Self-Care Part I: Why is Self-Care Essential?

Do you find yourself caring less about what you usually do, with little patience or understanding for others? If you want to retreat to a cabin in the woods for 6 months with no electronics or people, you just might be burnt out. What does this mean, and how do you get out of it? Read more to discover what we therapists mean by self-care.

self care isn t selfish signage
Photo by Madison Inouye

While I love to write about and normalize difficult content, I recently reviewed my latest blogs. I felt pretty depressed after all that.

Too many deep-topic blogs in this collection do not convey the opposite side of the coin- the need for balance. And so, I am breaking this up into two parts. This started out as a very long article.

If you don’t understand the meaning of self-care or how to engage in it, this article is especially for you.

There are some who still believe spending every waking hour at work and making all the money possible constitutes a great way to live, but this old ideology is slowly fading out with the passing generations.

Do you know what you get with workaholism? A divorce, no friends, mo’ money mo’ problems, a great case of ulcers, and probably irritable bowel syndrome.

Burnout reflects in all areas. One’s work and home life will suffer when in that overdone stage. Don’t ignore the warning signs until it is too late.

tired black man lying on opened book and homework papers
Photo by Monstera

The Mayo Clinic‘s 2023 article on this discusses job burnout signs and symptoms well. If you feel disillusioned by your job, work in a toxic environment with unsupportive colleagues, have overwhelming responsibilities, work more than you have down-time, have little control, or have unclear expectations, this can drain all your energy. With your energy goes the motivation.

Burnout looks like this:

  • Cynicism
  • No motivation
  • Lack of energy
  • Constant fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Problems concentrating
  • Inability to enjoy achievements
  • Insomnia
  • Health problems like stomach aches, bowel problems, chronic tension, and other physical ailments not otherwise explained by medical causations

Burnout isn’t limited to your job. Your home life can also cause these symptoms. If you live in a chaotic, toxic home environment, lack support, are completely burdened by taking care of everyone else but yourself, and have begun to stop caring about how well you are taking care of anyone and everything- you likely are experiencing this same phenomenon.

Excessive stress, insomnia, heavy mood fluctuations such as sadness, anger, or irritability, and leaning on maladaptive coping mechanisms such as alcohol to make you feel better are giant red flags. They’re screaming: “you’re killing us!”

red flags on flagpoles
Photo by Mike van Schoonderwalt

To this point, having balance in perspective, health, and every other area of daily living is essential for fulfillment.

Balance is the yin and yang of life. The moderation of work and relaxing activities, too much or too little anything. Too much tv, too little work, too much video game time, or overwhelming chores, create an imbalance in mind and body.

For those in recovery, balance is the single hardest to do for those with an alcoholic/addict brain. One is too many and a million is never enough- of anything. This is the toughest goal that every one of us in recovery from addiction will face. It is therefore supremely important to be aware of and practice it constantly.

To highlight: not everyone has the luxury of not working too much. Statistics show that those who are lower in economic status work longer hours in less stable jobs. There are ways that you can find that are low-cost to improve this, despite there will likely still be an imbalance. People need to work in order to survive. Maslow’s hierarchy portrays the importance of security and safety prior to the ability to learn and grow.

What is self-care?

Self-care refers to the act of giving yourself the time and maintenance that helps you to feel rested, restored, fulfilled, content, and moderated.

Therapists are encouraged to stay constantly aware of burnout. As mental health providers, we are trained on the importance of self-care from day 1. If I cannot fill my own needs, I certainly can’t be there for my clients. Our judgment becomes skewed the more we become stressed. The more taxed, the less tolerant we are.

There are several kinds of self-care. Healthy Lifestyle Florida (2023) defines these realms as health-related, mental, emotional, social, physical, sexual, financial, and medical. They discuss different statistics for the current population of self-care in each of these categories.

Jonas, Ibuka, and Russell reported in a 2011 study that only 6.6% of Americans 25 years or older reported engaging in health-related self-care such as taking insulin or caring for injuries. They found that those in poorer health participated in more self-care, and people older than 75 had four times as likely to report self-care as those between the ages of 25-44.

Mental self-care is that which encourages keeping one’s mental functioning, in focus, with good judgment. Emotional self-care encourages staying connected and safe. Physical self-care refers to keep up with hygiene and presentation. Financially, one may hold to a budget, but also keep room for an allotted outing weekly. You take care of your medical wellness when you keep up with doctor and dentist visits, and take medications as prescribed, or insulin if you are a diabetic.

One part of this area I assess my clients for is the trauma response of feeling guilty for engaging in self-care. If you experience feelings of shame, guilt, or hesitation when you think about investing time and attention into yourself, then you just might have trauma from relationships. Trauma can cause one to believe they have less worth if they focus on themselves, or don’t believe they deserve the good things in life.

Emotional abuse, distant parenting, exposure to violence, bullying, and living with a caregiver that has unmanaged mental health disorders are situations that can lead to a child developing the guilt for caring for oneself. If this occurred, you may be a survivor of abuse and have a traumatic response to what is realistically a good thing to do.

Financial health is not a topic often thought of. This term references having your money income and spending fit. More often, it’s a concern for survival. For those who have no control over finances, the fear of not making or having enough can be extensive.

Sidenote: (This was frightening)

From this same article:
Nearly three-quarters of women who outsource the management of their money to male partners find themselves with a negative financial surprise after divorce or widowhood. Wealth Inequality – “The “raw” gender wealth gap was largest between men and women who had never been married. In this group, women had 34 cents per $1 of men’s wealth. After controlling for various factors (age, children, race and ethnicity, education, income, homeownership, inheritance, employment, and financial risk-taking), this gap was significantly reduced—71 cents per $1—yet remains potentially consequential for current and future generations.”

woman in gray business suit sitting in a luxurious car
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

Partners stay with abusive spouses because they fear being unable to afford living expenses on their own, typically due to relationships that had financial power differentials.

The next question becomes:

How can you improve your self-care in these areas?

In my next article, I will outline specific actions that you can take in order to enhance your well-being. Actively participating in these behaviors and practices are shown to increase one’s happiness and contentment. Your cognitive and physical improvements will allow you to stay healthier and function more over the long term.

Please feel free to leave questions, comments, or feedback on any of these articles. If there’s a grammatical error- I do like to know. I’m not an English major, but I try to catch most. Grammarly doesn’t always do the trick, however. So much for spell-check.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Job burnout: How to spot it and take action. Accessed 3/15/23 from:
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