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June 11, 2023

Debunking Myths on Self-Care

by April Payne, LCSW, LCAS

As a therapist, I am constantly talking to clients about self-care.  In the therapy room, I see several common myths and misconceptions around self-care. We will explore some of these common misconceptions as well as different ideas and approaches to self-care.

Myth 1 – Self-care is selfish.

One of my favorite metaphors to use is the oxygen mask rule when flying.  The flight attendant tells you to “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you.” I often use this concept to explain self-care. Without self-care we cannot be present, engaged, and supportive of our loved ones. At the end of the day, implementing regular self-care is helpful for the others around us at work and home.

Myth 2 – Self-care takes a long time.

I often see others thinking if they do not have the day to devote to self-care activities that it somehow does not count.

Self-care can be creative. Even a five to fifteen minute window provides an opportunity to engage in something for you. Being purposeful with these activities can feel like a small reset.

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate self-care:

  • Put on your favorite song and listen without distractions.
  • Go outside and enjoy the sunshine for a few minutes.
  • Enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, or water.
  • Light a candle.
  • Do a guided 5-minute meditation.

Myth 3 – Self-care is anything that soothes you.

Self-care can include healthy self-soothing activities but something to be mindful of is whether these activities or behaviors are harmful, compulsive, or addictive in nature. If you are concerned about using substances, food, or other unhelpful behaviors please talk with your primary care provider about a referral to behavioral health or reach out to our behavioral health coordinators to get scheduled.

Myth 4 – Self-care is hygiene-focused.

Many people talk about self-care in terms of hygiene (i.e. haircut, bathing). One of my favorite things to work on with clients is identifying creative ways to engage in self-care across different categories.

Different categories of self-care can be mental, emotional, social, financial, environmental, or spiritual. Below are a few examples of activities in these various self-care areas.

Mental – Read, do a puzzle or brain teaser, learn a new skill, set a mini goal for yourself, take a break from social media.

Emotional – Journal on how you are feeling, ask for help, use affirmations, let yourself cry, see a therapist.

Social – Self-care doesn’t have to be by yourself! Spend time with a friend with no distractions, send a message to someone expressing your gratitude for them, set healthy boundaries, engage in a conversation with someone new.

Financial – Use a budgeting app, create a financial goal, put money in savings.

Environmental – Declutter or decorate your space, make your bed, explore somewhere new.

Spiritual – Go to your place of worship, spend time in nature, meditate, do yoga.

Myth 5 – You have to earn self-care

Many people believe that we must accomplish certain goals or tasks before we are allowed to engage in self-care. Giving ourselves permission to care for ourselves whether the dishes are done or not is allowing ourselves to be human. Our self-worth is not measured by our productivity.

If you feel stuck on how to incorporate more of these activities into your day, it may be helpful to keep a list of ideas. When feeling overwhelmed, drained, or stressed do something on the list (even if it is just for a few minutes) so you can put your oxygen mask on.

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