Guilt and Self Care

Jun. 25th, 2018

Many of us know that self-care is an important thing when it comes to maintaining good mental health. What self-care actually is can be confusing and vary drastically from person to person. A good example is a more extroverted person might need to work hard so they socialize enough while a more introverted person might need to work hard to ensure they don’t over socialize.

If a person engaging in self-care feels guilty about doing so, the results will be far, far less effective. In my experience it might as well have not even happened. And there’s a distinct difference between feeling guilt about caring for oneself and engaging in a “guilty pleasure”. Although I don’t entirely agree with the term, I do recognize that lots of us would prefer it if we could engage in certain activities, ones we deem “greater than”, to gain benefit, rather than say watching 10 minutes of funny cat videos to lift our spirits. And when we choose the cat videos, we shame ourselves for this "guilty pleasure". I see no point in that shame.

But I digress.

Guilt poisons relaxation time. All those “should”s and “just”s and “ought to”s steal the benefit from time we intend to be nourishing us so we can be our best selves and live our best lives.

So what can be done? I have two suggestions.

First let me say that dealing with guilt isn’t simple. There are many people with such old hurts that no blog post will change how they are able to view things. Anyone feeling this way, I would strongly recommend seeing a therapist about those ingrained beliefs to look into changing them.

Guilt buster #1: The humble timer

One of the things that steal our enjoyment is that moment when we are on a break and want to make sure we don’t run over time. So we check the clock. That has interrupted the rest and not rendered it entirely useless, but has put an unnecessary dent in it. Setting a timer every time a break is started is a good way to reclaim those restful minutes.

How to convince ourselves to get back to work after the timer goes off is a whole other problem that is so multi-faceted that I am becoming convinced needs to be unique to every person, maybe even every situation.

Guilt buster #2: 15 minutes guilt-free self-care

Even if nothing else in the day is guilt free and self-care (and I very much hope that sleep, eating, and personal hygiene are also on the list of guilt-free self-care), setting aside just 15 minutes to engage in some self-care is a habit I am extremely fond of. It is such a small investment of time, but it can have huge ripples in impact in life.

Again, the how part is unique to every person because the things that interfere (or that we imagine will interfere) are unique to every person.

What role does self-care, or guilt, play in your life?