When Self-Care Feels More Like a Burden
When self-care feels more like a chore than a pleasure, there’s something wrong.
Self-care is about taking care of yourself. Making your life easier. Sometimes it’s the hard stuff, like exercising when you don’t want to or doing laundry or getting your car fixed. Other times it’s the indulgent luxuries, like manicures and bubble baths. And sometimes it’s somewhere in between.
But sometimes self-care feels more like a burden than a blessing. Maybe you’ve never enjoyed what you’re doing or maybe something you’ve always enjoyed as self-care suddenly feels like a chore.
Sometimes it’s normal to not really enjoy a form of self-care. Personally, if it’s not yoga, I hate working out. I don’t want to do it, and I have to work hard to actually do it. But despite how much I hate it, I don’t feel it’s a burden. I’m resistant to it, yes, but I know the benefits and I know I need to do it. So I might whine and complain the whole time I’m doing it, but once I’m done, I’m happy I did it.
But when it truly feels like a burden, there’s something wrong. When it’s something you dread, and you resist it and hate that you did it when it’s done, you need to think about what’s going on.
Self-care is supremely individualized
What one person enjoys as self-care can easily feel like too much work to another. Your self-care needs to be customized to exactly what you like and enjoy. It’s fine to ask for suggestions from others, look at lists of ideas, and experiment with different things.
But if bubble baths and manicures just don’t do it for you, you shouldn’t do them. If climbing the side of a canyon feels like the perfect self-care to you, then grab those ropes and shoes and go have a (safe!) blast!
The problem is that we talk so much about indulgent forms of self-care, such as manicures and blowouts, it gets ingrained in us that those are the kinds of things we must do. It even gives us the idea that self-care is only for women, when in fact, men and children should also engage in self-care.
But it needs to be tailored to you and your needs and interests. I know people who use cleaning their house as a form of self-care because it makes them feel less stressed and more energized. Others use hunting (even if they don’t actually get anything) or fishing. Some take long drives. I even know someone who uses her grocery shopping for the family as self-care. None of those are choices I would make, but they work for those people. And that’s what matters.
Stop doing the wrong things
If the self-care you’re doing feels more like a burden, then stop doing it. It’s really that simple. Just stop doing it. Telling yourself that you need to keep doing it because it’s self-care and you need to do self-care is just self-torture.
Sometimes a particular act of self-care doesn’t quite do it once. You might meditate today and find it just didn’t feel good. But when you meditate tomorrow, it feels great as usual. If that’s the case, stick with the stuff you know usually works.
But when something is feeling like a burden, that means it consistently isn’t working for you. And if that’s the case, it’s time to stop trying to make it work. You don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed. Nor should you feel like it’s a failure.
What it is, is the realization that this thing isn’t what you need. That’s a good thing. Recognizing what you don’t need is one step closer to understanding what you do need.
Get to know yourself better
Knowing what doesn’t work for you is a good start. But what if you’re not sure what will work?
It’s time to get to know yourself a little better. Grab a pen and some paper and create a list of activities you’d like to do. These can be things you’ve done before and enjoyed or things you’ve thought about trying but haven’t due to time or other factors.
Your list might be long or it might be short. But your list is a starting point for self-care moving forward. Try the activities on your list. You might find some are nothing like you thought and you never want to do them again. Others will be interesting and you’ll try them a few more times to decide. And some will become an instant addition to your self-care routine.
These activities will also help you learn more about what you enjoy. If you added skydiving to your list, and loved it, you might realize you’re an adrenaline junkie and you need to add lots of similar activities. Maybe you added reading to your list. Exploring different styles and genres will help you determine that reading personal development books really fill you up. Or maybe you’ll learn that reading an erotic romance or a horrific murder mystery that allows you to escape your life for a bit works best.
As you try different activities, you’ll begin to narrow down what really makes you feel good.
Self-care is intuitive and everchanging
It’s also important to remember this doesn’t just apply to things that have always felt like a burden. If you’ve enjoyed a square of chocolate every day as a form of self-care, and it no longer feels good, stop doing it. If you’re craving a salad instead, that’s still self-care. It’s giving yourself what you need.
Self-care is, to a degree, intuitive. It’s understanding what you need right now, mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually. It’s recognizing when you’re feeling depleted and topping yourself off before you completely exhaust yourself.
It’s also changeable. What works today might not work tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Be open to changing up your routine when something no longer feels right as a part of your self-care routine.