Self-Care or Selfishness?
I recently read an article in which Gisele Bundchen, supermodel wife of famous quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, spoke of how she intentionally chooses daily acts of self-care to be a better mother and wife (http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/style/article1470593.ece). This statement stirred up a fair amount of controversy from the public and media. Some called her selfish for putting her needs before her child’s, some dismissed her ability to engage in self-care as a benefit of the wealthy and privileged and still others supported her statements as truth.
Self-care is something which is not often fostered within us when we are young. Even if our parents discuss it with us it often it takes a backseat to watching the people who raise us sacrifice every piece of their own time in service of their jobs, children and extended family and friends. This teaches us that others are more important than ourselves. The result of this is a disconnection from our own needs, desires and deeper sense of self, resulting in discontentment and struggle.
Some signs that you are not engaging in enough self-care activities are:
· Feeling overwhelmed
· Feeling depleted and fatigued
· Feeling disconnected from others
· Feeling anxious, angry or irritable
· Having a sense of just moving through the motions
· Sorrow, tearfulness, moodiness
· Poor sleep
Self-care does not have to cost money. By definition self-care activities are intentional time set aside to nurture yourself in some way. These activities are highly individual, what one person experiences as re-energizing and fulfilling another may find exhausting and draining. Self-care may be spiritual, physical, social or emotional. Some examples may be:
Spiritual: prayer, meditation, study of religious texts, singing, spending time in nature
Physical: exercise, sleep, nourishment (food), going to the doctor, massages, recreational pursuits
Social: connecting regularly with friends, dates with your partner, asking for help, spending time with pets
Emotional: keeping a journal, finding ways to laugh, giving yourself daily affirmation
We cannot be our best in connection with others in our lives if we do not care for and nurture ourselves. This is the opposite of selfishness, it is benevolent. As Gisele aptly stated, “You know how they say on the plane you have to put the oxygen mask on first and then put it on your child? So I think it is the same, as a mum, to take care of myself.”
How will you put on your oxygen mask today? Tomorrow? The next? Make a list and make time for you, every day. With time, you, your family and community will benefit from your commitment to your own well-being.
-Aimee Bakeman LMHCA