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Allow Yourself Self-Care Despite What Anxiety Says

Quite likely, you are well aware that self-care is vital for mental health, physical health, overall wellbeing, and quality of life. If you live with anxiety, though, it's also quite likely that practicing self-care in any way feels not just difficult but almost wrong somehow. Anxiety loudly tells us that self-care may be fine in theory or is good for other people but that it isn't something you can do, should do, or even deserve to do. Anxiety is wrong. Read on to discover the effects of anxiety that get in the way of self-care and to pick up some tips for self-care despite anxiety. 

I've always found that anything that smacks even remotely of self-care makes my anxiety skyrocket. My answer to managing anxiety about nurturing myself has always been to avoid doing so at all costs. Unfortunately, the costs have been extremely high. In my bizarre personality mix of being very laid back and simultaneously rather high strung, I've had habits and deep-seated beliefs that have contributed heavily to serious health conditions. 

I finally understand that for my own wellness (mental and physical) and not just quality of life but actual life, I must get better at taking care of my health. One thing that I must do is to take a brief break from writing the Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog and the Mental Health for the Digital Generation blog for HealthyPlace. I won't be posting in the month of September, and initially, that decision caused me extreme anxiety.

How Can You Do Self-Care Despite Anxiety's False Worries and Fears?

Anxiety is great at justifying why we should not, cannot, and don't deserve to do things we need to do to take care of our mental and physical health. While each different type of anxiety and each person's specific life situation are unique, the general theme is very similar. The details will be unique to each of us, but in general, anxiety creates what-ifs, worst-case scenarios, worries, fears, and false beliefs around the concept of self-care.

Anxiety often shoulds things like:

  • Bad things will happen if you slow down and take a break. For me, anxiety says that I might lose respect and ruin my career.
  • Self-care is for people who are worthy, and you're not worthy. If you believe, as I do, that self-care is actually incredibly important for people (as in others), but it simply isn't for you, anxiety might be casting its nasty spell. Anxiety might tell you that you don't deserve to pause for self-care or that you haven't quite earned the right to do so yet--that you need to achieve more or be more productive first. Or anxiety might convince you that you don't really need it.
  • Self-care is an all-or-nothing endeavor. Anxiety lies when it equates self-care activities with laziness. Anxiety lies when it says that if you practice a little bit of self-care, you'll lose everything. Anxiety is full of distorted thinking, automatic negative thoughts that we accept as truths. 

When we listen to anxiety, it's easy to believe that self-care isn't, can't be, for us. This, however, keeps us stuck in stress and anxiety. Ironically, the best way around this is to start nurturing yourself anyway. This will strengthen you and weaken anxiety. It is definitely not easy to do, however. 

Tips to Take Care of Yourself Despite Anxiety

Consider gradually implementing some of these tips to loosen anxiety's grasp and begin to nurture yourself. Start with just one and gradually add more, so it doesn't feel so overwhelming.

  • Remind yourself that you are worth it. Regardless of what anxiety tells you, you have worth and value just for being you. Pause to reflect on your strengths and how you use them every day. Because you are a human being, you have inherent value and deserve to do things for yourself. Remind yourself of this often. Perhaps place reminders where you'll see them or set your calendar to send you notifications. This will help you replace anxiety's lies about you.
  • Turn the worries and what-ifs around. When anxiety says, "What if you fail because you slow down?" honestly explore what positive things might happen if you begin to care for yourself. 
  • Start small. Add one nourishing thing to your day at first, and gradually increase how and when you tend your wellbeing. 
  • Let go of guilt. Guilt is an effect of anxiety that can be debilitating. When it comes to self-care, anxiety can make you feel guilty for being "selfish." Notice when you're feeling like you shouldn't engage in something nurturing because you should be doing something better with your time, and then redirect your thoughts to how nice it is to enjoy something good for you and how much better you'll be able to function when you do.
  • Visualize yourself thriving. What will you feel like when you begin to care for yourself regularly? How will your thoughts and emotions change? What will you be able to do? How will your anxiety be better? Let this motivate you and override anxiety's protests to your self-care. 

Despite what anxiety tells you, doing something intentionally to nurture your health and wellbeing is so much more likely to improve your life rather than ruin it. Also, despite what anxiety says, you absolutely deserve it. I'm applying these very principles as I take a bit of time off, and I'm looking forward to recovering my health and returning again to feel better and once again experience joy. 

There is another thing to help you reduce anxiety around self-care: Do so mindfully. I invite you to tune into the video to learn more. 

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, August 26). Allow Yourself Self-Care Despite What Anxiety Says, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, October 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2021/8/allow-yourself-self-care-despite-what-anxiety-says



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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