By Kaitlyn Dunagan

“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for
myself is an act of survival.” – Audre Lorde

If you are a parent, student, or general human being, you probably struggle with self-care. We are asked to give so much in our daily lives—whether it be to children, professors, our career, or to our loved ones in general. And whereas they are important, there are always other obligations weaved within that often lead to the feeling that we need to give in to all of these obligations. But you don’t. If you give too much, you will eventually have nothing left. Your metaphorical cup will be empty and you will no longer be able to give to those you love. What is necessary to your survival is the act of loving yourself and deciding what you need to do in order to continue loving others in your daily life. Here is a 7 step guide to help you along the way.

1. Temporarily remove yourself from your current situation.

Stop studying, stop talking on the phone, stop working on that project, and even on that relationship. Take a step back and press pause.

2. Take some time to be alone with yourself.

Everyone needs solitude. You will not be able to give to others if you are not giving to yourself. Being alone can be an important time to refocus, meditate, exercise, or temporarily distract yourself from the tasks on your to-do list. Seeking refuge in a more natural setting is ideal to improve your cognitive performance; so when you return, you will be rejuvenated and ready to begin again. If you are unable to do so, find a proper alternative. Make sure it is calming but keeps your senses moderately engaged (i.e., listening to soothing music).

3. Ask yourself what really matters. Re-prioritize accordingly.

Amidst your solitude, assess what you need to do and what you do not need to do. Assess what you want in your life and what can be removed.

4. Take action.

Once you have decided what you need, take action. Be considerate if other people are involved in this part of the process but do not let what they want dictate what is best for you. Cancel unnecessary engagements, quit a personal vice, and/or remove unwanted possessions from your home. The less clutter in your life, the better. For you and for others.

5. Treat yourself to something that makes you feel as though you’re enjoying life. 

Taking action can lead to new conflict and rewarding yourself will be essential. If confrontation arises, deal with it in the correct manner, whether that means before you practice self-care or after; only you can be the judge of that. Once the situation is dealt with, read an inspiring novel, take a vacation, or sleep. Give yourself permission to do something. Call the grandparents or a good friend and drop off the kids for a day or two. Do what you need to do, in a healthy manner, to feel rewarded.

6. Return to the harder work. 

Reward yourself and then return to what you were working on. It may take some time to regain motivation but plow through the desire to quit again.

7. Repeat.

Repeat Steps 1-7 when you feel your cup running out again. The results will be worth it.

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