How To Practice Self-Care Without Feeling Guilty

Whether you’re a parent, a city high-flier, a hard-working student (or maybe you’re even all three!), it’s often impossible to carve out some time for ourselves.

When we do carve out time for ourselves, there seems to be a really shit culture that we should feel bad for being what’s perceived as ‘self-indulgent’. This can then put us off any form of self-care, because of course, the ensuing guilt we feel afterwards ultimately negates the act of self-care in the first place, causing it to get further and further down the list of priorities.

Sometimes it’s because we feel that we should be utilising that spare time to spend more time with the kids; perhaps you feel like you don’t spend enough time with them as it is, or maybe when you take that all-important break from work, you spend your day off thinking about what you didn’t complete before you left, or worrying about what you’ll come back into, or maybe your uni assignment due in is hanging over your head..?

One of my favourite sayings is ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. To me, this means that you just simply can’t give anything you’re all, if you’re not feeling all yourself. If I’m anxious, or stressing about work or similar, I’m not really present in the moment, and I think that’s what you have to remind yourself of when you start to get the guilts about taking time to be look after yourself; the idea that this is an indulgence is where we’re falling down; it’s an important part of feeling our best.

You have to change your focus from thinking of this time as selfish – what’s selfish is to only give half of yourself to the things you think are important; you deserve to enjoy being present, and you deserve to be able to give yourself wholly to what ever it is you’re doing. You don’t expect a plant to flower immediately; you put it near the light, somewhere warm, you water it, you make sure it’s rooted in the right soil, and wait patiently for it to flower, once it’s in an environment where it can do so.

So next time you decide not to have that bath with your book, because you think you’re better off staying in the office until past 8pm, ask yourself when you’ll do the better job: when you’re tired, stressed and at the end of a long day? Or, if you go home, have a bath, read your book, call a friend, have a glass of wine and a slab of chocolate as big as your head, get a great night’s sleep and get in the next day to undertake the task feeling contented and well rested?

It’s a hard internal – and external – narrative to change, but I’ve found turning it on it’s head like this really helps – and the same goes for those small little acts of self-care we all need to indulge in from time to time. For example when we commit to a week of no drinking, but have a slight slip up. Or when we promise ourselves we’ll get to the gym for six am but snooze the alarm to sleep in a little longer because we’re tired. We seem to spend so much time punishing ourselves for things that can be easily remedied the next day.

Guilt is something hugely ingrained in us; you’re supposed to look like a model (thanks, media!), but you’re not supposed to be showy about the way you look. You’re supposed to be a stay-at-home Mum, but you shouldn’t be because you should be a high-powered career woman. You’re supposed to stick to a certain diet, which involves setting aside a few hours every night to cook from scratch, although if you land yourself a Hello Fresh subscription you’re still doing things the lazy way – It’s even rammed down our throats when we log on to Pinterest; “Start today so you don’t regret tomorrow!” “What are you waiting for?”  and on and on the list goes; it seems you can’t do right for doing wrong these days.

We need to stop this; the next time you’re hesitating about getting that early night, or cancelling those plans because you need some time to yourself, actively acknowledge the fact you’re feeling guilty and then remind yourself why you want to do these things; so that you can be at your best self the next day after a full-night’s sleep, remind yourself that you want to be all-present with friends… that ultimately, you’ll do a better job at what you’re turning your hand to when you feel more fulfilled in yourself.

Let’s stamp out this micro-stigma of feeling guilty for doing the things that help make us feel like ourselves. It’s time to feel good about feeling good.

 

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. February 17, 2019 / 14:41

    Some really great tips! I always feel as if I can’t just stop and relax, without doing anything as I always feel guilty like I should be doing something productive but it’s such a bad mindset to have xx

    Gemma • Gemma Etc . ❤️

  2. February 18, 2019 / 09:12

    I agree with everything in this post. I totally understand why people love the motivational quotes, no day but today etc, and I get that they can be inspiring, but also can really make you feel guilty, like you shouldn’t put things off. As a Mum, when I get the odd bit of time to myself, I feel like I need to tidy/clean/write/exercise etc, do SOMETHING, even if I really want to have a nap, I feel like that’s wasting time, even if actually, its just what I need. It’s a hard thing to change, and you’re right, it’s an internal mindset that I think has been drilled into to many people.
    Hels xxx

  3. Jenny in Neverland
    February 18, 2019 / 17:36

    Amazing post! I’ve always struggled with “me time”. If I do anything remotely un-productive, I always feel guilty and feel like I’m wasting my time where I could be doing something productive which is helping me towards my goals. I have to remind myself that there’s more to life that hitting goals every day haha! But I’ve really worked on that the last year or so and always find the time for some self care. I do Yoga every single day (if I can) and that’s always a great act of self care for me because it’s my “thing”. I have no one disturbing me. I’m in my own space, safe on my mat and it feels amazing.

