Why Self-Care isn’t Always the Answer

What Is Self-Care?

Self-care promotes our wellbeing in a holistic way. It’s subjective and personal to the individual. What you consider self-care may not be self-care for someone else. It depends on our life experiences and individual needs, but usually involves doing things to enhance our emotional, physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing.

Despite the popular narrative, self-care isn’t all about facemasks and fancy bubble baths (although for some, it can be just that). Self-care can be setting boundaries with people, being assertive and expressing our needs and feelings. It can be intentionally learning and practising self-compassion. It can be saying no instead of just agreeing with what others want to do. In other words, self-care is about taking care of yourself in a way that works for you.

Why Is It Important?

When we engage in self-care, we are doing things that help us live well and improve our physical and mental health. This can help us build emotional resilience, manage stress, lower the risk of illness, and increase energy. Self-care isn’t selfish. It has an important role to play in learning to value ourselves and prioritise our own needs and feelings.

Sounds Great, What’s the Catch?

Self-care seems simple, but the reality can be very different. If you spend any time on social media, you’ll probably have been bombarded with suggestions of things you can do to look after yourself. I know I have! That’s all well and good if you find self-care easy and accessible, but lots of people don’t. There’s a multitude of reasons this might be the case, but it often links back to past experiences, especially during our early lives.

Popular forms of self-care may not be enough for people who have experienced lots of trauma. The usual ‘quick fixes’ like taking a hot bath, lighting a scented candle, or drinking a nice cup of hot chocolate just won’t work. If your difficulties are deep within your nervous system, you might need to do more to soothe and regulate yourself. Learning how to do this and employing the right strategies when you need them can be really exhausting. For many, it can feel easier not to try.

Our capacity for self-care also changes throughout our lives. Although I would argue it’s when we need it most, self-care becomes harder when we have children. Not only do we have less opportunity while parenting, it’s also common to prioritise caring for your children over yourself.

5 Common Barriers to Self-Care

Sometimes self-care feels like yet another thing on a never-ending to-do list. Not making time for self-care, and therefore never ticking it off this list, can feel like failing. But there are lots of reasons you might be finding it hard to prioritise your own needs.

  1. You Struggle to Put Yourself First

Many of us struggle to put ourselves first. This is especially true for mothers as we’re led to believe our children should come before everything else, including our own health and wellbeing. This is a toxic narrative that can get in the way of us implementing our own self-care.

  1. You’ve Experienced Childhood Trauma

In my work with clients who have experienced childhood trauma, I often find they struggle to make time for themselves more than most. By overcompensating for their childhood and constantly trying to be better and do better than their parents/caregivers, they spend so much time trying to meet their children’s needs, they end up neglecting their own.

  1. You’ve Never Learned How

For some, implementing self-care is a normal part of life. It’s likely they’ve been taught to look after themselves and prioritise self-care. They may have had it modelled to them by their own parents/caregivers, so it becomes second nature to them. If this wasn’t the case for you, it’s likely you’ll find it more difficult to engage in your own self-care. It may be that you’ve learnt to be excessively self-reliant because you haven’t had a reliable person in your life. As a result, you may also struggle to ask for help or trust others to provide it.

  1. You Can’t Ignore Your Critical Voice

Another barrier to self-care is self-blame and criticism. Thoughts like ‘you don’t deserve good things’ or ‘you should be able to cope without needing to attend to your needs’ can prevent us from engaging in vital activities that would lighten the load of life and motherhood.

  1. You’re Navigating Practical Barriers to Self-Care

Single parents or people who have limited support around them also have to navigate practical barriers to self-care. This includes things like not having a reliable person to look after your children so you can look after yourself.

How Therapy Can Help

As you can see, there are many positives to self-care but there can also be many barriers to implementing it. Some people need the help of a therapist to understand the unhelpful patterns preventing them from putting their needs first. For example, Schema Therapy can help you understand the role of unmet needs from your childhood and how they may be affecting your view of the world and the way you live your life.

As your therapist, it’s my job to look after you as you learn to look after yourself. My work is guided by the belief that one of the best things we can do as parents is prioritise our own mental health. When we look after ourselves and learn to meet our own needs, or lean on others to help us do so, we are more equipped for the challenges and stresses of motherhood. We are also more able to meet the needs of our children when our own needs are being met. And self-care is a NEED.

Find Out More

Do you recognise any of the barriers to self-care described above? If you need help overcoming them and you’re interested in working with me, you can book a free consultation here. I also share lots of tips and advice via Instagram.

Useful Links

Understanding Your Critical Voice

What It Means to Be a Generational Cycle Breaker

Unhelpful Coping Strategies Explained

Why Mothers Need Mothering






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