Basics of Self-Care

What is self-care? It simply means making yourself a priority. It’s finding things that you like to do, that are relaxing or energizing, and doing them on a regular basis. Self-care is essential for good physical and mental health. I see a lot of therapists, nurses, parents, and adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) who give and give, but don’t make time for their own needs. If you are constantly taking care of everyone else, but not refilling your own tank, you will eventually get burned out.

So, how do you start practicing more self-care?  First, you have to believe it’s important. We don’t generally make time in our schedules for things we don’t deem as important. I challenge you to recognize that not only do you feel better, but you’re a better parent/spouse/employee when you make time for yourself. This is what I call the trickle down effect. The time you put into yourself trickles down to benefit your family/friends/patients/colleagues too. From this perspective, you can see how leaving your kids with a sitter while you go to the gym truly does benefit them as well. You will come back a happier, healthier, calmer parent.

Next, you need to put it on your calendar. Some may be daily or weekly activities that will become part of your routine. Others will vary. Regardless, planning ahead is important if your self-care is actually going to happen.

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

Ideas for self-care activities are limitless and unique to you. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Get coffee with a friend
  • Take an actual lunch break away from your desk
  • Go for a walk
  • Get a massage
  • Read a book for pleasure
  • Sit on the porch alone and enjoy the quiet
  • Turn off your cell phone for an hour
  • Take a class

I hope you’ll schedule some “me time” in the week ahead.

© Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.

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