The Relationship Between Self-Care and Overwhelm
While in graduate school, the concept of self-care was discussed in all of my classes as a way to encourage us to begin a practice of self-care to help maneuver the challenges of being in the field of social work. Of all the things I learned in graduate school, a self-care practice is the one that has been the most helpful for my emotional, physical, spiritual and mental well-being.
It is a skill I try to use on a daily basis, but am not always successful at. I realized the practice of self-care is important for all individuals who are in some sort of role of caring for others, or under stress. This means all humans will greatly benefit from a self-care practice.
My definition of self-care refers to the active practice of activities that bring feelings of joy and relief to ourselves to avoid becoming overwhelmed with the responsibilities we have in all our everyday roles. The reality is, we all have many roles in our lives and often we put the well-being of others before our own. In most cases, this leads to feelings of frustration, anger and anxiety. Not to mention resentment.
These feelings can have a negative effect on our relationships and sense of connection to others. It is through my own experiences of feeling an overwhelming amount of anxiety, I have learned when I avoid caring for myself, it is when I need self-care the most.
Anxiety is a dark monster that hides in the shadows and sneaks up on me when I feel overwhelmed. It makes me doubtful, fearful and extra sensitive. It causes knots in my stomach and the sensation of having a baseball stuck in my throat. My anxiety can be vicious and it constantly tells me things will never get better in my life.
To develop your self-care practice, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- As a child, what were some activities that brought you joy?
Children have a carefree nature to them, and it is likely that whatever brought you joy as a child might still bring you joy today. I did not have many toys as a kid, but I do remember I loved reading and writing. These things still bring me joy today. Reconnect to your inner child. See what wonderful things are waiting to spark your soul.
- How are you currently managing the stressful, anxiety-provoking situations in your life, and are they similar to how you’ve managed them in the past?
Change can only happen when we are honest with ourselves about the behavioral patterns that increase our sense of anxiety and stress. This is why reflecting on past responses to stress can help you identify present ways of managing stress. For me, avoidance of my emotions and responsibilities is how I have managed my stress in the past. This always leads to anxiety and a decrease in self-care. Due to this self-awareness, I am able to call myself out when I am engaging in these behaviors and try (I don’t always succeed) to change it.
- Can you make it a priority to have a daily practice of self- care?
I know quite well that it is easy to say that there is not enough time to engage in self-care daily. But can you risk your well-being and health? There is a reason why on every flight, we are told to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before helping others. We cannot truly help others unless we are taking care of ourselves first.
There have been many different self-care techniques I’ve tried over the years to help me feel in control of my life. I have found having a list of my favorite techniques with me, at all times, has been the nest thing I can do to remind myself that I matter, that I deserve to engage in self care, and that doing so will make it easier for me to continue caring for my loved ones.
Below is my list of self-care techniques:
- Deep Breaths
This one is free and easy. Inhale… Exhale… Repeat three to five times.
- Physical Activity
Engage in any activity that will get you moving. Run, jump, walk, dance. This will have a positive impact on your mood. As a bonus, practice positive self-talk while doing this.
- Take 5-10 minutes (or longer) a day to do a favorite activity
I typically take this time to meditate, write, or take a warm shower with the lights off, with soft music on and the glow of a candle shining in the bathroom.
Remember that your emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health is worthy of being cared for. Self-care is a practice that will create positive changes in your life.
No one else can do it for you. I dare you to find techniques that work for you, try it out and reflect on how it makes you feel.
Ready to dive deeper into self care? Click here to explore Tribes.