When you car is getting low on gas, you have to go get gas or it won't run at all. Then it becomes pretty useless. With an empty tank it can't do much of anything. It is the same with people. We have to take care of ourselves or we will be pretty useless, too.
So saying "no" can be a survival skill we need in order to get ourselves to the filling station! Build in time for yourself to do things that nurture you. People have various ways of nurturing themselves. It may be simply taking a few minutes each day to be quiet and alone. Or it may be music that fills your soul. Or you may have a creative hobby that takes you out of the chaos for a little while.
We also need to nourish our bodies, get adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and plenty of water. It's like your car. If you do regular maintenance, give it proper fuel, and upkeep it will serve you long and well. If you run it too fast for too long and don't take care of it, it is going to wear out more quickly.
The trouble is that many of us take better care of our car than we do ourselves! Take a minute right now and check your indicators. How's your body doing? How's your attitude? Are you feeling happy? Are you eating right and regularly? Are you getting enough rest? Are you doing good self-care? Having some leisure?
I know, I know, you don't think you have time for leisure. But you don't need hours or days of it if you build it in on a regular basis. How about half and hour for a leisurely bath or walk in a park? How about just shutting your eyes and listening to some music? How about taking time to simply chat with a friend who always lightens your mood? These don't require a total lifestyle change.
I like to sew and almost always have a project going. I seldom spend hours at it at a time. I do a little at a time. I also crochet, paint, and read. I know, you are thinking that's easy for me because I'm retired. And you are right. It is easier. But even when working and taking care of a family I managed to sew, crochet, and read a little at a time.
I enjoy creating things. And I even can often combine this self-caring activity that I enjoy with helping others when I have a project that will benefit someone else - as long as I don't set an unreasonable deadline for getting it done. No pressure, just pleasure. Doing for others is sometimes a self-caring activity for me as I get such pleasure from helping. But it can become a drain if I give more time or energy than I have.
Doing things that feel good which don't have negative side effects is important for our well-being. What good can we do if we are worn out and feeling resentful about all the demands we feel on our energy?
Don't forget to explore how many of those demands are ones we make on ourselves. Are you trying to do too much? Give up on becoming Super Woman or Super Man and find good balance in your life.
As well as doing things that feel good, self-care means NOT doing things that feel bad. For me it means limiting the amount of time I am around negative people, not going to violent movies, and staying away from places where people tend to become argumentative and loud. For you it may be different. You may want to stop activities that leave you feeling bad about yourself. You might look at your expectations of yourself and decide that you are being a bit unreasonable. Sometimes doing less can mean more time and energy for the things that really matter for you.
And another way of caring for yourself is to change the way you talk to yourself. Monitor your self-talk to see if you are being negatively critical. Do you hear yourself saying things like "That was stupid" and other similar phrases? Do you tell yourself you look awful or that you never do anything right? Listen to what goes through your mind and ask yourself if you would talk to someone else like that or if you'd want them to say that to you? Be kind to yourself so you can be kind to others! Try promising yourself that you will never say to yourself anything you wouldn't say to another person. I suspect that is a tall order for many of us. But it is worth working on.
So, are you selfish or are you taking care of yourself? Think about it. What did you do today to be kind to yourself and take care of you?