A reluctant guide to self care
Does self care feel like just another thing on your to-do list? Or does self care seem like an indulgent practice you don’t have time for?
“It’s utterly unacceptable to be sick”
The moment these words came out of my mouth and landed in the ears of my health care practitioner, I knew I was in trouble. Not with her, but with myself. I had been sick for two weeks, going on three by that stage, and all my human-ness and inability to keep pushing through came to the fore. There was no running this time. The tone of harshness I had expressed toward myself was palpable. This was one of the first times I realised the impact of this dialogue on my health. Productivity’s Triple Threat™ of people pleasing, perfectionism and procrastination was running the show – to do everything, be everything – no matter the cost. This time it came crashing down in spectacular fashion… and cue ugly crying!
The warning signs
The moment you realise you’re headed for a one way trip to burn out, you need to take a good look at how you’re ‘DOing’ life – are you a human DOing, or are you BEing a human Being? In my case if I was BEing I would have noticed that I was:
- And struggling with nutritional deficiencies.
Nutrient deficiencies shocked me the most. Even though I always ate incredibly well, my body just wasn’t absorbing the nutrients. I knew at that moment something had to give – our gut health is incredibly sensitive to stress and is a barometer that life is not ok. I was under a lot of stress, much of it self imposed.
What are your beliefs?
When I was forced to explore what my beliefs around what I thought self care actually was all I could come up with was:
“I’m terrible at it. It doesn’t come naturally. It’s just another thing to do.”
These thoughts showed me that self care can be a vicious cycle. You realise you need self care when your well is ‘empty’, but that’s also when we think “I’m too busy” have zero motivation or energy to do it. We essentially turn into three year olds resisting doing the things we know are good for us!
Where to start when you don’t know where?
How could looking after myself NOT feel like self indulgence? I came up with a working definition of self care: things I can do today that fill up my “well” in good times and times of drought. Could something as simple as flossing my teeth every single day be considered self care? Yep in my world self care can be THAT simple!
In wellbeing circles we talk about wellbeing in terms of – physical, emotional, mental, financial, and social – spiritual wellbeing. I found using a model to create structure to self care strategies was helpful for an analytical thinker like me.
The return on self care investment.
Exploring self care through the lens of “domains of wellbeing” I could design a range of unconventional self care strategies that filled my “well” differently at different times:
- Build into my routine/ schedule vs
- Implement when things go nuts
What can I schedule in on a regular basis – go for a walk, floss your teeth, eat salad for lunch, vs when things go nuts?
Emotional and Mental
Getting out in nature or just looking at images of nature scenes has been proven to have a calming effect. Just taking a take a break – removing myself from working on a document, a conversation OR when things go nuts – was as simple as colouring in, taking myself out for coffee and a cake, going for a massage, or reading a book for one hour made a big difference.
Financial – Time and Money
Getting resources of time and money organised is the highest form of self care! Research shows we all stress about lack of time and money, so getting organised healthy eating by prepping lunches and snacks for the week ahead is what got me through. It saved time and money in the long term.
Social and Spiritual
Being around others can remind us we aren’t alone, that others struggle too and that we are all human. For me it was recognising I need to release my need for control and trust in something bigger.
It sounds cliché but putting your own oxygen mask – in your own style – is essential before helping others.