Is self-care selfish?

By Charlotte Armitage, Media Psychologist and MD of YAFTA

Is self-care selfish? Absolutely not! Self-care is the necessary human need of looking after oneself physically and psychologically, both of which are arguably inextricably linked. Self-care is a form of preventative medicine because as the name suggests, if you indulge in necessary self-care, it can help to prevent the negative impact that accumulative life stresses can have on your physical and mental wellbeing.

Finding time for self-care is difficult, especially if you’re a mother and have a career. Being a mother is always a full-time job, whether you juggle it with a career or not, so finding time for yourself when you have a family can be hard.

However, undoubtedly, allowing yourself some time for self-care will benefit your life on a holistic level; it will benefit you, your children, your partner and your career, so although you might feel guilty to give some time to yourself, prioritising looking after your own well-being is not selfish even though it may feel that way.

Here’s 7 steps to guilt free self-care:

  • Appreciate yourself and how important you are to the people around you. If you aren’t functioning healthily then those around you will suffer too. It is important that you look after yourself to ensure that you are mentally healthy and able to function as you want and need to.
  • Understand that part of healthy psychological functioning involves creating boundaries which feel safe and appropriate for you. These boundaries relate to your relationship with your partner, your work and even your own children. Allowing yourself to have space from the everyday aspects of your life, to do what you want and need to do in order to feel calm and relaxed, is healthy.
  • When you lead a busy life and have to consider the multiple needs of your family in order to find time that you can alllocate to yourself, try to schedule a time in the week which is planned just for you. You might organise one evening a week, one day a week or one weekend a month which is your time to do something for you. Discuss it with your partner and children to establish how to factor it in as part of your lifestyle. Ideally you should also have some time each day that is just for yourself.
  • Take time away from social media. Social media is the anthesis of self-care; there are a multitude of subconscious stresses that are encountered through spending too much time on social media and by placing too much emphasis on it in your life. When you are trying to take time out for yourself, take time away from social media too because the stresses that accompany social media use seemingly negate the benefits and ultimate objectives of self-care.
  • Attempt to gain perspective. It is easy in this fast paced “women can do it all” world that we live in to feel like everything is urgent and has to be done now. If it isn’t a life or death situation then whatever seemingly pressing situation or e-mail you have waiting for you can just wait. Trying to slow down will help you to feel calmer and more aware of the world around you.
  • Manage the expectations of those around you, especially at work. This can be easier if you run your own business than if you’re in an employed position but managing the expectations of your staff and clients can relieve a lot of pressure. For example, if staff learn that you don’t respond to emails instantly, then that can prevent the pressure caused by feeling as though you must deal with everything immediately.
  • Finally, learn to say ‘No.’ You don’t have to do everything you are asked to do. Establish what feels comfortable for you and what you can feasibly manage to do without feeling overwhelmed and say ‘no’ to anything else until you feel like you can manage it without becoming overly stressed.

Your health is the most important thing in the world. It’s impossible to be the best version of yourself without investing time in some quality self-care.  By setting boundaries with respect to your hours of work, time you spend with friends and family and how much time you take to look after yourself, you are putting in place important preventative steps in ensuring that you maintain your psychological and physical health.