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Self-Care Is Hard to Implement with Low Self Esteem

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self care and self esteem

We live in a world where multitasking and productivity are used as a sign of success. It’s all about the “hustle” and “no days off”. But the truth is that this kind of thinking very quickly leads to feeling of being overwhelmed and burnt out. 

One of the biggest obstacles to developing a self-care routine isn’t necessarily loathing the activities it might entail, it’s believing that one deserves to take a break and do things for themselves. It’s a Catch-22 that activities designed to improve one’s self esteem are harder to engage in when one struggles with low self-esteem in the first place. For some young adults, this might look like obsessing over skincare and makeup routines to the point where they’re no longer enjoyable while, for others, it may mean skipping the gym and home cooking altogether. 

What is Self-Care Anyway?

Self-care is a hot topic in the media today. Celebrities and influencers tout the benefits of spa days, açaí bowls, and beach vacations. But self-care isn’t just about adding luxuries to your life. A little indulgence can be nice, but true self-care is about paying attention to your needs. It’s about slowing down and listening to yourself. It’s going to bed early, saying no to plans, and crying on a friend’s shoulder too. Self-care doesn’t require purchasing expensive products, but it does require giving yourself permission to rest–whatever that looks like.

Many young adults with low-esteem esteem are hard on themselves and struggle to identify what it might look like to be more gentle and patient with themselves. They are also more likely to be cynical that “self-care” practices might make a difference for them. But engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, and improve energy.

Why Do Young Adults Struggle with Self-Care?

Self-care takes effort, especially when you’re tired. Young adults have a tendency to keep going until they crash. When they are exhausted, the last thing they want to do is something “chill.” They’d rather take a nap or do something high energy. If they do try to do something for themselves, they’re more likely to get distracted and choose something else with more immediate gratification.

They feel like it’s something other people want them to do. Growing up, things like “taking a shower everyday” or “eating healthy foods” may have been rules their parents expected them to follow rather than something they chose spontaneously. Without personal evidence that these activities work for them, they may feel unmotivated to engage in them.

They confuse self-care with indulgence and rest with laziness. They may not see self-care as a positive thing. For example, canceling plans with someone because they feel overwhelmed may bring up a sense of shame rather than a sense of relief. Taking a nap when they didn’t sleep the night before may feel like they’re being unproductive. Treating themselves to a haircut by a professional rather than their craft scissors may feel like a luxury they don’t deserve.

They find it hard to recognize when they need it. Some people consider self-care a “backdrop” activity that they do on a regular basis to regulate their mood and self-esteem, while others see it as a form of crisis intervention. For those who don’t make self-care part of their routine, it can be hard for them to justify when exactly they need to integrate it into their schedule. 

Integrating Self-Care into a Weekly Schedule

Realistically, it’s hard for some young adults to prioritize self-care on a daily basis. Life happens and energy levels shift and it’s easy to come up with excuses about what got in the way. This is why Journey Home encourages young adults to plan their own schedules a week at a time, allowing more time for flexibility. 

As they tentatively plan out their weeks, we encourage them to leave space for free time and rest so that it doesn’t feel as rigid and they don’t feel overprogrammed. We also explain that self-care has a broad definition and looks different for each individual. There are multiple ways to practice self-care in different areas of one’s life that can have a ripple effect. It is important to start small and to consider what big picture goal this “self-care” activity may actually be meeting.

Some examples of self-care activities we encourage our students to incorporate into their week include: 

Physical self-care

Activities that help them to stay fit and healthy, and with enough energy to get through their personal commitments.

  • Develop a regular sleep routine.
  • Aim for a healthy diet.
  • Get some exercise before/after work regularly.

Psychological self-care

Activities that help them to feel clear-headed and able to intellectually engage with the challenges in their personal lives.

  • Keep a reflective journal.
  • Turn off digital devices
  • Make time for relaxation.
  • Make time to engage with positive friends and family.

Emotional self-care

Activities that allow them to safely experience their full range of emotions.

  • Write three good things that you did each day.
  • Go to the movies or do something else you enjoy.
  • Talk to a friend about how you are coping with life’s demands.

Improving Self Esteem for Young Adults

Once young adults have identified how to improve their self-care, the next step to help make it last is to work on their self esteem. 

To begin, they need to think about the people that they are surrounding themselves with. Do those people treat them well? Are they spending time with friends or frenemies? Sometimes social dynamics can make it difficult to tell the difference. Friends who do not celebrate their successes are detrimental to their self esteem. It is important to find a friend group that helps them feel comfortable and celebrates them for who they are. 

The next step is to pay attention to how they treat themselves. What does their internal dialogue sound like? When they make a mistake or have a setback does their internal voice criticize? The way we talk to ourselves can quickly become the way that we think about ourselves. Changing their internal voice to the voice of a friend can help them see themselves in a kinder light. 

It is also helpful for young adults to understand that everything will not be perfect. If they are constantly striving for perfection, everything will fall short. They can instead focus on the idea of progress instead of perfection. Young adults can learn to accept their best and let themselves feel good about themselves even if they are not exactly where they hoped to be. 

Having goals and working towards them can help young adults build their self esteem. These can be small goals like taking a walk every day or larger goals such as gaining experience that will help them get a job in the field of their choosing. Making a plan, staying with it, and tracking their progress can help them feel proud of the progress that they have made. These victories, however small, can help young adults feel good about themselves which gives them the motivation to continue to work towards their goals. 

Practicing gratitude is another way that young adults can build self esteem. When they are feeling down on themselves, it is easy to just focus on everything that is going wrong. What if, instead, they were able to think about something good that happened that day? Listing things that they are grateful for can help remind them of all the good that is present in their life. 

Giving is one of the best ways to build self-esteem. It could be raking a neighbor’s yard, volunteering with a local shelter, or taking a walk with a friend. Doing things that make them proud of themselves and the person they are boosts their self esteem and the more that they can help others, the more their self-esteem will grow. 

Journey Home Can Help 

Journey Home is a transitional living program for girls and assigned females at birth ages 16-21 that have graduated from a residential treatment center or wilderness therapy. We are the perfect fit for teens who are ready to build upon skills learned in therapeutic settings but recognize they still need guidance and support to further develop their success. Journey Home blends a traditional home setting with positive peer and staff relationships. We believe in the value of good health and healthy hobbies in promoting future success.

Our goal is to help residents transition from structured residential programs to home. To do this we try to bring the best of both “worlds” – the continued clinical assistance of a program with the practical, real-life aspects of home. Unlike many other transition programs, residents at the Journey Home participate in weekly therapy, alternating between family and individual sessions. During the week, residents also attend two group therapy sessions, led by the Journey Home therapist. These groups are Healthy Lifestyles and a therapeutic processing group.

For more information, call 801-444-0794 . We can help your family today!