Research Reveals Why Your Self-Care Routine Doesn’t Work

self-care

We know it’s important to take care of ourselves but few of us do it consistently. Even though we realize the perks of storing up our energy, feeling balanced, and taking good care of our bodies, we ditch the very things that get us these perks when life gets busy. How then, can we make our self-care routine a habit, once and for all? I just might have the answer. 

Thank you, Jared Rice from Unsplash for this awesome picture!

self-care

Research Reveals Why Your Self Care Routine Doesn’t Work

On the famous Parks and Rec TV series, there were two characters, Tom and Donna, who would occasionally have Treat Yo Self Days. They would hire a limo, go on lavish shopping sprees, and just generally shower themselves with all sorts of treats and luxuries. The best part about Treat Yo Self Days was that that they OWNED this – there wasn’t an ounce of gilt or hesitation or thoughts that they were spending too much money. (Of course, they were totally were going overboard! It’s TV, after all!)

I think the real-life version of most people’s Treat Yo Self Day’s looks more like a crazy rush out the door to grab a massage or to meet friends for dinner. It involves changing who puts the kids to bed or missing one soccer game so you can sleep in when you don’t feel well.

It’s not quite the TV version but it can still feel a bit luxurious to schedule and spend money and time on ourselves. After all, women – mothers or caregivers especially – spend their lives thinking about what others need and most of us put ourselves way down on the bottom of the to-take-care-of list.

And when we do take time for ourselves, we don’t have the attitude of Donna and Tom from Parks and Rec. Seldom do we OWN it – and often – if we’re honest with ourselves – it’s easy for us to feel guilty spending time and money on ourselves – spending time away from the house, our kids, and our work.

How we justify self-care

Since we feel guilty when we do take care our ourselves, we justify the hell out of it. We justify taking the time for ourselves so that we can give to others. In other words, taking care of ourselves should have a benefit for someone other than ourselves.

Taking care of ourselves is still wrapped up with other people. 

Well, you know what? I read a quote by Chloe Jun recently that summarizes how I feel about that:

Things are called shit for a reason, dear.

Yep, I’m calling that mindset shit.

You deserve to take good care of yourself – no strings attached

Here’s the deal.

Each of us has the right to take care of ourselves. To really and truly nurture ourselves. You may not take a limo to the mall and buy yourself a diamond necklace but taking care of yourself in legit ways is your right, not just something you do so you are good for others.

You take care of yourself because you have value. You take care of yourself because you love yourself. You take care of yourself because you are worthy.

The only justification you need for self-care is self-love. Period.

To make self-care a routine – it must be combined with self-love

Research shows that women seldom stick with self-nurturing practices. They become every-now-and-again events instead of a way of life. And that’s a mistake.

Just like making regular deposits into your bank account is a better strategy than making those deposits occassionally, nurturing yourself on a habitual basis is better than just getting a facial once a year for your birthday.

Life takes a lot from us and it’s easy to become burnt out and exhausted if we don’t continually replenish ourselves. We must commit to daily practices that feed our mind, body, and souls if we want to feel good.

By incorporating daily activities you are always making deposits into your YOU account. That means that when daily life requires withdrawals, you are able to handle those better. But taking care of yourself also implies that you are worth time, energy, and money. Which is most certainly true.

So if routine self-nurturing is important but women seldom do it, what’s the answer?

Seriously, self-love?

Preliminary research has revealed the answer. Self-nurturing alone isn’t enough. In order for these habits to stick, they need to be combined {maybe even motivated by} self-love.

I’d argue that most of us aren’t so good at self-love – either because we never think about it or because we’ve spent so many years being critical of ourselves – but it turns out that we can’t get around the whole self-love thing. 

According to Revolutionary Approach to Overcoming Inner Resistance To Caring For Oneself on Thrive Global, Stefan Deutsch, NYS certified Psychotherapist says:

Love is literally nourishment like air, food, and water — which is why we feel so deprived when we don’t get it.

In Deutsch’s opinion, we have a few things to learn about how to love ourselves. He lists these three things as the first steps to self-love:

  1. People need to know that self-love is as basic and normal as eating and drinking
  2. People need to know how to do it well
  3. People need to become self-sufficient at loving  ourselves – it should come as naturally to us as eating

So if we want to love and take care of ourselves,  a good start is to view self-love as foundational – not as something we label narcissistic or selfish.

The self-love practice will allow us to make self-nurturing a real habit. 

Self-love and self-nurturing are just different sides of the same coin.

Taking care of yourself 101

So then, how do you do the whole self-love thing? How do you actively practice this? A quick Google search will yield tons of answers but let’s keep it simple: 

To love yourself 

  1. Be still – Sit with the fact that you have value just because you exist.
  2. Frequent reminders – Each time you do something for yourself, do it with a softness, and remind yourself that you are worth taking care of.
  3. Practice makes perfect – Practice this day-in-day-out.
  4. Get inspired – Read this article from Psychology Today about loving yourself for a bit of motivation.

The same goes for self-nurturing. There are endless fun and creative ways to Treat Yo Self but some of the most important ways are basics that admittedly don’t sound as fun as a day at the spa. Things like: 

To nurture yourself

  1. Practice the Big Five – Exercise, Sleep, Water, Healthy Eating, and a Positive Mindset are must’s. It’s easy to dismiss these because they sound so boring and basic, but once you get in the habit of doing these consistently, you’ll realize how powerful they really are. Then you can move on to the icing activities.
  2. Speak Kindly –  Your words/thoughts have so much power – whether you say them out loud or run through them in your head. Do the words you speak and the thoughts you think leave room for growth and joy or do they reinforce negative beliefs and things you don’t want to happen? If you speak and think in unhealthy ways, it is impossible to feel good.

Loving and nurturing ourselves is a never-ending process but if you commit to practicing both of these skills – you will start to feel differently and will be able to handle the daily stresses of life better. You will find yourself more resilient, less burnt out and in a state of thriving, not simply surviving.

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