Developing a self-care routine—in order to make the switch from putting yourself dead last, to putting yourself first—can be difficult. As you add self-care into your routine, you may experience post self-care guilt. It’s a sinking feeling that you are being selfish, or neglecting priorities that you feel are more important than taking care of yourself. It can be especially hard if you have a very stretched schedule or a lot of people depending on you. When we try and schedule down time or have a “Me Party”—and in the back of our minds all the negative thoughts of “I don’t have time for this” or “I could be doing [blank] come up—we need to employ some guilt busting tactics to combat that feeling.
Often, the post self-care guilt comes from internal guilt of feeling like we are not enough.The internal guilt is reinforced by external commentary, making it very hard to ignore it. The outside world rewards and praises people who get it all done, even if it’s at the expense of the health and well-being. If you have ever disappointed someone, forgot an important obligation, or been guilted by someone for not living up to expectations, you know what I’m talking about.
Self-care is actually the ultimate form of helping others. Taking care of ourselves’ first allows us to help others more fully with a compassionate heart. When we are doing something out of joy rather than obligation we are better at it. If we volunteer to help someone and we have taken time for self-care we are much more able to make a positive difference in the world, it’s better for everyone. If we end up helping someone out of obligation, or if we really do not have the time to help, it can make the event difficult and frustrating for everyone. Humans are highly sensitive beings, and even if someone does not express it, they can feel it when we are not giving from a full heart. That’s how resentment starts.
For example, your friend asks you to help them move. The time conflicts with some planned down time, you decided to “re-schedule” your down time and help your friend. Meanwhile, you haven’t had anytime to yourself this week, you are stressed out and tired, and need some time to regenerate your own energy. You decided to plowing through the move and help to get it done. But ultimately, you are drained, grumpy and resentful. Your mind might start to recall all the things your friend has not helped you with. On your way home, you feel like you wasted a day and are upset because they probably won’t help you move when the time comes.
Now, what would happen if you had said “No, I can’t help you move.” Yes, there might be some guilt that comes up initially upon saying”No” helping your friend paint next weekend instead. If you say “No” and then spend the day practicing self-care, you might end up with some post self-care guilt. The feeling is completely normal and below I list a few ways to combat it.
- Turn guilt into gratitude. Next time you feel guilty after practicing self-care, repeat to yourself, “I’m human, just like everyone else.” Remembering this simple phrase can do wonders to the internal dialogue that keeps guilt alive. Your friend may need your help, but do they want your resentment too?
- Tell the other person. You might reach out to your friend and let them know you are feeling guilty for not helping them out. Have an open dialogue, and if they are a good friend, they should understand
- Accept that people may be mad at you. What others think about you is none of your business. If you tell a friend you cannot help them, and choose self-care instead, they should understand. Most of our friends are more forgiving of us than we are of ourselves. And if they are not, get new friends!
- Journal. I love to write. (Duh, you’re reading my weekly blog!) It is very therapeutic and helps to formulate precisely what’s going on. Write down why you are feeling guilty. Think of all the contributing factors. Maybe someone in your early life always made you feel guilty if you did not give them exactly what they wanted from you. Can you see a pattern?
- Healthy guilt v. unhealthy guilt. Feeling guilty because you decided to take care of yourself instead of helping a friend move is a good example of unhealthy guilt. You didn’t do anything wrong. You are not harming anyone and you didn’t promise to help months ago and are backing out of a commitment. Even if that was the case, you should not feel guilty. People who love us—who want or need our help—would not accept it if they knew it was making life difficult on us. Try to identify what type of guilt you are feeling. By examining the type of guilt you’re feeling, work on alleviating it.
- Plan more self-care. It turns out that the solution to feeling guilty about taking care of yourself, comes from not taking care of yourself! It’s a practice. You may need to over-saturate yourself with self-care, tender words, and alone time for awhile so that it can start to feel normal for you. You have our permission to over-indulge in taking care of yourself, especially if you are feeling guilty about it. If you feel like you are getting away with something, or you feel like you are being selfish, it is because self-care is not your normal pattern and it will feel awkward at first. Keep at it!
It’s not uncommon to feel guilty post self-care. Messages we receive from society tell us we are more valuable if we are helping others, if we are holding down the fort, or if we are the perfect Moms—and that is the root of the problem. No one is perfect. There is no standard to live up to. If you have a packed schedule,are stressed out to the max, and are in desperate need of self-care, stop what you are doing and go get some. It fixes the problems! The best part of self-care is if you are focused on taking care of you, and I am focused on taking care of me, when we interact or ask one another for help, we are able to give it from an open and full heart. And that help will be received with an open and full-of-gratitude heart. It makes giving and receiving a positive and healthy exchange.