It is difficult to look at any recent self-help literature without finding copious material about self-care. Everyone knows it’s something they should do, but not everyone knows how, and if they do, it is rarely a priority. When we find ourselves with discretionary time on our hands, we might indulge in self-care. However, prioritizing self-care means giving up or delaying something else that’s important to you, which comes as a challenge for most people.
I know I should exercise more, but that would mean giving up much-needed sleep. Having my finances in order is a great thing, but I like to reward myself with a meal out, travel, or new clothes. I want to fit meditation into my schedule, but I’d need to sacrifice time with friends or time working. And isn’t sleeping well, spending money on yourself, and sharing time with friends also methods of self-care? What’s a person to do?
Look for the balance! Instead of giving up something you want, that feels good, to prioritize self-care, find the balance in being able to have both.
- Although we all have our own values and beliefs, we also have been taught values and beliefs others expect you to have. Here is the first balancing act: If you find yourself struggling between what you believe and what others want you to believe, you don’t necessarily have to choose one or the other. There is a way for you to have some of both. Determine the values and beliefs of others that you embrace and hold onto them; at the same time, assert yourself in those areas you think differently. Holding different opinions doesn’t mean you are disrespecting others, it just means you are working through the first step of self-care: exploring who you really are.
- Practicing self-care involves living within your budget to prevent amassing large debt. To do this, it may seem as though you must stop having fun and never buy things you want. However, you can find balance by budgeting in some discretionary funds to have fun, travel, and purchase things that add to your mental well-being, while learning to say no when you’ve reached that budgeted amount.
- Another focus of self-care is exercising regularly and eating healthier. It can seem that eating healthy, fresh, or organic would mean going beyond your budget since these foods can cost more than regular groceries. Exercising requires time, which usually means giving up something else you’d rather do. Finding proper balance in both these areas will move you closer to the ultimate self-care you crave. Gradually work healthy, organic food into your routine so your budget can adjust accordingly. Don’t try to do everything all at once. If you’re struggling to make time for exercise, ask yourself if there’s one thing you do in your day that does not contribute to your well-being, goals, or dreams and consider if you can live without it and exercise instead. Another option is to build exercise into the time you spend with family or friends; rather than giving up time with people you care about, you’d be inspiring them to be healthier by exercising with you.
- Self-care is also about balancing your desire to be helpful with the protection of your valuable resource of time. How do you balance saying no with your desire to help others? The first step is to become clear about your mission for your life, saying yes to the things that support that mission, and no to the things that don’t. It’s also helpful to compile a list of resources you can offer when you decide to say no.
- You must attend to maximizing your health if you are truly involved in self-care, but the conflict comes from prioritizing all your obligations before your health. To find the balance you seek, promise less but deliver more. Be careful what you promise to do, because breaking promises takes its toll in the self-care department.
- Balancing productivity and meditation is a challenge for many. People don’t meditate because it is ‘hard’ and takes time they claim not to have. Why don’t they have time? Because they are focused on constant productivity. The interesting fact is that research has shown that taking as little as ten to twenty minutes a day to meditate will increase productivity. Make the time; you’ll thank yourself.
- It is important to balance your need for time alone with your need to be with others. Your personal balance point has a lot to do with your genetic need strengths for connection and freedom. Those with a higher need for freedom need more alone time, while those higher in connection require more time with people. Honor the signals you receive that tell you which need has to be met and seek it out.
- Finding the balance between striving for what you want, while accepting and feeling grateful for what you have are paramount to self-care. Have you ever noticed that once you accomplish a goal you set for yourself, you want more? It is human nature to not feel satisfied with past accomplishments; we seek constant improvement. If this is not balanced with gratitude and acceptance for what you currently have, it can lead to an unhappy existence. Always strive to accomplish more but take time to feel happy and appreciative for what you have.
- Striking a healthy balance between productivity and joy is another point that depends on your genetic need strengths. The balance can be found by finding joy in your work, which is a wonderful advantage when you have it. However, if you don’t, a higher need for significance will drive you to forget to create joy in your life, while a higher need for joy can leave you playing and relaxing while ignoring your responsibilities. Know what needs are important to you and give yourself permission to find joy in your everyday life while still accomplishing your goals.
- The final area of balance for self-care is the balance around control. Most people understand that the only behavior we can control is our own, but we still spend much of our time attempting to control others. Having the desire to control the things you can change is healthy. This drive is where discipline and reform originate. Accepting you can’t control others can bring either frustration or acceptance—the choice is yours. For your own mental health, I hope you find the balance between taking full responsibility over the things that affect your heart and your life, while accepting the right of others to live their lives as they choose. You won’t always agree or approve, but it’s fine as long as you accept their right to live any way they choose.
You may find striking the balance in these key areas for self-care is relatively easy, excruciatingly painful, or anywhere in between, but the journey will most definitely be worth the effort.