Self-Care isn’t Selfish.

This past Monday, Labor Day in the U.S., I was sipping my coffee, and using the downtime to catch up on some reading. Alone, in my kitchen. In complete silence. It was literally the perfect morning for a professional woman who would normally be fighting commuter traffic.

I pick up my just-delivered copy of Fitness Journal to read an article on motivation. I love that topic because it’s something that EVERYONE struggles with. Even people in health and wellness careers.  FYI – We don’t all jump out of bed ready to run 10 miles. This article caught my attention as I’m always looking for ways to motivate my clients. Bonus – the article is specifically about motivating inactive women. Even more relevant to some of my clientele.

The article centers on a study published in BMC Public Health journal that interviewed both high-activity and low-activity women regarding their physical activity, perceptions of exercise and if/how they prioritized exercise. They found that in the low-activity women there was a feeling that exercise was SELFISH. Yes, you read that right, SELFISH. Because it took time away from their families, created stress in their lives and required too much commitment. In addition, exercise was perceived as something that required intense effort and therefore wasn’t contributing to their desire to feel relaxed.

This made me sad. As someone who fancies herself a “high activity” person, I’ve never looked at exercise or general self-care and wellness as selfish. Never have I thought that my 30 minute jog or 45 minute spin class was detrimental to my family or created stress in my life. That’s probably due in part to my spouse’s support of my career in wellness and his desire for me to be healthy and happy. However, I can see where a high-performing, career-driven, ambitious and successful woman would absolutely feel that way. Society has told working women they can have it all but that “all” usually means putting everything and everyone ahead of their own needs. Work, family, employees, community commitments, pets, etc. come before us. So, while I thought it was absurd that a woman would think that focusing on her own health was selfish, it made absolute perfect sense when I sat with the idea for a few minutes.

When I finished the article, it got me thinking about how I could change that perception. I refuse to accept this as the norm and just focus my efforts on the high-activity clients who have lots of motivation. In fact, the low-activity clients need me more and I’m committed to being an advocate for them, and providing solutions.

If you find yourself among the low-activity or less motivated group of exercisers or you see prioritizing your wellness as a selfish act…listen up. Here are 4 ways to put your health and wellness first without feeling guilty or selfish.

  1. Use Wellness to Connect. Many times, a spouse or friend can see your new focus on wellness as a threat to their time with you and put on a guilt trip. If they’ve commented that your commitment to exercise is taking up too much time, invite them to join you. Walking is one of the best ways to reconnect with someone you love. When you walk with a significant other, you can catch up on all things related to your life, family, schedules, etc. When your bestie gets one-on-one time with you walking a trail or track, you demonstrate how important they are to you.
  2. Journal the Feels. When you take time to exercise, meditate, get a massage, etc., take a minute and write down how you feel after you’re done. I am willing to bet you don’t write the word selfish. The endorphins are pumping and your mind is clear. Take this time to reflect on how you feel when you do something for your health. Then, when you are feeling unmotivated, grab the journal and remind yourself why this is important and not SELFISH!
  3. Set a SMART Goal and Track your Progress. You would never see a business or career goal as selfish. You see it as your contribution to your professional pursuits. Take that same approach to setting wellness goals and you’ll feel that same sense of accomplishment and contribution. Set a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) and track your progress weekly. When you stick to a goal and see the positive impact it is having in your life, it will motivate you to continue.
  4. Make Wellness Part of your Business. Sharing is caring, right? You can’t be selfish when you are sharing the benefits of wellness and good health with your employees or clients. The women in the BMC study cited “being of service to others” as a main source of happiness. Tie that to a wellness effort and make people around you happier and healthier. Start a walking club at lunch for your employees. Or, choose healthy restaurant options for clients lunches. Simple, small things can make a difference in your life and the lives of those with whom you work.

At the end of the day, you will be better in every aspect of your life when you are healthy. Your family, your employees and your clients cannot benefit from your awesomeness if you are unhealthy, unhappy and unproductive. Align your wellness efforts with what you care about most and everyone wins.

Originally published at roadwarriorlivewell.com