Are you feeling overwhelmed? Exhausted? Do you feel like life needs more from you than you have to give? When was the last time you asked yourself, “What do I need?”
This is the first step in self-care.
You might have to do some work to change your ideas about self-care. This is not about pedicures and a night out. This is about what you NEED. Basic self-care is about attending to your primary needs—food, water, shelter, rest.
We know when a baby feels a need (they are hungry, cold, tired, need a diaper change) because they communicate that need by crying. When the caregiver takes action to meet that need (change the diaper), the child’s need is met. We know when the need is satisfied because the baby relaxes as does the caregiver. Amazingly enough, not only is the need satisfied but the bond between the baby and the caregiver grows as the baby learns to trust itself and the caregiver to meet future needs. Self-care for an adult-human is communicating your actual needs to yourself and taking appropriate action to meet those needs. This is how we develop trust and confidence in ourselves.
Sometimes my feelings try to hi-jack my needs. I feel like I am not worthy or I feel like I don’t matter to anyone else. I am beginning to realize this happens when I neglect my own needs. When I skip over my own basic needs and rush to secondary needs, I communicate to myself that I do not matter.
Some examples of secondary needs are approval, significance, and belonging. Those needs matter too, of course, but they are hardwired inside of us when we experience our primary needs being met by our caretakers. As adults, the caretaker becomes us.
The next time you are feeling insecure or sad, check in with your basic needs and ask yourself if you need to eat, to walk, to be outside, to stretch, or rest. This is a powerful practice because it communicates to our bodies and minds that I we are loved, that we belong, that we are significant, that our basic needs matter and they will be taken care of.
We must believe we are worth basic care, develop the resources we need in order to take care of ourselves and give ourselves the time and attention we deserve, so that we are free to be exactly who we were made to be.
Imagine waking up each day and knowing completely that you are significant, that you belong. Like that little baby, you don’t have to do anything to be valuable enough to take care of. Take care of your needs as if you are both the baby-human and the adult-human (because you are).
This is self-care. Our mental health is completely dependent on it.
Jenny Black is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. In addition to training new therapists, she works with men and women who are dealing with depression, anxiety, spiritual issues and transition of life issues. In her free time, you will find Jenny sitting on the porch with her husband, having a soul session with her daughter or talking to her son about his new podcast. Her self-care includes being outside, taking salt baths, going on leisurely bike rides, coloring, dancing, doing puzzles and reading (by a fire whenever possible). She is currently learning how to play chess.