I Don’t Have Time: You Are Either Engaging in Self-Care or Self-Neglect

by Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

We talk a lot about self-care. Here are three challenges that arise:

  1. What really is self-care?
  2. What if I don’t have time for self-care?
  3. What if I don’t value myself enough to prioritize self-care?

Here’s the truth: the opposite of self-care is self-neglect.

image of a woman sitting at the edge of a lake looking at a spectacular view of mountains in the distance practicing self-careLet’s dig into this further because, seriously, “self-care” may seem like a buzzword, but it’s vitally important we work to, at minimum, not neglect what we most need.

What is self-care anyway?

Self-care, at its most basic form, is the intentional practice of taking action to maintain or improve your physical, emotional, and mental health.

In other words, a no-brainer. And we do this every day, at least to some degree. It’s not a question of whether we practice self-care; it’s how often, what action we take, and whether we need to amp up those intentional actions.

What self-care are we supposed to prioritize?

If you practice anything on this list, even a little, you’re working on self-care. It also helps you to know that if you picked even one to try or do more of than you are doing now (e.g., get to bed 15 minutes earlier to get toward that 7-9 hours), you’re putting your well-being higher on the list.

  1. image of a man in a field meditating practicing self-careGet enough sleep: Research shows 7-9 hours of sleep significantly impacts physical and mental health.
  2. Eat healthily: Duh! We need a balanced diet (AKA: lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats)
  3. Exercise regularly: We need to engage in physical activity regularly, and the great news is, it’s whatever you enjoy (walking, running, yoga, regularly performing choreographed TikTok dances ;-] )
  4. Practice mindfulness: We can engage in meditation, deep breathing, or visualization (even doing the dishes and letting your mind wander apparently counts!)
  5. Get outside: Spending time in nature can improve mood and reduce stress. [Read my post about some research on “awe”.]
  6. Connect with others: Who are your “people” – family, friends, club members, besties at work, fellow volunteers – and how can you spend more time with them?
  7. Take breaks: Even small breaks to rest and recharge help, especially when you do something you enjoy and find relaxing
  8. Set boundaries: It seems hard to put our finger on, but boundaries can be as small as saying “no” more and prioritizing your needs
  9. Practice self-compassion: The bottom line is this: don’t think or say something about yourself you wouldn’t say to a bestie. Instead, recognize your strengths, accomplishments and the fact you’re doing the best you can.
  10. Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends, family, or a professional if you need support or guidance. In fact, have a “trusted advisor” group already keyed up and ready to help, challenge and guide you when you need it.

What if I don’t value myself enough to prioritize self-care?

image of an open book with a pen laying on the book, reading glasses folded above the book and the page reads Take care of yourself with a heart below the writingWe can all agree; we know we must do the things on this list. No one would deny that someone deserves that; however, when it comes to giving this to ourselves, we tend to make it more conditional (after work, once I have caught up on the bills, when the kids go to bed, on vacation…)

Here’s the truth: the opposite of self-care is self-neglect.

Would you neglect someone who depended on you? Your kids, clients, colleagues? You sure would try to do everything in your power not to! So why would neglecting ourselves be more acceptable than neglecting others?

Self-neglect involves neglecting one’s own physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

The easiest self-neglect to spot? Here are four:

  1. Ignoring physical health needs, such as not getting enough sleep, not eating healthy foods, or not getting enough exercise. Your body is what allows you to perform. Your car cannot run on fumes; eventually, it won’t get you where you want to go. Physical needs are table stakes. They’re not optional.
  2. Ignoring emotional needs, such as not expressing feelings, not seeking support when needed, or not engaging in activities that bring joy or pleasure. If someone were melting down before you, you wouldn’t ignore them, would you? Yet how often are we emotionally spent and ignore it, or worse, judge it as wrong, bad, and unjustified?
  3. Engaging in self-destructive behaviours, such as substance abuse or risky behaviours. This is beyond my expertise. If you’re worried about the choices you’ve been making to cope, you deserve someone to help you. You are not your choices; these behaviours come from something. Address this, and more self-compassion can follow.
  4. Prioritizing the needs of others over one’s own needs, to the point of neglecting oneself. You may think you’re doing the world a favour by putting work, family, friends, society, and more first, but if everyone is focused externally on what others need, who is focusing inward? Might we be all heading straight for an iceberg?

‘Have to’ or ‘get to’?

image of a sign that reads self-care is the new health careHave to practice self-care or get to practice self-care? Self-neglect may not have gotten its claws into you yet, so let’s not let these things go unaddressed, as it could lead to harmful negative consequences down the road (and these days, those roads don’t seem to be very long).

If you are worried about your own or others’ physical and emotional exhaustion, burnout, and stress, it’s time to think about what can be done and, more importantly, why it must be done.

Want to lean into this conversation as a team? Reach out to us. We would be honoured to help you recognize the greatness in yourself and others, and honouring self-care is key to this.

Here are more yummy ideas to help you practice self-care:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

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