In my work as an acupuncturist, I often see women who are exhausted. Fatigue is a symptom of overextension and can be linked to different factors: diet, sleep habits, exercise, work schedules, and chronically low immunity. Yet a single condition tends to connect these women to one another: they have never been supported in implementing a self-care plan.
At its most basic, self-care is doing kind, loving, nourishing things for you. The uncomfortable secret of why women do not prioritize their wellbeing is that, for many, self-care is synonymous with selfishness.
This belief is intimately connected to our traditional role as a caretaker. We do things for others at the expense of ourselves, burying our needs for those of our children, parents, partners, and even our friends and co-workers. After years of self-neglect, we inevitably reach the point of burnout.
What I have learned working with women who do prioritize self-care is that this is a habit. We can—and must—free ourselves from patterns of self-deprivation in order to find the health we crave.
But how do we do this? The true key to overcoming exhaustion is in offering acts of kindness toward your body, heart, and mind every single day. Once self-care becomes your habit, unimagined opportunities for healing will be available to you.
All it takes is waking up to the preciousness of your closest friend and ally: you.
Self-care is not self-indulgent
Self-care is often confused with self-indulgence, which is one reason women feel so uncomfortable with the act. When you think of self-care, you may immediately imagine cruises, massages, and facials. True, these are delicious gifts, but self-care is much deeper than what you can buy for pleasure.
Self-care is really self-compassion.
Having compassion for yourself means you recognize your value and protect it the way you would another being’s. You acknowledge your human goodness and pledge to keep it safe so that you can experience the fullness and freedom of life.
When you give up self-care, you abandon much more than new clothes, fancy dinners, and vacations. You forfeit the chance to explore your deepest hopes, fears, desires, and joys. Perpetually preoccupied by others’ needs, you remain disconnected from your personal creativity and potential.
The deprivation that comes from ignoring your needs is actually a terrible roadblock to fulfillment and leads to unforeseen obstacles that often show up in the body.
Because women tend to give to the point of exhaustion, the temptation to make reactive gestures of self-care—like planning elaborate spa appointments or shopping sprees—prevent you from noticing support opportunities that are available right away.
Start by thinking small and cumulative, rather than big and complex. Self-care does not need to be elaborate, but it must be truthful. It must come from the immediacy of how you feel in your body, heart, and mind right now.
What one thing can you do today to make self-care a habit? It can be a simple commitment, such as a 10-minute walk after lunch, meeting a friend for coffee, or scheduling an hour to write or paint.
What can you give yourself this very moment that will inspire you with authentic hope and joy? What can you do to fill your cup, even just a little? The minute you say YES to meeting that need, healing energy becomes instantly available to you.
The Promise of Self-Care
When creating a self-care plan, I encourage you to focus your aim. Don’t settle for “good enough”. Choose acts of self-compassion that make you feel good to the bone. “Good enough” will continue to leave you with a nagging sense of exhaustion so don’t be afraid to name exactly what you need and make it real.
As we learn to provide ourselves with what we actually need in life, we create the opportunity for others to receive the same nourishment they require to thrive. Self-compassion allows us to be more giving, genuine, and open because we engage with our world from a place of fullness rather than depletion. It is a simple but profound path to reclaiming our value while enriching others.
Ultimately, self-care is an act of respect that grows in power each time we honor ourselves as worthy of love, health, and happiness.
I invite you to share this article with your friends, daughters, mothers, and partners. Together, we can encourage one another to embrace self-compassion as the first step toward authentic healing.