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Self-Care Activities & Why They’re So Essential

Why Self-Care is So Essential

by Laura Doyle

Whenever a women tells me that she’s having a lot of arguments in her relationship, one of the very first things I ask her is, “How’s your self-care?” Most of the time the response is that she hasn’t had the time to do much for her own enjoyment lately. That happens to all of us sometimes, but since self-care activities are such a vital part of keeping your relationship healthy and happy that’s the first thing I ask when peace in a relationship is missing. Self-care is perhaps the most important Intimacy Skill™ of all.

You may be wondering what the connection is between self-care and a happier relationship. Often when I’m short with my husband, what’s really going on is that I’m hungry, or tired, or have too much on my plate, or I just haven’t had any fun in a while. There’s a direct correlation between my self-care activities and my level of tolerance for my husband.

One way to give yourself the benefit of having those reserves is to proactively do at least three self-care activities every day. It could be something as simple as taking time to read, going for a walk, or calling a friend. The point is to do something for yourself every day to nurture your own spirit.

Just as a flight attendant will instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, self-care works in the same principal. You can’t give to and take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself first. It sometimes seems counterintuitive in the moment–when your kids need your help with something, or there’s a big work project due–that the most urgent and vital thing to do next is to watch a cat video, for instance.

Regularly doing your self-care activities goes a long way towards making you more relaxed and all-around happier, which creates less stress and irritability in your relationship. Instead of fighting about how to address the unexpected plumbing problem, you and your husband can laugh about it. Instead of feeling irritated by his pile of dirty laundry on the floor, you’re still glowing from your long talk with your sister. In other words, when you feel good, things have a greater chance of going smoothly.

If you’re feeling frazzled, tired or frustrated with your husband, shifting your focus from whatever is driving you crazy to your own happiness and rest takes some effort. But by taking care of yourself, you not only gain a fresh perspective, you are also showing others–like your husband–how to treat you well. As an added benefit, showing your husband the respect he deserves–even if that’s just your silence while you’re out for a walk–, is a great way to let him know it’s ok to step in and help you out with whatever is causing you stress.

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11 thoughts on “Self-Care Activities & Why They’re So Essential”

  1. Jill, I am learning everyday how important self care is for the health of my relationship except because my spouse and I work together, sometimes i am prevented from being able to do 3 things per day because he will demand i do things that literally take me all day and night to do. But you are spot on about self care, it’s just a lot harder to do for some of us especially if our spouses are more demanding and interfere with our attempts. I was thinking i could probably do 1 or 2 self care things max per day (most of the time) on top of the demands I am receiving from my hubby. How do we do 3 self care items if our spouse doesn’t allow it or interferes? When I use the “I cant” it generally leads to an argument or my husband demanding i do what he says. Sometimes he will throw a fit to ensure I do what he says.

    Reply
    • Jill! Nice to hear from you. I totally hear you about feeling like your husband will have a fit if you say, “I can’t,” and yet not being able to do self-care if you don’t. Quite a conundrum. However, for me, my husband’s “fit” would be on his paper–not mine. Sometimes husbands try to drag us into arguments, and I know it’s frustrating when that happens. But if I keep my side of the street clean using The Intimacy Skills, then I get to honor my own limits, keep my dignity and I don’t owe an apology later. Just as I wouldn’t negotiate with a child who was throwing a fit, I wouldn’t do what my husband was asking or insisting on because I’d be teaching him that’s how I like to be treated. You only have to do it a few times before they realize that’s the new deal. Right now, you’re doing an old dance that it sounds like you’re tired of. I don’t blame you! You’re the one who has the power to change the steps. Good for you for putting self-care first! Excellent!

      Reply
  2. Laura, Over four years ago your “Surrendered Wives” changed my marriage. I will be married 25 years in March. I am now reading The Empowered Wife” and realize I still have a long way to go. As for 3 self care tasks a day, I am struggling greatly, even coming up with 20 is very hard. You see, I take care of others, in my work and home. I take care of my grandson at 5am three days a week and drop him off at the sitter before I work a 9 hour day. I then have him 8 hours sat/sun- I love him dearly and do not want to change this. I also care for my I’ll mother ,often at her home until after 9pm. With this schedule, I am fried when it comes to me time. I have done 3 a day while I have been on vacation and those says were wonderful and my husband smiled a lot at me. I found myself talking excitedly to him when he came home,I am usually pretty quiet. He seemed to enjoy hearing I was happy. Any ideas when many times I just want to sleep?

    Reply
    • Maria, I hear you–sounds like a lot! Is there any way you can get some help with your grandson and your mom so you can carve out some time for you?

      Reply
      • At this time no, my mom has special needs that only I can do, my siblings do help some. As for my grandson, I don’t trust anyone else, he is only 8 months old. I know I get myself into more than I can do and need to say no. Many years ago my husband said I was an island, I now see why. I will continue to try to focus on me.

        Reply
  3. I bought myself a grown-ups colouring in book. It is so relaxing just colouring in. A $10 book will provide me hours and hours of self care time.
    I found making a self care list difficult, now it is much easier for me to add to it. And yes, I do need to revise the list regularly.

    Reply
  4. Hi Laura,
    I wanted to ask about how to do self care when you have a baby and not much money. My husband keeps losing jobs due to his depression. While I have handed over the financial reins, he can’t give me money for a spending plan as there is no money! I am trying to factor in your advice to make self care a priority in order to give him the space and respect he needs.
    However with no money and a small baby, it’s hard to carve out time or have the financial ability to do things that I like. I have made my lists and everything seems to depend on having child care or having more money than I currently do.
    Do you have any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Anne770, That is definitely a tough spot you’re in, but I so admire that you’re trusting him with finances and getting creative about your self-care! One thought I had is that you may be able to leave the baby with your husband. Another idea is to find another mom with a baby and trade off giving each other free childcare. Even on a day where you’re with your baby all day, it may be taking a walk or a jog together, maybe to a nature spot. Nap when baby naps instead of cleaning. You’re asking a great question and I bet you’ll come up with even better ideas than these. It’s challenging, but you can do it and your family depends on you to be happy, so kudos for making that a priority!

      Reply
      • Thanks for your response and good suggestions. I actually tried out the childcare exchange with a friend and it worked great. Got a whole morning to myself.
        Thanks again!

        Reply

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