When your car is low on gas, you don’t beat on its dashboard and tell it to keep going.  You acknowledge it is low on fuel and fill its gas tank (or for an electric car, you recharge it).

You don’t call your cell phone selfish for having little juice left in its battery.  Instead you immediately find the closest charger.  Yet “selfish” is what you may call yourself when you need recharging.

Learning that you have personal needs, which require attention and renewal is very difficult for many of us.  As a child, you may have heard: “Don’t be selfish” or “Let Johnny go first.” You may have taken these phrases into adulthood and confused essential self-care with selfishness.

If you have not learned how to give yourself appropriate doses of self-care, running on “empty” and resisting taking care of yourself may be common.  As a result, your nerves can get frazzled and you feel overloaded much of the time.

Exhaustion and overwhelm is fuel for the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™.  Depleting your natural energy allows your inner Persecutor to take over and you become overly critical of yourself, and likely, critical of others.

The cycle of energy depletion has its origins in the DDT.  When you finally say, “Okay, I deserve some time to myself,” the choices you make may be self-centered and not rejuvenating at all.

For example, Donna worked with a coaching client about learning to create moments of self-care.   When she asked how he took care of himself he said, “I go drinking with my buddies.  We get drunk at the local casino and stay out late.”   Donna asked, “Do you feel rejuvenated the next day?”   He said, “No, not at all.  I am hung over and feel guilty about losing money.”

Okay, that’s not self-care.

The question is how to care for yourself so you have sustained energy to live from the place of being the Creator you are.   In today’s busy world, self-care has become synonymous with a massage, yoga, glass of wine or a vacation. Those are fine options for something that temporarily relaxes you.

There is a deeper level of self-care that includes learning that you have needs that must be met and putting them as a priority.   Many times, self-care must come first to have energy for others—-much like the advice given during the safety instructions on an airplane: “If the oxygen mask comes down, place it over your mouth before assisting others.”

Self-care is also not a journey or something to cross off your “to-do” list.  The compulsion for a complete over-haul puts you at risk of unrealistic expectations and disappointment if you don’t feel better.  It is not an accomplishment or something to feel even more guilty about if you are not “doing it right.”  Deep self-care is about relating to yourself first, as the Creator you are, rather than a problem to fix with another TV binge or chocolate break.

A sustainable self-care practice is about creating a clear intention to support and love yourself.  A practice can begin with 15 minutes a day of intentionally pausing and reflecting upon what brings you joy.  Or going for a relaxing walk.

Maintaining a daily self-care practice, just a few minutes at a time, of intentionally acknowledging your needs and what you care about, is best.  Gradually you will notice you feel better and able to weather the moments of daily drama when they arise.