When Self-Care Gets Stressful
Self-care certainly is all the buzz these days. Images of turmeric lattés and bubble baths pepper our Instagram feeds, accompanied by captions calling for us to hit pause on work and life. But for many female entrepreneurs, the new emphasis on self-care can morph into its own source of stress. The pressure to "be good" at self-care can quickly turn it into another thing to check off the already long to-do list. Many women then feel guilty for failing to meet these additional expectations. Sounds a little all too familiar doesn't it?
To help us keep our eyes on the prize, we asked licensed marriage and family therapist Janie McGlasson to weigh in on this growing wellness trend. She sees a large number of female entrepreneur clients at her private practice in the Arts District, many of whom feel guilty for "not being good" at self-care. She encourages us to dive a little deeper to find out what's really behind all of this. "Self-care is about taking time to do things that bring you joy, or that have proven to lower your stress," she said. "However, none of those things will work if you are not looking inward and figuring out what you do to contribute to your stress to begin with."
Going beyond the rituals to get to the root of your stress is key, and you can't do this without a little quiet time to yourself. And while a hot stone massage may patch things up in no time, it won't do you any good in the longterm if you don't course-correct. "It's not the latte that calms you, it's the process of looking into what your body means and doing what you can to fulfill that need. It's not the bath that lowers your anxiety, it's the time you’re taking to be alone with yourself without goals or expectations," she said. "This is the misconception about self-care. Self-care, at its base level, is knowing what you need and doing everything that you can to only do that."
So slowing down? Check. Unplugging for a few? Even better. But wait, there's more.
Once you go inward, you may notice that your lack of self-care might not actually be about a shortage of time or shifting priorities. It may be more about the B-word. "Another word for this is boundaries, which I would define as the lines between what is good for you and what is not, what is safe for you and what is unsafe, are the building blocks for self-care. You can not take care of yourself if you do not know your boundaries or limits.
What does all of this look like in every day life? If your boundaries are too fluid, you may feel overwhelmed on the regular. This stems from overcommitting yourself, maybe saying "yes" to collaborations or contracts that you really wanted to say "no" to. On the flipside, your boundaries could be too rigid and you could end up isolating yourself by saying "no" to opportunities that come your way. Or you may find it hard to ask for help even when you really need it.
Well shit. So what's a girl to do?
"Check in with yourself," Janie said. That can be as simple as download a mindfulness app and using it for five minutes a day, or taking a moment before a meeting to ask your gut what it needs from you today. It doesn't always have to be as elaborate as running a hot bath and crying to Coldplay. IRL you can turn to your trusty friend: Your intuition. "Listen to your intuition when it is telling you not to collaborate with someone, or when it's telling you to spend more time with someone."
Lavender bath salts optional (but highly recommended).