When you practice self-care, you can more effectively take care of others. This is no secret. It is not groundbreaking information. Everybody has heard this in one form or another at some point. It may be cliché, but things become cliché for a reason. And in this case, the reason is that it works.
Giving requires resources. The best caregivers have resources that are not only effective but also abundant. When resources are effective, they optimize the time needed for positive giving. When resources are abundant, they optimize the longevity of the ability to give. In a perfect version of the world, resources would never run out. But as far as I know, we do not live in that version of the world.
When it comes to being someone who is a giver in a healthy way, the most necessary resource is energy; the energy to be there for your partner during tough times, the energy to wake up earlier each and every day to help your kids get ready for school, the energy to throw a surprise birthday party for your closest friend. Without this energy, the overwhelming feeling of burnout kicks in. At this point, the ability to give is neither effective nor abundant.
So where does this energy come from?
This energy comes from someone who has their needs met and sometimes even more. This energy comes from someone who is able to take care of themselves first so that they have the means to take care of others. This is not to be confused with being selfish. Selfish is doing something for yourself at the expense of someone else. For instance; stealing money from a bank and getting away with it would be not only illegal but also an act of selfishness. Theoretically, this person now has more resources for themselves and could potentially give more, but this person also harmed others along the way by taking from their bank accounts in the process. This is not the quality of a healthy giver.
On the other hand, this does not mean everyone should start being self-less. Being selfless is doing something for others at the expense of yourself. For example, taking a bullet for someone is an act of selflessness. It is bold, noble, brave, heroic, and sometimes very necessary. But acts of selflessness are not sustainable and should not be the approach for giving on a regular basis. How many bullets can you take before you are no longer able to be there for those that need you?
What does Self-Care Look Like?
Self Care can be different things to different people. But in general, the below points is a great place to start;
- Having dedicated “me” time
- Staying physically mobile
- Consuming colorful whole foods as a staple in the diet
- Practicing positive sleep hygiene habits
- Has a positive social support network set in place
So if it’s not being selfish and it’s not being selfless, then what is it? At Hilton Head Health we sometimes refer to this concept as Self-Full. So, someone who practices self-care and is emotionally and physically well as a byproduct. This is the person who not only takes care of themselves but can also effectively be there for others. Not only can this person be helpful today, but their personalized system of self-care allows them to continue to be helpful and giving for the long haul.