If you scroll through social media, self-care seems to mean bubble baths, massages, and wine time. While these activities are enjoyable for some people, self-care is much deeper and bigger than that from a mental health perspective. When I talk about self-care with clients, I’m referring to an action, or a set of actions, that needs to be taken by the client to protect their mental and emotional health. For some, self-care can mean taking a nap to rejuvenate their mind, body, and spirit. For others, it also means:
●Replacing self-criticisms with self-compassion
●Setting healthy boundaries
●Taking a break
●Decluttering your space
●Ending toxic cycles
●Seeking therapy to support your mental health
●Practicing good sleep and eating habits
●Going out for walks or exercising
●Taking out time to do something you enjoy outside of parenting
Think of self-care as being two-fold; it is comprised of physiological and emotional needs. Physiological needs are fundamental to your survival, such as adequate rest, nutrition, sleep, exercise, and hygiene. Emotional needs are equally important because they fulfill and/or maintain your self-worth and contribute to good mental health. These may include the need to feel safe, establish boundaries, regulate emotions, establish secure connections, feel loved, and so on. To understand emotional needs better, read this article.
When couples come to see me after having had their baby or while raising small children, there is turmoil or conflict in the relationship often due to one or both partners’ physiological and emotional needs not being satisfied. This comes as no surprise. Due to the frequent demands of raising children, parents often struggle to meet their basic needs for survival because they find themselves stretched thin in many directions.
While each partner has a duty to help meet their partner’s needs (to a reasonable extent), it is also each individual person’s responsibility to engage in acts of self-care in order to proactively meet their own needs. If you find yourself physically, mentally, and/or emotionally burnout, you likely have unmet needs and it may be time to step up your self-care game. And what better time to begin than in the start of a new year!
Whether or not you are in a partnership with another person, evaluate which physiological and emotional needs of yours require more attention and create a self-care plan which you routinely follow. The plan may include scheduling time for rest, finding childcare support, starting therapy, establishing healthy boundaries, creating good sleep habits, praying and/or meditating, trying new recipes for good nutrition, or learning tools to regulate your senses when you are feeling overstimulated. Whatever it may be, start with one thing at a time. Create a plan, implement a routine, and hold yourself accountable to follow-through with it. Most importantly, communicate and collaborate with your partner and/or loved ones to highlight the importance of your self-care act and enlist their support and understanding.
If you are struggling to identify your unmet needs, creating or implementing a self-care plan, or enlisting your partner’s support, consider finding a therapist to support you through this process.