The world has come a long way. Far from the heavy, moving footsteps of the past, the planet is now rotated by alternating busy steps and consistent “self-care” movement. Despite having walked so far, however, the founder and therapist behind the lauded Women’s Therapy Institute, Mabel Yu, says there’s still a lot of ground left to cover. We asked the therapist some common questions people have about self-care to obtain her perspective on an issue that’s been gaining ground in the past few years.
Q: Hi, Mabel. We’re so glad to have you over for this interview. We’re so excited to hear your thoughts on the matter that we will be discussing today. So first off, what do you think about society’s perception of self-care in this age?
Mabel: Our culture has made the concept of self-care very confusing. Our society has a dichotomy that we must not care about others if we take care of ourselves. This made us feel guilty for taking time for ourselves even though it is essential for our survival. Can we take care of everyone at all hours of the day? No, we cannot and should not.
Q: If society and pressing demands have shrouded the true meaning of “self-care,” how should the concept be defined?
Mabel: Self-care is the time and energy you spend taking care of yourself mentally and physically. It is also investing in your thoughts, actions, body, and emotions. It allows you to become your advocate and give yourself the freedom to choose how and what to think, feel, do, and believe.
Q: The way it has been expounded, “self-care” seems to equal personal recreation. Does this include spending quiet mornings at home and doing yoga?
Mabel: Although those things are lovely, self-care is so much more. As a therapist, I spend a lot of time debunking the myth of self-care. Self-care isn’t just about going on walks and taking a nice bubble bath. It is about setting healthy boundaries with ourselves, our attention, and our relationships.
Q: Setting a healthy boundary with oneself requires discipline and dedication to doing what’s best for the physical and mental state. How should one go about it?
Mabel: So how do you set a healthy boundary with yourself? Be ruthless. Decide what you need to do, set up a system, and don’t overthink it. Set up your phone and technology charging stations far away from your bed so they won’t tempt you. Install an internet/app blocker on your devices to help you go cold turkey.
Q: Going cold turkey and committing might be a challenge, especially with distractions hiding everywhere and shaking focus. What do you think is the right way to go about it?
Mabel: Realistically, we can only do three to five things well in an hour if we are not distracted. According to UC Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task when you are distracted. It’s essential to be intentional on what 3 to 5 things you need to focus on in an hour and take a break.
Q: It would be easier to cut tasks into chunks and proportion the hour depending on how long each one needs. Is there a way to ease the process?
Mabel: Try to alternate between long and short tasks instead of grouping all the long ones consecutively. If a phone call takes 30 minutes, count it as two tasks. Using a cube timer or a Pomodoro timer can help.
Q: Efficient tips on managing the self and time have been discussed. What about social interactions and relationships?
Mabel: We function the best when we have less than five relationships to manage at any given time. If you are already a spouse, a parent, a worker, and a volunteer, you might be better off having just 1-2 meaningful friendships instead of having a big squad.
Q: Although having to juggle multiple social roles is indeed draining, there are times when maintaining them is imperative for survival. Do you have any advice for individuals who feel this way?
Mabel: It’s impossible to please everyone at the end of the day, so it is crucial to know your top priorities and set boundaries with your relationships. Setting healthy boundaries with our attention, thoughts, and relationships is self-care to our well-being. Establishing a healthy boundary is about saying no, and not everyone is happy about hearing no, especially when we say no to ourselves.
Talk to Mabel and learn what proper “self-care” is. Learn more about the brilliant mind behind the Women’s Therapy Institute and her heartwarming work in building confidence on the venture’s official website.