To me self-care is actively choosing to take some time for yourself, to do something (anything) that fills you up. Doing something that gives you energy, makes you feel better and rewards you with strength to face whatever the world throws at you.
So what does self-care look like?
You might be thinking 2 hour baths, full yoga sessions, a spa weekend. Now don’t get me wrong they all sound amazing but lets go smaller. For instance, what about going to a coffee shop on the way to work for a little latte and 5 minutes just staring out of the window? You could go to bed 20 minutes early to read that book you’ve been making no head way with. Or simply sitting quietly breathing for 5 minutes, alone with your thoughts.
What is self-care not?
Self-care isn’t sitting in front of the TV with your phone in one hand half listening/watching and half checking Facebook. I am guilty of this myself, you can pass a good few hours not really engaging but not really switching off. You get to a strange half way point where your brain is neither active nor relaxed, a state of limbo that does no good for anyone.
Although it is tempting to see hours in front of the idiot box as ‘turning off time’ just think about the last time you lay on the sofa. Did you watch a film or TV, did you enjoy what you watched, what was it about, how did you feel after? I’m not saying a nice lazy Sunday afternoon in front of a good movie isn’t lovely, I am a big fan! What I am saying however is that even there you are not switching off and you don’t really feel full or revived afterwards.
Why is self-care important?
‘Trying to fill up a bath with an empty bucket just won’t work’ In other words you are no good to anyone if you haven’t got enough energy for yourself. Prioritising time for yourself might seem selfish, particularly when you’re a parent, a care giver or like me you are constantly striving for things. It can be very easy to put everyone else’s needs before your own until the point you break. I’ve seen first-hand how when someone breaks, it can end relationships, ruin friendships and have a huge negative impact on a wide reaching amount of people. Pushing yourself to breaking point might be the ‘done thing’,its what we are brought up to do; always be striving, never resting, constantly pushing towards a goal. In the end you take a few steps forward and then one massive fall backwards.
Looking at it a differently; you might spend your life trying to feel whole by doing things, getting money, getting praise, being ‘successful’ but if you can’t take out 5 minutes just to be in the moment and really be happy with where you are. What on earth is the point?
So what should I do?
- Plan in some you time. It can be 5 minutes a day to start with. Nothing big, nothing unachievable but guard that time, treat it as precious.
- Communicate with those around you about why this time is important. Explain that you cannot give to them if you have nothing left. Partners, family, friends, they should all understand that you need to re-energise. And if they don’t? Perhaps question whether they have your best interests at heart, or if they themselves need some self-care too.
- Just do it! Take it day by day and see how your time starts to make you feel. Over time you might work in some larger segments, you might even plan a whole day for you but take it slow. Once you realise that you deserve this, you need this, you will be surprised how it makes you a better person.
Some other ideas for self-car
- Long baths or showers with music and low lighting
- A silent walk, just you, no dog or company, just you
- A cup of tea in the garden
- Reading a good book snuggled up on the sofa
- A focused gym session with just you
- A yoga class
- A Pilates class
- 5 minutes just noticing your breath
- Painting or drawing (or colouring if your like me and have no artistic talent)
- Baking (not cooking your family meal)