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Practicing Self-Care: Moving from "Should" to "Good" Habits

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that yesterday I gave a talk on self-care for the Maternal and Child Health Program in the School of Public Health at UIC. (which is an amazing program!) This was such a great opportunity for me to consolidate all the reading, studying, and practicing I’ve been doing in this area for myself and to help my psychotherapy clients.

One of the researchers/writers/storytellers that inspired my talk was Dr. Brene Brown. She is a PhD social worker at the University of Houston (my alma mater!) who does qualitative research on our experiences of shame, fear, and vulnerability in the service of understanding what helps us access joy, authenticity and gratitude. One of the ways she inspired my talk on self-care, was that she talks about the importance of understanding “what gets in the way” of us practicing authenticity and having more joy in our lives so that we can use this awareness and then make better choices that lead us towards all these things that we so desperately want!

Most people I know (including myself) struggle with some aspect of taking care of themselves. What I’ve learned from my personal work in psychotherapy, and my work with my clients is that the vast majority of us have a somewhat conflictual relationship with ourselves. A love/hate or frenemy type arrangement where certain needs, feelings, thoughts, and experiences are simply not OK. How often have you said something like, “I’m such a moron! I can’t believe I said that!” or “I’m so lazy, I didn’t get anything done.” There are a million examples and those are just the things we may actually say out loud. Of course there are many things we experience that we may not acknowledge to anyone or maybe only with great courage, acknowledge to a therapist because we are so ashamed of whatever we are thinking or feeling that we can’t bear for anyone else to know about it.

I believe that this fear/shame about ourselves is definitely one of the things that gets in the way of taking care of ourselves. In order to take care of ourselves, we have to be attuned to what we need, and if we are dismissive or judgmental of our experience, then it’s very difficult to even know what we need, let alone figure out how we can meet our needs!

So, if you struggle with eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, making time for pleasurable activities, connecting with friends/family/partner or exercising (all considered important parts of self-care) then add “cultivate self-acceptance” to your list of self-care habits. It is the foundation from which you can understand what your needs are, and then can support us in fostering the courage to take the action required to meet those needs.

How do you foster self-acceptance? In the same ways you foster self-compassion. I spoke about Dr. Kristin Neff’s work during the talk, and have blogged previously on this topic: I strongly recommend developing a self-compassion mantra as a start to changing your self-talk and the ways you respond to yourself.

I also strongly recommend looking into the work of Dr. Brown. She has a wonderful blog, and there are links to many of her videos there discussing her work and what she learned about herself in the process of doing her research. Great, inspiring stuff!

Thanks for reading!

For more information about Dr. Brown and her work click here: For more information on the Maternal and Child Health Program at UIC click here:

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