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Have you been doing self-care wrong all along?

There has been a lot of talk about self-care in recent years, especially since the Covid pandemic started, as people became more aware of the necessity to tend to their own needs and focus on their well-being. However, many of the discussions surrounding the topic barely scratch the surface and only address the issues people face on a rather superficial level. Therefore, the self-care ideas and practices pushed by media and pop culture tend to be extremely inaccurate and, at times, even harmful.

Women, and mothers especially, know perfectly well that self-care should be non-negotiable. They know that taking care of their mental and physical health is not a luxury, but a necessity that one can’t afford to ignore. And yet, many of them have a distorted idea about what self-care is and is not, so they end up doing it all wrong.

Obviously, a self-care concept based on misconceptions and myths won’t bring you any benefits and you’ll eventually become frustrated because the strategies you’ve been using don’t seem to work. When this happens, the only thing you can do is reassess your approach and try to figure out what you’re doing wrong, which is exactly what this article aims to address.

Self-care goes beyond pampering

Self-care is often equated with self-indulgence and spoiling yourself with gifts and treats, which is a very erroneous way to define it, not to mention it leaves many important aspects out of the equation. Sure, taking a warm bubble bath, wearing luxury women’s pajamas, spending a day at the spa, or going on a city break are all wonderful ways to reduce stress and can help a lot in the grand scheme of things, but self-care isn’t limited to these practices. You can’t always wash away your problems with a hot shower or wipe all your worries with a face mask. That’s like applying a patch over a gaping wound and hoping for the best.

Self-care encompasses a wide range of actions that aim to preserve and improve one’s health and involves plenty of other less glamorous activities like setting boundaries, going to therapy, going for regular check-ups, trying to eat healthier, and so on. For mothers, self-care often implies acknowledging they’re more than just parents and allowing themselves to focus on their individual needs.

Also, you need to keep in mind that self-care is not a one-size-fits-all. It looks different for everyone, because people have different needs, wants and preferences. What might help you relax and recharge your batteries might not have the same effect on someone else. So, it’s up to each person to define what self-care means to them and do more of what makes them feel good.

Self-care is not selfish

We all need to take care of our minds and bodies if we want to stay healthy and function as normal human beings. That implies making time for yourself and focusing on your own needs instead of others’. Unfortunately, mothers often have a problem with that as they feel guilty about putting their needs ahead of their children’s needs, which is a very wrong way of thinking.

First of all, self-care is not selfish at all. If you take care of yourself, it doesn’t automatically mean that you stop caring about everyone else or that you inconvenience others, as these two things are not mutually exclusive. You can look after yourself and still be a good mother to your children. Besides, there are many self-care activities that you can enjoy with your whole family, so there’s no reason to feel guilty about it.

Secondly, if you’re always sacrificing yourself for others and you stop doing things for yourself because you think that might be selfish, you risk becoming bitter and resentful, and that kind of attitude won’t do you or your kids any good. You can also end up on the brink of burnout, and when that happens you won’t be able to take care of others either. So, practicing self-care is something that benefits everyone.

Self-care is not a chore

Another thing that self-care is not or shouldn’t be is a task. Just because you know that you have to do it, even when you don’t feel like it, doesn’t mean you should treat it like another thing you have to check off your to-do list. If your mind isn’t in it and you engage in certain self-care activities simply because you think they might help you, but you don’t take the time to actually think about how these activities make you feel, it can all turn into a big waste of time.

You need to be intentional, adopt a proactive approach when doing self-care, and learn to enjoy it. Therefore, it’s important to be more mindful, pay attention to how you feel and stay in tune with your body. Then you can focus on the practices that will bring you results and will make you feel more motivated to continue on this path.

Perfectionism has no place in self-care

Perfectionism and self-care are sworn enemies. A lot of moms put off self-care thinking they’ll get to it when they have enough time to do it right, which is probably never. But here’s the catch – you don’t have to do self-care by the book if there even is such a thing. You just have to do it, however you can, whenever you can, at your own pace and to the best of your abilities.

If you keep waiting for the planets to align, or if you judge yourself harshly for not being able to stick to a self-care routine the way others do, you’ll never get anything done. It’s perfectly normal to be imperfect when it comes to self-care, so be kind to yourself and take things one step at a time. Focus on what you can do, not on what you should do and you’ll feel a lot better.

In the end, there’s no secret recipe for self-care. You just have to keep an open mind and try to figure things out as you go. Eventually, you’ll find out what works best for you.