In discussions about self care, one of the terms that gets thrown around all the time is “self care”.  It is commonly toted as this notion that you can make a weekly spa appointment or spend an hour meditating in the rain and suddenly find your way out of a depressive state or reduce your anxiety.

And there are some nuggets of truth within these claims.  It certainly is true that doing what you can to reduce your stress levels can help you to manage your mental health.  It’s true that doing something for yourself and taking some time to let yourself recharge and absorb some positive vibes can do wonders for improving your mood.  But, if you want to use self care as an effective way of treating a mental health issue or as a method of maintaining good mental health, then you need to be prepared to dig a little deeper.

You need to learn to be selfish.

When we think of the term “selfish”, most of us go straight for the most negative meaning of the word – lacking consideration for others.  What I mean when I say that you should be selfish is that you should be willing to put yourself first at any given time.  Because, truthfully, whether you’re the CEO of a major company, the parent to a brood of kids or living solo and loving it, the only person that you are responsible for every day of your life is yourself.

Now, I’m not saying that you should decide that you don’t need to be there for your family and instead should feel okay about taking a week-long trip to Vegas with your friends.  But, I am saying that when you’re having a particularly shitty day, you shouldn’t feel guilty about telling your family or partner that they need to fend for themselves for dinner.

Make sure that your needs are being met.

When you cut through all of the bullshit of people talking about self care, the bottom line is that you need to take the time to take care of yourself.  And not just when you scrap a spare 15 minutes out of your schedule once every 3 months between grocery shopping and handing in 17 assignments at work.

When you’re planning your schedule for the week or the day, add in those things that you need to be happy, healthy and helpful to others in your life first.  Before penciling in how you’re going to get kids to their after-school activities, plan when you’re going to go to the gym or what time you’re going to see a movie.

When we think of our “needs” the first things that come to mind are those things that we need for basic survival – food, water, shelter.  But, do you want to just survive?  Likely not.  There are other things that are just as important that you need to be the best version of yourself and to lead a fulfilling and happy life.  Those things should be very high on your priority list.

Consider yourself when you are making your budget.

I fully understand that not everyone has the luxury of putting hundreds of dollars aside every month to “treat yo’ self”.  But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive to put some of the money that you earn towards things that are just for you.  Don’t feel guilty when you put some of your disposable income towards buying a more expensive outfit than you would usually buy just because it looks amazing on you.  Order dessert and a drink when you’re out for dinner if you feel like it.

Make sure when it comes time for someone to get a little extra, that is you as often as it is someone that you love and are taking care of.  And don’t feel that you need to spend all of your money on something practical.  It is practical if it genuinely improves your day.  It is even better if it is something that will make your life easier, happier or more exciting in the days to come.

Don’t take responsibility for other people’s happiness.

This is the big one.  If you are the type of person who will always make the choice that is best for others rather than the choice that is best for you — you need to stop!  Yes, it is important to consider those who are closest to you when you’re decision making.  But, it is not your responsibility to please everyone at your own expense.  If you’re not hurting anyone, don’t be afraid to do things that might put others out or even make them a little upset with you.  Don’t go out of your way for people who wouldn’t do the same for you.  Don’t take on someone else’s burden when you have problems of your own to deal with.

For many of us, all of these things are easier said and done.  No one wants to go through their life with others thinking that they are a dick who doesn’t care.  And you should care.  You should pour your passion and heart into the people and things that you love.  You just shouldn’t feel guilty about not volunteering this week if you really needed a few hours to yourself to dive into a good book instead.

Want to spread a little bit of awareness about mental health issues and how they can affect us?  Check out our Stop the Stigma Collection.