Over-Stressed and Overwhelmed — We're Not Taking Care Of Ourselves

Why Is Self Care So Hard?

Part 1 in a Series: Over-Stressed and Overwhelmed: We’re Not Taking Care of Ourselves

Recently, my husband and I were both ill — fortunately, not at the same time. When he became ill, I took time off from work, without thinking twice. I rescheduled my clients. I kept him company while he was in the hospital, and I brought him take-out food so he didn’t have to eat the gross food from the cafeteria.

Stress and overwhelm when we don't use self-care

After he was discharged from the hospital, I got sick. I had stomach pains that kept me up all night and lasted for three days. It was hard to eat, my body ached, I was exhausted, and I felt terrible.

If someone had asked me what I’d do if I got sick, I’m sure I would say, “I’d take time off to care for myself.” But that’s not what I did. I went to work! I suffered through the first two days, feeling miserable. I’m sure I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by being there and feeling terrible.

Only after I’d struggled through the week, and gone to see my doctor, did I ask myself why I didn’t take better care of myself. How is it I that can tell my clients how important self-care is, yet I can’t stay home when I’m sick?

I talked to a friend who offered her own example. She noted that her intentions were always good, and at times she made self-care a priority. For her, that meant doing yoga every day. But as life her got busier, more stressful and overwhelming, her daily yoga became weekly yoga, and now she said she struggles to fit that in. 

Why do we find it so hard to care for ourselves? Why, when we need it the most — when we’re stressed, burdened and overwhelmed — does self-care go to the bottom of the list, particularly for so many women? I struggled to answer these questions, so I asked a few therapists and healers for their thoughts. This is the first in a series of posts with their insights into the importance of self-care, why women struggle with self-care and how to take better care of ourselves.

Why Is Self-Care Important?

Take time for yourself

When asked about the benefits of self-care, more than person has said to me, ‘They tell you to put on your oxygen own mask before helping the person next to you for a reason.”  If we aren’t caring for ourselves then what good are we to the people in our lives whom we care about?

Read what my colleagues have to say about why self-care matters so much:

“Self Care is important to me because I don't do it enough and I really hate the consequence of that. As a helper, healer, and hopeful - I am wired to support, give to and guide others. Which means, all that giving does two things:

  1. Leaves little or no room for receiving
  2. Reminds me of my purpose

These two things don't sound astronomically horrible, but as a woman, I struggle to hold space for both. I try and remind myself that setting myself on fire just to provide light to others is not the best way to live.”

Robyn D’Angelo, LMFTThe Happy Couple ExpertLaguna, CA,

“I used to think self-care was important because I can't be a good wife and mother if I am not taking care of myself. Now I realize that I deserve to have my own needs met just so I can be a healthy and happy human being, aside from my roles of caretaking for others as a mother, wife and therapist. I am worthy of love and attention just simply because I'm alive, and I have needs that must be met so I can function.”

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C, Therapy Chat Severna Park, MD

“Self-care is an activity or practice that gives to us rather than takes from us. It may give us a time to rest, a time to connect with ourselves, a time to invest in our own physical and emotional well-being. Self-care is the fuel for our coping tank.”

Agnes Wainman, Ph.D., C. Psych., London Psychological Services, London, Ontario

My next post will examine why women seem to have a hard time making self-care a priority. If you’d like help managing your stress and making self-care a greater priority in your life, call me for a free 15-minute consultation at 410-340-8469.

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC is an Annapolis Counselor who works to help people manage their stress and anxiety. She owns and operates Progression Counseling in Annapolis.

Photos by: Elizabeth Lies & Drew Coffman- unsplash.com