Self-care is valuable, perhaps not for the reasons you have heard before. No doubt, the simple thought of reading something about self-care makes you squirm and switch off. Don’t go yet! I want to talk about something that is super important.
What if I said that self-care matters EVEN more for people who are busy, big-hearted and love to give their absolute best? It sounds counterproductive, right? To REALLY give 100% over a long period of time, we all need an investment that has returns. Cue self-care! Instead of thinking of self-care as an activity that is frivolous at best and selfish or indulgent at worst, think of it as an investment. If we do not make this investment, it’s safe to say that we could be on the road to burnout. Or chronic health issues. These things do not happen overnight. They happen because we neglect our own health and wellbeing for the benefit of others. We think it's admirable. We think it’s just how life is, and we have to live at this pace to keep up.
What if it’s not? What if, in order to REALLY give our best at work, at home and in relationships, we need to slow down and reimagine life with a little extra time to renew?
My observation in working with clients and in the healthcare industry is that in order to give more, we need to self-care more. In order to be our best, we need to create overflow. How do we create overflow? By giving ourselves permission to enjoy life and to smile, sleep, eat well, move dynamically, stay connected to others and sometimes? Sometimes just to be still!
If we keep on going at a crazy pace, something will eventually stop us. We will suddenly be diagnosed with lifestyle-related disease, or suffer burnout, or realise we simply are not happy. I truly believe that self-care should be called unselfish care. Because ultimately, by caring for ourselves, we are ensuring we will BE THERE for our people, work with excellence and actually enjoy living! So instead of letting life just HAPPEN, let’s live Bespectacled and have a look at some simple steps to create overflow in our lives.
Prioritise it first
What if, rather than saying, “I don't have time for self-care,” you put everything else aside and spent five minutes on diarising specific times you could attend to something you love? What if self-care was the thing you prioritised putting into the calendar FIRST this week? What if you said, "self-care is valuable!"
If we don't prioritise self-care from the outset, it won't happen. We are not going to suddenly think: “Oh, I've got five minutes spare, I might just sit down and do nothing (or enjoy a good book or a nice cup of tea).” The more likely outcome? “I'll just use this time to tidy up the report (hang out the washing, make that phone call).” There is ALWAYS something that seems important that we can attend to. However, if we have set ourselves the priority of spending some time investing in self-care (unselfish care), we are giving ourselves a better chance of doing it. The more specific, the better. If you can mark it in your diary, the chances are way higher that it will happen.
Get the support you need to make it happen
Self-care is valuable for the people around you too. Getting the support you need might be the single most effective thing you can do in this space. So what is support? Here are some examples:
- Having an open conversation with your partner about how you feel and what you need lets them know how they can help. You might ask them the same question!
- Asking someone you trust/your partner to look after your kids so you can get out and enjoy a walk/hot drink with a friend/sleep (insert your thing here!).
- Organising an accountability partner so you can let them know what you are planning to do. Then, have them check back in with you to see how you are going.
- Organising a cleaner for your house so you can shift that time into something self-care related.
- Signing up for a meal delivery program for a week or two when you know you are going to be really busy at work.
Find something that you really love
Give yourself permission to experiment with new things and find something that is uplifting and restorative for self-care. Maybe it's a creative pursuit. It might be being in nature, reading a book, or even sitting down quietly and doing absolutely nothing! Sometimes we have an idea in our mind of what self-care is and we don’t like it. So make it YOURS. Own it! If self-care means sleeping in once a week for you, do it! If it means competing in a mud run, do it! Sometimes simply permitting ourselves to explore new options is really powerful.
Change your perspective
Sometimes, it's important for some for us to look at our own situation from a different perspective and to step outside our usual ways of thinking. Take a little look at some of the things that you already do as part of your routine. Could any of those be considered as self-care? You are looking for things that contribute to your well-being overall and your ability to manage life’s stressors. Oftentimes, we are already doing some great things- we might just need to take a new perspective to see their value as self-care. A couple of examples to illustrate:
- You already have a somewhat consistent workout routine, but it feels like a chore. What if you start reminding yourself of how awesome it is that you are making that investment? What if you start focussing on how you feel at the end of the session when you have all those endorphins running around? What if you re-define the chore as self-care?
- Every day, you are making yourself a healthy and nutritious breakfast. What if you start to recognise that this is an awesome self-care investment into the way you approach the rest of the day (fuelled and ready to go!). What if you start to really enjoy your breakfast with intentionality (eating mindfully), in order to extend the value of breakfast-as-self-care?
- You have always been ‘early to bed’. What if you start to give yourself a high-five for investing in a good nights sleep? What if you connect to the value you put on your own health by getting those extra hours of shut eye?
I’m all for celebrating what we are already doing well! Change your perspective and you may well find you have a few awesome self-care habits already- that’s a simple way to feel great!
Ensure it tops you up so you can live from the overflow
Ultimately, self-care needs to fill us up. It needs to give us the opportunity to create an overflow of energy, joy, fulfilment, meaning and purpose. When this happens, we can keep right on doing the things we love because we have the energy to do them well. We find a good balance.
So, make sure that what you choose to do for self-care really does top you up so that you can live from the overflow. There are plenty of ways we can ‘do’ self-care that are a little bit unhealthy. For example, let's say you love chocolate. So you decide that you will eat a block of chocolate every day when you finish work as a way of unwinding. If you look at the long-range outcome, you won't find much support (sorry) for that as a healthy habit! Perhaps this is simply a caveat: be realistic. There are plenty of things you can buy/do/engage with that might APPEAR to be self-care if you want to justify it, but they really are not life-giving health-supporting behaviours. So make sure you check-in and ensure that whatever YOU choose to do, really IS life-giving.
Self-care is valuable. It enables us to recharge so we can keep on keeping on...at our BEST. Want to be on top of your game, do your job with excellence, and stay connected to the people you value most? Self-care might be a good place to start!