Self-Care. What’s that?
Life is crazy. We are all running at a million miles per hour. So many responsibilities; juggling children, family, work, a household, finances. The list goes on. All these things take a piece of us. Even if its a small bite. So when these responsibilities are all added together and at regular intervals, it doesn’t take long and our batteries start to run on empty. We all know that feeling; we are exhausted, both mentally and physically, we are easily aggravated, we are easily emotional, we have no interest in the things that normally give us joy and we get too excited about plans that are cancelled, just so we can stay in, put our PJ’s on and not have to face anybody or anything.
This is not an uncommon state to be in. Most people relate at some level. But if this state continues then you could be headed for a fall.
Before you get to that place of collapse, there are some basic things you can do to avoid getting so low. And all of them start with putting the focus on you and taking some much needed care of yourself.
I can guarantee that among this long list of responsibilities, you come bottom of the list. I bet your needs and your wants went out the window years ago. Your life is a constant barrage of you taking care of everyone else’s needs. But the truth is, if you want to function in this life at any reasonable level then self-care has to come higher on your list of priorities. We all know those people who seem to have it all together; their life seems to flow, they are totally organised and they are rarely flustered with the stress of it all. I guarantee, that these people make self-care a priority. They will never run the battery so low that they are hardly functioning. Their self-care could be anything from regular visits to the gym or any form of exercise, meeting with friends or just taking an hour with a cuppa and a good book. They are completely organised, have a great skill at organising their ship and they ALWAYS make time for themselves as they know how important it is.
Taking time for yourself is not an indulgence or selfish. It is an absolute must if you are going to be an effective human.
I was seeing a therapist for a while and one of the most important pieces of advice that he gave me was that I needed to start working on my self-care. From our discussions and even from my body language he could tell I was wound like a top. And he could see that all my energy was being given to everyone and everything around me. It was clear that self-care was not something that I did automatically and i certainly never made it a priority. Everyone and everything else was a priority, but me? not so much.
Unfortunately for me, I reached complete burn out. And over the course of the past two years I came to realise that I was at no point putting myself and my health first. I was not my own best friend. So I began a journey and for me its been a revelation. So over the past two years I have worked on my self-care as a priority. It wasn’t easy at first and I am still not always my own best friend, but Im learning that unless I take time to be with myself and care for myself in some way, then I am no way going to be an effective human in the future.
Me reaching rock bottom was a culmination of things. But my ability to put everyone else ahead of me was without doubt a major contender. I was a ‘YES’ girl. I was a people-pleaser. So to come to this realisation was a big step. Whilst I still consider the feelings and needs of those dear in my life, I no longer put them above myself. Thats history. It doesn’t make me less of a person, if anything I am more grounded, more content, more happy and generally more effective person in my day to day life as my closest will attest.
So if you relate to even a small part of this, then working on your self-care could be something that would be worth your time and investment. Without factoring our own needs in we do ourselves and everyone around us a disservice. It has a knock on effect to everyone we touch, so making sure you care for you, will not only benefit you, but everyone around you. And they will thank you for it in the long term.
So what can you do to make a start?
Here are my top tips to start taking better care of yourself:
Say ‘NO’ without guilt.
If you are a ‘YES’ man, then I can guarantee that you are heading for a fall. Saying yes to every request for your time, to every project your manager sets you, for every party you’re invited to is a sure fire way to burn out. It’s just not humanly possible to do everything and be everything to everyone. Something has to give, and if you keep saying yes, its likely it will be you that goes down. You do not have to say no to everything, but you genuinely have to look at the bigger picture and prioritise. When you have limited time and energy you have to be very careful where you spend it. So think about the things that bring you the most joy and the things you hold as the most important. Then look at your schedule and if it ticks all the boxes then say yes. Otherwise its a no. And the most important thing here is that when you say no, you must NOT feel any guilt whatsoever about saying no. If you have weighed up your options and decided its a no, then thats it. End of story. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You are caring for yourself and you are making you and your dearest the most important thing. If you feel guilty, then you are doing more damage and adding further stress. So say no and move on. Say no and say it with conviction.
Check in with your thoughts
How we think and see the world often leads to our reality. If you’re in a place of stress and anxiety or even depression, then this takes its toll on your body, mind, heart and soul. It is more wearing than running a marathon. I certainly suffered this. And as I look back I can see my thoughts and certainly my opinions of myself, were not healthy. We can all relate to that feeling when our thoughts are running a hundred miles per hour. They so often are of the negative kind. So Checking in on your thoughts is key to self-care. Replace those negative predications with positive outcomes. If you struggle with over-thinking then read my blog post on how to stop over-thinking.
