Self-care: What makes it so hard?

January 2, 2022

By Ken Barringer

Are there more things we would like to do for ourselves? What prohibits us from doing them? A few possible reasons let’s look at the “macro”, more common belief, of self-care. Macro self-care are large things we might not do (if at all) very often. We may not have time or money to go to the gym, spa or on vacation. For many this is not reasonable, and we can end up feeling like we are failing self-care. How demoralizing would that be? What about the “micro” part of self-care? These are little things we can do with greater frequency. Micro self-care could mean writing out a “done” list – things we accomplished today. Micro self-care could mean appreciating and having gratitude for things we might take for granted (like my refrigerator works and I have food in it). These little things as a stand-alone may not seem like much but can have a positive effect when stacking them on top of each other. 

Did you know self-care could be as simple as taking time to do things that give us pleasure (like trying a new recipe)? Or having systems in place to keep us organized (I’m where I’m supposed to be and have everything I need)? Or being part of a community that gives us meaning (I like their values and they accept me)? These are self-care pieces, but we often don’t acknowledge them as such because they don’t fit hallmark definitions. We also may struggle in giving ourselves “self-care credits”. Since we spend much more time at work or taking care of necessities it may feel like we never self-care.  What if instead of thinking about self-care as “I do it / I don’t do it” we thought about it as little things I do frequently or occasionally? What is self-care for one may not be for another. Make it personal.

Self-care can arrive in 5 different domains. A few examples in each domain might be: 

Physical;  exercise or having regular sleep

Emotional; being kind to someone or nurturing yourself

Spiritual; having a belief in something or meditating

Relationships;  supportive connections to people, places, or things

Work;   work/life balance or doing something that gives us a sense of purpose

For those who are natural helpers or in the helping field we may find we are caring for others constantly. It comes naturally, instinctively maybe even reflectively. However, we may not apply these very actions to ourselves. We may be in the habit of caring for all but ourselves. Habits (not routines, those can be self-care) require a lot of energy to change. 

The initial question was, ‘What makes it so hard?’ While we all may have our own answers a few overlapping ones could be; compassion fatigue, feelings of unworthiness or lack of entitlement (positive meaning attached to the word here) that we are allowed and deserving. Just creating space to think about self-care in the way discussed here and being open minded about it IS self-care. If we think something is good and helpful for us, and doesn’t cause harm, it probably is.