How to get over the guilt of self-care

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Prioritize Happiness
Last Monday, I woke up feeling a little “meh.” I had tons on my plate between clients, my upcoming program launch, and preparing for my trip home to Minneapolis, but I was feeling some resistance toward jumping into my super productive morning routine.

These days, I know that when that happens, it’s rarely for no reason.  When I feel “meh,” unmotivated, or run down, I know it’s because I haven’t been taking well enough care of myself.  I know what I need in those moments… SPACE.

So I did what I needed to do… I started the morning off nice and slow.  I meditated, did some pilates, journaled, made my favorite green superfood smoothie (click here for the recipe!), watched some news, and read.  I didn’t even start working until about 11am.  And it felt amazing.  As the morning went on, I felt more and more myself.  More and more taken care of.

But in the back of my mind (as well as the pit of my stomach), I had this aching feeling of guilt.  “But I have so much to do!” it insisted, “How can I justify wasting precious time like this?”

And there’s the clincher.  We all know we should be heeding the needs of our bodies and minds, but that guilty little voice just keeps getting in my way.  I see it every day with my clients, and that feeling just increases exponentially with the number of responsibilities that are on your plate.

School, work, kids, family, friends, even our fun social lives all end up taking precedence over our SELVES and our deepest needs.  And the second we think of putting ourselves first, we panic and guilt ourselves out of it.

I myself have been working through a little process of overcoming this guilt that I want to share with you.  Try it out and see how much more space you can create for yourself in your life!

1. Realize that you’re not being SELFISH.

A happier, calmer, more balanced you equals being more productive and less stressed out at work, being a better mother, partner, and friend, and makes you more able to take care of all the things in your life that require your attention.  Once you frame it that way, it’s a lot easier to see that you’re not being selfish by taking care of YOU, you’re just better equipping yourself to deal with what comes your way.

For me, this means reminding myself every day that I am a better counselor, a more moving wife, and a more productive entrepreneur in my business when I feel like I have the space to care for myself.  A happy me benefits everyone in my life!

2.  Take baby steps towards creating space.

You may not be able to go from stretched thin and overworked to taking the morning (or the whole day!) off to take care of yourself overnight.  Start small by creating little pockets of space for yourself.  Maybe it’s a long walk without your phone after lunch, or not checking your email after 7 or 8pm, or building 10 extra minutes into your morning for a mediation practice or some movement.

Resist the all or nothing mentality that can just keep you stuck in a rut.  The more space you create, the more you get used to the feeling and all it’s benefits, the less guilt you experience.

3. Notice the measurable impact.

Nothing kills off guilt like sound reason and justifications, right?  So make sure to notice, and even write down, the benefits you notice from your space-making.  Do you feel less annoyed by your coworkers on a day when you take time to meditate in the morning?  Are you more patient with your kids on a day when you took a long lunch and enjoyed some quiet time?  Are you more forgiving of your partner’s quirks after a night of staying in and rejuvenating yourself?

Making these connections is super important towards creating a new relationship to self-care.  Often times we feel great/happy/calm/connected, but don’t take the time to recognize what behaviors or choices contributed to our feeling that way!

For me, this means seeing how much more work I get done, and how much more I enjoy doing it, on days when I listen to what I need.

Share your experience with these steps and eliminating the guilt of self-care in the comments below!

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