Take good care!
It is one of the most common self-help tips.
Also one of the most valuable.
However, it has some “adverse effects” that no one warns you about.
The risk of including self-care as another task on your agenda
In a world that spins faster and faster, daily tasks, obligations and commitments accumulate, generating great psychological pressure. Trying to be able to do everything or satisfy the demands of those around you can lead to a dead end.
When life’s problems and demands become oversized to the point of threatening our mental balance, one of the most common advices is to pay more attention to ourselves and take better care of ourselves.
Obviously, we should all reinforce self-care, but adding that item to your to-do list is likely to end up creating more stress than it relieves. If you try to maintain the same pace and also force yourself to pay more attention and take care of yourself, you may increase your level of demand to unhealthy limits.
In this way, self-care loses its reason for being because it will not help you relax and disconnect, but rather it simply becomes an additional duty within an already full agenda. As a result, psychological exhaustion is likely to be compounded by feelings of guilt.
Sooner or later, you will start to feel guilty about your condition. Because of the apathy you experience or the demotivation that eats away at you. Because of your inability to move forward… That “not being able” to even take care of yourself can lead to destructive self-reproach. Thus you will end up mired in a “fundamental fatigue”, which is not a simple physical exhaustion but a tiredness of the soul.
Taking care of yourself is not anesthetizing yourself
Another risk that the “commandment” of self-care contains is its misinterpretation. Many people believe that taking care of themselves means pampering themselves. Therefore, they equate it with giving themselves relaxing massages, escaping for a weekend to a spiritual retreat or giving each other gifts. In this way, the act of taking care of oneself becomes commercialized and even forces us to work more to pay for these new “luxuries” that will allow us to rest our bodies and relax our minds.
In other cases, people “take care” of themselves by anesthetizing themselves. They turn to distractions such as food, shopping, alcohol, marathon series sessions or even their smartphone to escape their strenuous tasks for a while. However, these are dysfunctional “self-care” options that do nothing but dull feelings.
These strategies are escape routes to momentarily evade responsibilities. They may make you forget about exhaustion and problems for a while, but in the long term they will end up increasing them. Therefore, before considering taking care of yourself, it is important that you take care of another task: setting limits.
How to get out of that loop and take care of yourself – really?
“What makes you sick is not excess of responsibility and initiative, but the imperative of performance,” explained philosopher Byung-Chul Han. For this reason, setting limits for yourself is an act of love and self-care.
Healthy boundaries will prevent you from pushing yourself so hard that you end up crushed under the weight of a mountain of obligations and commitments that you can’t keep. They will prevent work or other people’s expectations from taking over your life. They will allow you to say “this is how far I have come”, simply because you do not need or want to go one step further.
For this reason, when you feel overwhelmed or at the limit of your strength, the first step is not to take care of yourself more, but to limit what you can do and learn to prioritize tasks and obligations, choosing those that really deserve your time and energy. Only when you free up your agenda a little will you have space for authentic self-care, the kind that calms, balances and heals.
So, start by identifying the areas of your life that need more structure or boundaries. Normally these are conflictive spheres that have expanded so much that they have occupied the space of other important areas. Or it may be areas that have become a constant source of problems, conflicts and tensions – be it work, relationships or even the use of technology.
Self-care is not a magic solution. If you don’t learn to prioritize, treat yourself kinder, and give yourself a break, including more psychological duties will probably end up affecting an already suffering mental health.
On the other hand, if you manage to balance your life and plan your schedule better, so that you have time for what really satisfies you, allows you to grow and makes you happy, it is likely that you will not need to think about self-care because you will be applying it through most of your daily actions. At the end of the day, remember that self-care is nothing more than an act of kindness to yourself to feel better. If it causes you more stress, tension and anxiety, it is not self-care.