it seems full of indulging in pleasurable and comfortable activities, rather than actually taking care of yourself.

One thing I think the secular media overlooks when discussing self-care is the role of our discipline and responsibility when it comes to providing for our own needs and balance in life.  Blaming exterior circumstances for our stress levels and lack of self-care is quite easy, and easier still to apply a quick fix leisure activity to temporarily relieve the pressure. Unfortunately, this never solves the problem, as the real issue isn’t being addressed.  If we want to address the real issue for lasting change, the first place we need to look is inward.

The way we react and respond to the anxiety aroused by everyday life can contribute positively or negatively to our life balance.  While there are numerous ways we react to anxiety, our anxious responses tend to take two main paths. Some people tend to continually do for others, taking on more work, responsibilities, and emotional management than is appropriate.  They may work harder to insure others have what they need, making them feel at home, or even speaking for others.  When they become anxious, they calm themselves by getting to work, even if the work isn’t their responsibility.  Others tend to avoid work and responsibilities, not taking on what is theirs to manage.  They are able to get their work done, but are not functioning for themselves.  It’s as though life and events are happening to them without them being able to get a handle on it.  When they become anxious, they may freeze instead of accomplishing their work.

Both of these patterns (described as overfunctioning and underfunctioning respectively in the example above) have a tendency to add to our stress levels, pushing us toward the quick fix, self-care mentality of the culture.  This is where the role of discipline and responsibility come into play.  If you find yourself in the more “doing” role, then the discipline of delegation or of refraining from taking on work that is not yours is vital to your own self-care.  However if you find yourself in the more “passive” role where things seem to be happening to you, then taking responsibility to accomplish the tasks that really make you anxious is essential to managing your self-care.

Self-care “looks” different for each person depending on their reactions to stress in their life.  The typical image of self-care, such as visiting a beach or a café leisurely reading a book, may be most appropriate for healthy self-care.  Other times, a self-care activity may simply be completing the most anxious task for the day.  Some days it may look like stepping back; other times it may look like stepping forward.

Self-care is not the absence of work and responsibilities, nor the indulgence in our worldly appetites.  It requires discipline.  Our responsibility is insuring that we are not pouring from an empty cup.  Sometimes it requires us doing work to make sure we are not empty, and sometimes it may require rest.  The Lord both worked and rested in the same week.  I think the important thing is to look at the patterns that may be contributing to our lack of self-care in order to identify how we can better help ourselves be full to the brim.

If you would like to learn more about the different patterns in your life that are keeping you from being full, give me a call!

Blessings!

Liz Heuertz, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Leah McDill, PhD, LPC-S
512-238-1700, ext. 322
elizabethheuertz@nlcc1.com

 

Posted by New Life Counseling Center NLCC at 12:56 PM
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