My personal definition of self-care: how to set your limits?

The term self-care has many definitions that have more or less similar meanings. Essentially, self-care is “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” (World Health Organisation). It includes many aspects of a person’s life, for instance, hygiene, lifestyle, living conditions, and nutrition. 

Therefore, the term self-care may have one overall definition, but it has a different meaning for each of us. It may be designing, reading, working out, eating healthy, and living in luxury. No answer is wrong. It depends on each person’s living situation and needs. For example, if you lead a stressful life trying to juggle work, children, and hobbies, for you self-care will most likely be about relaxing (reading a book or having a cup of coffee). If your living conditions are not the best, for you self-care will most likely be about having safety and comfort. 

In this blog post, I want to share with you my definition of self-care. 

Self-care: learning to say “no”.

I believe (for most of us) the cause of burnout is our good nature. We want to help each other in any way possible and as much as we can. As a result, we take on more tasks than we can handle and it compromises our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. 

Saying “no” to other people is a struggle for many people. We don’t want to disappoint others and we want to show others that we are selfless and always there for them. Often saying this two-letter word makes us feel that people will have the impression that we are self-centred, rude, and don’t take relationships with them seriously. 

The truth is: if people need something done, they will always find a solution on their own. For example, your friend asks you for help to move their furniture to their new home. But, your workload already makes you feel physically/mentally exhausted. If you say tell them that you cannot help, they will find another solution. You shouldn’t feel that you are the only one in the world that can help. Believe me, your friend is not helpless. It is their task and, eventually, they will find a solution (if they really want things done). 

Remember: One of the reasons why some people tend to ask for help is that they are too lazy to do something on their own. Learn to evaluate whether a person genuinely needs help or they just want to pass on that responsibility and work to someone else. Furthermore, if your friends cannot understand that you have your own problems, tasks, and responsibilities, they are not your friends. Real friends will understand that you are a human and have your limit of how many tasks you can undertake at any given time. 

Identify your limits.

Not only is it vital to learn how to say “no” to others, but it is also crucial to identify what your limit is. 

Ask yourself these questions to assess whether you can undertake more tasks or should you just say “no”. 

What is your workload right now? How much spare time a day or a week do you have?

Are you feeling physical/mental fatigue at the moment? 

What resources (time, money, effort) do you need to accomplish the potential task? Do you have these resources? 

How much spare time will you have left after undertaking the potential task? 

My final thoughts.

I strongly believe that setting limits for yourself is one of the best forms of self-care. Agreeing to help everyone is one of the main reasons for our stress, fatigue, and burnout. Saying “no” to someone doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means that you know your limits and that you recognise your mental/physical health as a priority. Learning to say “no” and knowing yourself is a part of your personal growth journey.