Love shouldn’t hurt -ever

Put Some Gas in Your Tank
by Teresia Smith

In the past year or two, there’s been a huge increase in videos, articles, and tons of memes on social media about practicing self-care. But, what exactly is self-care, how can we practice self-care, and how can we make sure what we choose is actually helpful and not harmful?

Morgan Turner, a licensed independent clinical social worker describes self-care as “the necessity to do things that are good for our physical, emotional or psychological well-being.” In other words, it’s doing something that helps your body, mind or soul feel good. For some, it can be as simple as taking care of your physical health by going on a walk, cooking healthy meals, practicing good sleep habits, or simply blocking out time to get a shower each day. For others, it can mean attending to your mental health needs by practicing daily meditation sessions, or meeting your social needs by engaging in a hobby you enjoy or simply making time to chat and connect with friends.

There’s no one right way to practice self-care — it will be different depending on what you like and what you need. For some people who tend to become overextended, their self-care may be giving themselves permission to say no to more activities. For others, it may be allowing themselves to distance from an unhealthy relationship. Self-care is adaptable and what works for one may not meet the needs of another. A lack of self-care may result in burnout and an increase in anxious feelings. Instead, taking small, mindful steps to incorporate some form of self-care into your daily life will help you stay balanced.
When can something we may think is self-care actually be harmful to us? If you find yourself guzzling a bottle of wine in one sitting trying to relax, or if you find distraction from your problems by buying more things in a shopping spree than you can truly afford, or not going to work telling yourself you deserve days off, you may want to examine these behaviors for the negative consequences they will bring, such as a massive hangover and maxed out credit cards with high interest, and job loss. These activities may bring fleeting feelings of happiness in the moment, but there will be a price to pay. True self-care activities are supposed to make you feel better but not result in harm. “Things like overspending or drinking too much are avoidance strategies that prevent you from having emotions for a certain period of time, and there is a negative consequence or impact once that avoidance activity is over,” Turner explains. “Self-care, on the other hand, makes you feel healthier, happier and more empowered as a consequence.”

We all have limits and by taking care of ourselves, we are enabled to keep going. If we don’t practice recuperative activities from time to time, we burn out. Think of self-care like putting fuel in a car. You fill up your tank and hit the road. You drive and drive and as you do, the gas hand indicates less and less fuel. If you stop occasionally and refill the tank, you will never run out of gas. Just as a car doesn’t run on an empty tank, neither do you function as well when your tank nears empty. When we allow ourselves to reach burnout without refilling, we feel the negative effects, such as poor sleep quality, increase in anxiety and depression, and irritability. These things all make it harder to do basic tasks, which in turn lead to even more stress. Bottom line, healthy self-care activities are vital. We have to think of life as a marathon and not a sprint, pacing ourselves so we can finish the race.

Everyone needs to practice healthy self-care. Those who have experienced sexual assault and intimate partner violence especially need healthy self-care. Sometimes that can mean just having a safe, confidential place to talk through feelings. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free services to survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. You may reach our Jackson County office at 256.574.5826 for an appointment. We also offer a 24/7 HELPline where you can speak with trained crisis counselors at 256.716.1000. Make yourself a priority. You are not alone.

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