6 Reasons Why We Suck at Self-Care and How to Break Through the Obstacles

Self-care | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

Self-care | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

Self-care gets a lot of attention.  We know it’s important. We know that making time for ourselves should be a regular part of our routine.  We know that the wheels start coming off when we don’t do it.  And yet, it can be such a struggle!  As a psychologist, I know the importance of self-care.  I talk to everyone that I work with about the importance of self-care. I even have a board on Pinterest that is dedicated to self-care.  But here’s the truth – even I struggle with making it a priority.  Why do we have such a hard time with incorporating enjoyable, rejuvenating and fun activities into our lives? 

Here are 6 reasons why we suck at self-care and how we can start making it a priority:

Reason 1:  It’s not even on our radar.  In theory we know that self-care is a good thing, but we don’t actually put it on our own priority list.  It doesn't actually occur to us that this is something we need.

Solution:  Put it on your to-list, on the family calendar, in your phone schedule.  We are more likely to do something if we write it down.  Bold it, underline it, highlight it.  Make self-care stare you in the face!

Reason 2:  We feel guilty about taking time away from our family or work .  It feels indulgent to do something that is just for us.

Solution:  Guilt is a tricky one.  It is the response to feeling that we are doing something wrong.  Is taking care of yourself wrong?  Of course not!  In fact, you need to be well taken care of in order to take care of everyone else (i.e. put on your own oxygen mask before helping others put on theirs).  We may have very real restrictions on our time, but sometimes it’s not about finding time, it’s about making the time. 

Reason 3:  We have unrealistic ideas about what self-care should be.  A lot of advice about self-care include similar suggestions; yoga, meditation, going on a long hike.  These are great suggestions, but not necessarily for everyone.  I remember when I tried to take up meditation; it was a disaster.  I was warned that the monkeys in my brain would be active and I just needed to observe non-judgementally.  However, no one warned me that my monkeys would throw poop!  It was not a good fit for me.

Solution:  Self-care does not have to be fancy, complicated or take a lot of time.  It just needs to feel good!  Have a dance party in your kitchen.   Grab a colouring book and some pencil crayons.  Read some really fluffy chick lit.  Self-care does not have to be a spiritual journey! 

Reason 4:  We have unrealistic expectations about what self-care will do for us.

Solution:  Self-care is not a quick fix for all that ails you.  We need to maintain a regular self-care routine especially if we are feeling really stressed.  It is unrealistic to expect that a few minutes of an enjoyable activity is going to make a huge difference; however, over time, it may.  

Reason 5:  We wait for motivation to strike.  Once the motivation appears, we'll totally do it!

Solution: Um, no.  If we sit around waiting for motivation to magically appear and grace us with its presence, we could be waiting for a very, very long time.  Sometimes we just have to force ourselves to do something.  As the brilliant ad executives at Nike told us, "Just Do It."

Reason 6:  We mistake zoning out for self-care.

Solution: I love binge watching a show on Netflix as well, so definitely no judgement!  However, plopping in front of the TV for hours on end isn't necessarily self-care.  We get to escape and not do anything for awhile, but is it really recharging?  We need to balance our screen time (computers and tablets included) with activities that we actually have to engage with.

It can be really challenging to incorporate self-care into our lives, but it is so, so important.  Start small, with just a few minutes at a time, and see what happens for you.  It may take a few tries to find something that is a good fit for you.  It will be worth it though!