• Mamie Burruss, ND, LAc

Self-Care Isn't Selfish. It's Self-Preservation.

Updated: Jan 6, 2020

There is an insidious belief in our modern society that taking time to care for yourself is “selfish.” Productivity is used as a measure of success, and it is so highly valued that we have been trained to compromise other areas of our lives, including our health, in order to do more. Being “too busy” has become a badge of honor.

"I don’t have time to...[insert self-care, e.g., exercise, cook, sleep, meditate, etc.]...because I have to...[insert obligation, e.g., work, care for someone else, study for school, etc.].

Sound familiar?

The alarming lack of self-care coupled with unrealistic demands and expectations—whether internally or externally generated—are seriously compromising our collective health and happiness.

As anyone who has suffered from poor health can attest, health is your greatest asset! Herophilus put it best when he said:

When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.

But with never-ending demands and ever-growing to-do lists, how do we find time to prioritize our health and happiness?

Put the big rocks in first.

Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, created the concept of the “Big Rocks”, which is illustrated beautifully in the video below, as a way to help others prioritize their time.

In this metaphor, your life is a glass jar. The most important things, those that bring meaning to your life—like relationships and health—are the rocks. The pebbles are the other things that matter, like work or school. The sand is symbolic of the remaining “small stuff”, such as material possessions.

If the rocks are placed in the jar first, followed by the pebbles and then the sand, you’ve simultaneously managed to take care of the most important things in your life and made it possible to fit the remaining things—the pebbles and sand.

However, if you fill the jar with the pebbles and sand first, and save the rocks for last, it becomes impossible to fit the rocks—the important things—into the jar. This illustrates the importance of prioritizing what matters most.

Video by Litmos Heroes

If we take the "Big Rocks" metaphor and focus on health and well-being, the rocks become the day-to-day self-care activities that have the most impact on the overall quality of our health: adequate sleep, stress management and cultivating mental-emotional balance, physical activity, hydration, nutrition and proper diet, fun, time outdoors in nature, and connecting with your version of Spirit.

If you truly want to restore health to your body, these self-care activities have to be in place, and no—it’s not always as glamorous or fun as mani-pedis, retail therapy, or watching your favorite TV show. I love how Brianna Wiest breaks down the reality of self-care, and she couldn't be more right when she says, "True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to not build a life you need to regularly escape from."

Remember, self-care isn't selfish. It's self-preservation! So give yourself permission to incorporate more self-care into your daily life, and check out The 5 Pillars of Health for simple suggestions to support the five most important areas impacting your overall health and well-being!

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