What is “good” is usually difficult to do. But why is it so difficult to take care of yourself? Here are 5 mental obstacles to watch out for.
Taking care of yourself: easy to say, difficult to do… Why? Basically we live in the information age, we are not lacking in tools and knowledge, on the contrary … Yet attention to one’s well-being risks turning out to be more of a chimera than a reality: we know what we should do, but often we do not act accordingly. Because? Here are 5 mental obstacles to taking care of yourself to watch out for!
1. Perfectionism and unrealistic goals
The fact of living in the digital and capitalist era of free access to information and absolute autonomy in individual fulfillment does not only entail advantages, but also discrete limits … The inhabitants of the “liquid” society (Bauman, 2000) seem to be almost obliged to self-realization, pursuit of success, change and grow continuously, assuming full responsibility for one’s fate. This tension to constantly improve, also disclosed by a certain part of self-help books, risks causing tension and pressures paradoxically in contrast with the well-being and fulfillment of the person. The myths and expectations of success of the liquid-modern world easily convey absolutistic, perfectionist models that leave little space for individual limits and differences. This is why not all strategies proposed by the various manuals for success are suitable for everyone. One of the most insidious traps – when you intend to change your lifestyle in the direction of greater well-being – is that of perfectionism: aiming for too high and unrealistic goals (for quality or times of success), in other words: going from nothing to the whole pretending to realize an immediate transformation of oneself. This is what happens, for example, when one lets oneself be seduced by many “last minute” diets or simply too drastic or distant from one’s habits or lifestyles. Or when you expect to suddenly become a sports enthusiast or maybe all of these things together! Every change can be achievable and lasting only in small steps, with intermediate objectives and modalities commensurate with the person’s abilities and lifestyle, nothing is sudden.
2. Not feeling capable
People don’t do what is good for their well-being just because they are told to do it, it is not enough to inform someone of what they should do for it to translate into an effective lifestyle change. This can be seen very well from the medical literature regarding compliance with medical prescriptions: patients do not change their habits, they do not tolerate the side effects of certain therapies just because the clinician tells them to do so. Usually they do it when they feel that their sufferings have been considered, that the therapy has been adapted to their concrete possibilities of life in respect of the subjectively most important dimensions. In other words: a patient will follow a therapy or a given lifestyle not because someone orders it, but if he feels he can be in control of what happens to him, if he feels he is able to do what is required of him. Relying on unrealistic goals or standardized strategies in self-care risks inevitably leading to failure and fueling an experience of unworthiness and inability that further undermines the possibility of adopting a change.
3. Health is not an end but a means
A part of the literature on psychiatric rehabilitation has long posed a question that is anything but trivial, namely that of so-called “entertainment” (Galimberti, Valent, Castelfranchi, 1993; Castelfranchi, Henry, Pirella, 1995; Saraceno, 1995). What does this mean? This term refers to a whole series of therapeutic and rehabilitative interventions offered to psychiatric patients aimed essentially at making these people able to look after their essential needs again, such as: getting out of bed in the morning, providing for their own personal hygiene, eating adequately, taking therapies, socializing with others and so on. Interventions, mind you, essential naturally but really useful for the well-being of patients only to the extent that they do not become ends in themselves (mere entertainment), but functional to make the person able to cultivate interests, work, weave relationships in short of life goals far beyond simple survival and mere civil coexistence. Self-care, even outside a psychiatric context, can have a lot to do with this discourse of inversion between means and ends. Yes, because you can be really motivated to change some habits and lifestyles to the extent that the resulting benefits allow you to do “more”: think about how many women go on a diet or stop smoking in view of becoming pregnant; or those who lose weight and change their diet to be able to practice a sport they love. There could be many examples but everyone can find their own goals: self-care is a means to do something else and it is therefore important that on a psychological level well-being and health do not remain value dimensions but are connected with projects and desires of self-realization. wider. What do you want to do, how do you want to “spend” the well-being that will be obtained by adopting a certain healthier behavior?
4. This is not about self-indulgence
Another common misconception is that taking care of oneself equates to an attitude of excessive “softness” and self-indulgence. In a culture where, in many respects, if you are not perpetually busy you do not exist, where the status symbol is no longer the car or the clock but how much free time you “don’t” have available, it is not difficult to understand how to cure may struggle to find spaces for legitimacy. Having enough time to sleep, take care of your hobbies, be with your loved ones or simply eat unhurriedly and in a healthy way often seem like little “heresies” in today’s world that is always hyper-fast and hyper-connected where waiting time is no longer contemplated , boredom and doing nothing. Everyone can be surprised by these stereotypes of post-modernity, some feel real guilt if they unplug the phone, sleep an extra hour or take a day off. The risk is that it is not only health that is affected but also the much loved and idolized work performance: if body and mind are constantly under stress, one’s efficiency will inevitably suffer, ignoring the signs of physical and mental fatigue is never long-term. a good investment …
5. Make a little effort
Sometimes you can experience a certain confusion on a subjective level between what makes you feel good / gives relief in the moment and what contributes to real, physical and psychological well-being in the long run. Often one gives in to the impulse to follow the easier and apparently less demanding way to find relief from a tension, when in reality doing so only increases one’s state of discomfort and confusion. Think of a person who comes home tired and exhausted after a troubled day at work, knows that he must rest body and mind, regain energy and be fit for the following day. Yet maybe he opens the fridge and has a binge, dives into a late night binge watching marathon or starts drinking something too much … He knows that perhaps it would be more useful, to recover from the stress of the day, to take a hot bath, see a movie and go to sleep and yet this thought barely touches his awareness, he gives in to the urge to adopt strategies that are perhaps harmful in the long term but capable of bringing immediate relief, literally turning off the brain. Sometimes it is necessary to make a little effort to distinguish the difference between an impulsive conduct aimed at a relief that is as immediate as it is ephemeral and perhaps less seductive strategies that are really able to restore well-being in the mind and body. After all, taking care of yourself is all here: in carrying out this little-big act of trust in yourself …