Am I being selfish taking time for self-care?

No, not if I’m looking for sustainable success.

Kelsey Cleveland
Mar 4 · 5 min read
My personalized self-care catalog.

The day I planned to write on self-care, I found myself exhausted. Before I could even write this article, I needed to practice what I was about to preach.

My day started earlier than usual with a medical appointment. I rushed to leave the house worried that rush-hour traffic and frosty roads would make me late. As I drove along the highway, my shoe felt strange. I looked down when highway traffic was at a standstill and realized I left the house wearing my slippers. I laughed out loud and realized how distracted I must have been.

By lunchtime, I could barely keep my eyes open, so I gave in to my fatigue. I’m writing this post after doing one of my favorite forms of self-care. I feel renewed after a 30-minute nap on my couch with the sun shining down on me. I timed it seven hours after I woke up, which the National Sleep Foundation agrees is the best time to take a nap. Perhaps I was a cat in another life?

I woke up refreshed to face the rest of my day and to write. My productivity increased because I stopped and napped instead of powering through. If I had tried to write this post after lunch without rest, it would’ve taken me twice the time. Plus, writing would’ve felt forced instead of flowing out of me with ease. I’m continuing a little bit of my self-care by dictating this while still lying in the sun. This article may be one of the fastest and easiest posts I’ve ever written. That’s what self-care can do for us.

Create a self-care catalog

“Taking care of yourself is taking care of your business.” Jennifer Lee

I’m working my way through exercises in Jennifer Lee’s book Building your Business the Right-Brain Way. She acknowledges that running a business can leave us feeling depleted. She advises creating a self-care menu, which so far has been my favorite exercise. Everyone — not just business owners —can take this advice.

I created mine as a photo collage of self-care ideas using Canva. If you would like to join me in creating your own, here are some ideas:

  • Create a vision board with cut out images from magazines or catalogs glued onto paper.
  • Write self-care ideas on sheets of paper and put them in a box or jar. Pull out a slip at random when you need to refuel.
  • Write a list and keep it in a journal or planner. (If you prefer digital, use a note-taking app.)
  • Create a self-care Pinterest board.

Self-care: What to add to the menu

Activities that suit my nature and restore my energy

My menu (pictured above) suits me, an introvert. It includes reading, yoga, taking a walk in the woods, a nap, dinner with friends, a cup of tea, a movie, tennis, and travel. I forgot to include ping pong, which restores my energy by making me laugh and not take life so seriously. An extrovert might add hosting a party or attending a gathering with lots of people to her self-care menu.

Activities that take seconds or minutes:

  • Taking a deep breath
  • Shutting my eyes
  • Moving my body for a moment
  • Drinking a glass of water
  • Watching the sun rise or set or gazing at the moon
  • Petting an animal
  • Hugging a friend or family member
  • Calling a loved one

Activities that are free or don’t cost much money:

  • Take a bath.
  • Take a walk in nature.
  • Read a book

Splurge activities that take place less often. For me, that includes massages and international travel.

Good Goofing off

I learned about good goofing off from Lea Waters, Ph.D. in her book, The Strength Switch. She serves as the President of the International Positive Psychology Association. She suggests I give my brain an opportunity to reboot by “good goofing off.”

What is that?

She uses the term for activities that let me have softly inward focused attention. The activity enables me to feel relaxed and is not about performance. The activity is not a passive activity. My mind must also not be fed stimulus, like by watching television. I want to engage my mind in a way that simultaneously gives it free rein. And I want to be good enough at the activity so that I don’t have to focus on the process of the technique.

She offered concrete examples to make this easier to understand:

  • Reading
  • Doing art
  • Cooking a recipe I know well
  • Non-competitive athletics
  • Puzzles
  • Tinkering
  • Daydreaming

Think of good goofing off as a bridge between mindfulness and directed attention.

Self-care treats: When to choose one.

Photo by Calle Macarone on Unsplash

I’ve heard the announcement to put on your oxygen mask before helping those around me many times on planes. Self-care is my oxygen mask.

I try to practice activities that take a few seconds or minutes daily. Goofing off a little bit every day is also suggested. I also schedule other self-care activities on my calendar and treat those appointments as sacred.

Regular self-care helped me deal with an emergency.

Self-care is an effective form of preventative mental health medicine. I try not to use self-care only when I am about to crash or have already done so.

Here’s a story from my life. Right around the winter holidays, I did an hour-long restorative yoga practice in the morning. My schedule had been busy non-stop for days preparing for the holidays and with year-end busyness. In the dark days of winter, I knew that I needed to take extra time out to rest or I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the season. A few hours after my practice, I received a call about a family member’s medical emergency and had to rush to a hospital. Looking back, I think my morning yoga practice saved me that day and allowed me to present and helpful to those who needed me.


After I finish this post, I’m going for a walk outside. Doing so will help me to reboot and to feel free, a deep connection to nature, and hygge, which are all desired feelings.

I’m curious. What are your favorite forms of self-care or good goofing off? How do they make you feel? When will you do it next?

Kelsey Cleveland

Written by

Writer | Desire Map facilitator who helps intelligent women design their lives based on how they want to feel @

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