How do you relax? Do you take a bubble bath? do you cosy up with a new magazine or a good book? Do you go for a run? However you like to relax, then do it. As often as is possible in your schedule. Schedule it in. Make it a priority. Relaxation calms the body and soul and is key to maintaining good levels of stress and good sleep.
When we are stressed, exhausted and catching meals where we can, its so easy to make bad diet choices. I know I did that when I worked and even when Ive been really low, I reach for a cake or a chocolate bar. Whilst these things in moderation are fine, if you start to live on unhealthy meals and snacks, then it wont be long and you will start to feel it. We are not worrying so much about your waistline here. We are also concerned with how it makes you feel. Eating the wrong foods will make you sluggish and foggy and you will likely reach for more coffee and caffeine and more sugar to bump you through the next few hours. Whilst it seems like you haven’t got time to organise your meals, it really is the most simple change that can make the biggest difference. A healthy rounded diet makes all the difference. These days I aim for 80:20. 80% of the time I am really healthy, 20% of the time I am indulgent.
Get a good nights rest. And if ever you have the chance of an afternoon snooze then take it! Sleep knits together the broken strings of the day. Without it we break. I’m going to do a whole post on sleep. But for now, just remembered that getting a good nights rest is essential for good health and a priority for self-care. Get an early night in whenever you can. Turn off all technology at least an hour before bed. Light a candle. Spray the room with lavender. Put your favourite PJ’s on. Breathe. And sleep.
It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re moving and you’re enjoying it. The key is to find something you love and look forward to. I like to walk and do yoga when I can as it’s not too tough on my body. But whatever your choice of exercise is then really try to schedule it in at least 3-4 times a week. We all know that it has an instant feel good factor. But it also lowers cortisol in the blood which is the stress hormone. Too much exercise is not good either. Again it’s about balance. Find your fit and it will pay you back tenfold.
Make time for Soul Food
Spend time doing something you truly love and that fills your soul with joy. It could be creating something, whether that be art or baking, or it could be coffee with dear friends, a weekend break, going to the movies alone, reading a good book. It could be listening to your favourite music or volunteering at your local shelter. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you feel recharged afterwards. Soul food does what it says on the tin. If it leaves you feeling happy and whole. So make time for it.
Having your whole team organised will make you feel more in control. If your environment is chaos then its likely to have a knock on effect on all areas of your life so get organised. Make family schedules, use planners and diaries. Also making the most of all available help will take the pressure off you and you will know where you are and when everything has to be done. And when you’re doing the planning ensure that you schedule your time for yourself into the schedule. So plan the swim or the walk or the bath. That way you make sure you have your recharge time so that you can get back to being amazing for everyone around you.
Concentrated and skilled breathing is so underrated and has so many health benefits. I wrote a blog post here all about it. Just breathe.
Be kind to yourself
When life is throwing you constant curve balls and bags full of lemons and you feel you’re dropping every ball, I guarantee that most people blame themselves. I’m not quick enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not organised enough. Enough. Enough. You are enough and I can also wager that you are doing over and above what is needed and what is expected. Believing you’re not enough as you are. Or that you’re way of managing everything is not enough is simply not true. There are no rules. There are certainly no handbooks handed out on how to be superwoman or superman. No more should you need to be. So give yourself some much needed love and kindness. You’re doing an amazing job. Be kind to yourself and treat yourself as your own best friend. It will make unbelievable changes to your life. If you struggle with feeling not good enough then read my popular blog ‘You are good enough’.
Laugh with your loved ones. Laugh at a good book. Laugh with your children. Laugh at your favourite movie. Laugh at it all. Its so easy to get so bogged down by everything. It all feels so heavy and definitely too much. But honestly, I quite often check in with myself these days and remind myself that life is not meant to be that serious. So when everything is on top of you, remember to look at the to-do list and laugh! The world will not end if you don’t tick off that last item. Laughter really is medicine. It strengthens the immune system increases energy and diminishes pain. Plus it feels great. So laugh whenever you can.
Learning to care for myself has taken a lot of hard work, but I think I am finally getting it. When I invest in myself, everyone benefits. I had to burn to the ground to take stock. So I have had to invest a lot of time and energy into self-care. For you it hopefully wont be such a hard task. Making small changes now, will avoid the crash and make you so much happier and effective.
If nothing else my loves, just love yourself more. When you do that, then self-care becomes almost child’s play. You will do it instinctively.
I hope you enjoy this post. All my love to you always my loves as we carry on this journey of life, learning every step of the way.
Onwards my loves,
” You are smart, you are kind, you are beautiful and you are important.”
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