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

  4. February 18, 2019 / 18:02

    I love this post! I used to feel super guilty for taking some time out to myself, but last year, I realised I had to change the way I thought to avoid burning out constantly. It got so bad that I literally had to take a week away from freelancing because I didn’t have the mental energy to continue with it, and I had started hating what I did. Like you said, taking the time to make sure you’re well rested and feeling good in yourself makes you feel so much more productive and better able to handle tasks than if you keep pushing through, long past the point where exhaustion has set in. We all need the reminder that self care isn’t selfish or something we should feel guilty about, though, so thank you for sharing!

    Rebekah Gillian | https://rebekahgillian.co.uk

  5. February 18, 2019 / 19:08

    This is such a fantastic post! I agree, self care is something we should be doing without feeling guilty. I’ve noticed that when I’m constantly ‘doing’ I start making silly mistakes and just lose my motivation. Taking some time out, even if it is just for a quick walk, cup of tea or listening to a few of my favourite songs always makes me feel better. Having a bath at the end of the day is my favourite treat. I loved your suggestions, especially having ‘a slab of chocolate as big as your head’, that is definitely my kinda chocolate bar, ha ha! Great post Kate, thanks for sharing! <3 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

  6. February 18, 2019 / 19:36

    I love this! I’m awful for not letting myself enjoy my down time because I feel there are other things that I should be doing. I love the “pouring from an empty cup” saying – that’s definitely going to be one I adopt! Great post.

  7. February 18, 2019 / 20:43

    YES! Sometimes it really is hard to have a bit of ‘me-time’ as there is usually so much to do throughout the day – but you make a good point that people love to judge how other people are living their own lives which can then ultimately make someone never want to care about their own self-care because of the opinions of others.

    One thing that I always have in the back of my mind when I am doing something for myself (whether that be reading a book, watching a film, starting a new show (rare occasion haha) )is that I could be doing XYZ instead.

    I absolutely love this line: ‘you just simply can’t give anything your all, if you’re not feeling all yourself.’ If you aren’t feeling your 100% self then how are you going to give your 100% to something? Although we may prefer to stay doing something at work until the late hours of the night, the best thing for us is to rest and come back the next day with a fresh mind + a bit more energy in the morning. Without taking breaks to invest in yourself, I’d say that’s the quickest way to burnout.

    You make such a good point with the media (in the traditional sense as well as social media) – it’s like everywhere is telling us ~who~ we should be but not realizing that it’s not a one size fits all type-of-thing. People have a lot of different interests and different schedules that they include what they can into it. Although sometimes the ‘start today so you don’t regret tomorrow!’ can be motivational, at times it can be like please stop and just let me live my own life without some sort of slogan thrown at me everywhere I scroll.

    I personally feel guilty taking time to myself, but it’s a process! Great post!

    Sahara
    http://saharas-dreams.blogspot.com

  8. February 19, 2019 / 00:33

    Self-care is so important. We need to take care of ourselves especially when we’re grinding things out. It can be a bit hard thinking it’s selfish but at the end of the day, you’re helping yourself and it can benefit others along the way. At the same time, others should want you to be 100% as well. Thanks for sharing the positivity!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

  9. February 19, 2019 / 17:26

    This is absolutely brilliant, Kate. You are so right, self-care is not selfish and it’s time we started recognising that. I’m forever feeling guilty about not spending enough time with Flora and Alan. And when I do, more often than not, I’m checking my phone every few hours, to respond to messages. Being self-employed is hard but your post has reminded me why I chose to go down this route in the first place: to be able to spend more time with my family. Just a small mindset adjustment can open up a whole new way of approaching things. Thank you. I really needed to read this. xx

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

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